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Philosophy of the Sciences. Early-Modern Scientific Method(s). Modern Scientific Method. What is it today? What do we call it? What is its purpose? Which fields of study employ it? Who are some important modern theoreticians of scientific method?. Ancient scientific method.

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philosophy of the sciences

Philosophy of the Sciences

Early-Modern Scientific Method(s)

modern scientific method
Modern Scientific Method
  • What is it today? What do we call it?
  • What is its purpose?
  • Which fields of study employ it?
  • Who are some important modern theoreticians of scientific method?
ancient scientific method
Ancient scientific method
  • Plato: visible vs intelligible realms; the sensible world is but a mere reflection of the real world of the Forms,
  • Mathematics provided Plato with his primary examples: geometry or the supposedly indivisible number one;
  • Plato’s idea of a real world known only to the intellect, standing behind our sensible world, has deeply influenced natural science (e.g particle & wave theories of light).
ancient scientific method1
Ancient scientific method
  • Aristotle (a student of Plato) developed the beginnings of method in his Posterior Analytics;
  • He retained the idea of Forms in his notion of essence, but his method focused on the sensible objects themselves;
  • For instance, an investigator might examine a variety of mammals, concluding that the essence of being a mammal is being gestated inside the mother and nursed on milk.
ancient scientific method2
Ancient scientific method

-Few experiments, although Aristotle’s student Theophrastus did plant seeds sent to Athens by Alexander the Great;

-Little practical interest, except in the later Hellenistic and Roman periods (especially in medicine);

-Most activity we would now deem ‘scientific’ was observational in character, e.g. Aristotle’s treatises on animals;

-Astronomy, highly developed already by the Babylonians, originated in religion.

medieval scientific method
Medieval Scientific Method
  • Followed Aristotle, ‘The Philosopher’, treating his writings as the guide to method;
  • Most treatments highly theoretical, focused on discussions of ‘resolution’ and ‘composition’ (aka ‘analysis’ and ‘synthesis’);
  • Roger Bacon (14th cent.) suggested the outline of modern method: checking new consequences deduced from first principles.
early modern scientific fields
Early-Modern Scientific Fields
  • Natural History: Botany, Zoology
  • Medicine
  • Anatomy
  • Astronomy
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanics/Physics
  • Mineralogy
theoreticians of method
Theoreticians of Method
  • Galileo
  • Bacon
  • Descartes
  • Boyle
  • Newton
  • Locke
sir francis bacon
Sir Francis Bacon
  • Attacked Aristotle for premature theorizing from too few cases;
  • Claimed A., even when he performed experiments, allowed preconceived notions (‘idols’) and logic too great a role in his conclusions;
  • Proclaimed ‘induction’ to be the key to overcoming Aristotelian deficiencies in scientific method: ‘First we must compile a good, adequate natural and experimental history. That is the foundation of the matter’ (NO II, x).
bacon cont
Bacon, cont.
  • Induction—definition?
  • Is it the only game in town? (Deduction? Retroduction?)
  • No: what else does Bacon suggest we must do?
  • ‘I have established forever a true and lawful marriage between the empirical and the rational faculty…’

(GI, 15). Meaning?

bacon cont inductivist
Bacon, cont.—Inductivist?
  • ‘Directions for the interpretation of nature comprehend in general terms two parts: the first for drawing axioms from experience; the second on deducing or deriving new experiments from axioms’ (NO, II, x).
  • What method(s) is Bacon using?
ren descartes
René Descartes
  • Reasoned largely in a deductive (vs inductive) way from self-evident first principles;
  • Took his examples from mathematics and physics;
  • Treated contradictory data in a cavalier way, e.g. in explaining his laws of impact to Mersenne;
  • Not a ‘protagonist of the hypothetico-deductive method’ (McMullin 1990, 43).
robert boyle
Robert Boyle
  • Put the Baconian plan into practice—maintaining that accumulating facts was the first task;
  • Great experimentalist; used quantification;
  • Reported the actual experiments, not general statements as Galileo had done;
  • Formulated a guide to ‘good’ hypotheses:
    • Internally consistent
    • Explicate the phenomena
    • Contradict neither other phenomena or ‘manifest physical truth’, e.g. gravity.
boyle continued
Boyle, continued:
  • An ‘excellent’ hypothesis:
    • Simple (we would now say ‘parsimonious’);
    • Not ‘precarious’ or forced;
    • The best and/or only hypothesis that explicates the phenomena

Boyle Joined induction and retroduction (hypothetico-deduction).

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