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Brout Seminar. A Super Brief History of the Philosophy of Science. Three Guiding Questions. What is Knowledge?. What is Science?. What is Learning?. Epistemology. Study of Knowledge Classic definition: Knowledge is justified true belief Belief condition Truth condition

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Brout seminar

Brout Seminar

A Super Brief History of the Philosophy of Science

What is science
What is Science?


Study of Knowledge

Classic definition:

Knowledge is justified true belief

  • Belief condition

  • Truth condition

  • Evidence condition

Plato’s Meno

Some basic terminology in epistemology
Some basic terminologyin Epistemology

  • Semantics and Syntax

  • Correspondence Theory of Truth

  • Fact

  • a priori vs. a posterior (empirical)

  • analytic vs. synthetic

  • Coherence Theory of Truth

  • Relativism

  • Subjectivism

  • Theory

What is science1
What is Science?

Skepticism and method
Skepticism and Method

Socrates’ Method

Reductioad absurdum

(reduce to the absurd)

Principle of non-contradiction

Internal consistency

  • guiding principle

Reality and abstraction
Reality and Abstraction

Substance metaphysics

  • Things and properties

    • Essence

    • Qualities

    • Magnitude and quantity

      Nature of Abstraction

    • Whole to parts

    • Particular to general

Aristotle s principle of parsimony
Aristotle's Principle of Parsimony

“do not multiply entities without necessity”

Scholastic aristotelianism

  • Matter/Form Distinction

  • 4 Elements

  • Earth

  • Air

  • Fire

  • Water

  • Primary Causes

  • Formal

  • Material

  • Efficient

  • Final

17 th and 18 th century
17th and 18th Century

Scientific Revolution

  • Copernicus

  • Galileo

  • Descartes

  • Newton

Inference to the best explanation
Inference to the best explanation

David Hume (18th Century)

Karl popper 1902 1994
KarlPopper (1902-1994)

  • Science & Falsification (“a hypothesis is scientific if and only if it has the potential to be refuted by some possible observation”)

  • Science is not distinguished from non-science on basis of methodology.

  • Science consists mostly of problem solving.

  • All observations are selective and theory laden

  • A demarcation between science and pseudo-science is established by falsification. A theory is scientific only if it is refutable by a conceivable event

  • Every genuine test of a scientific theory is based on an asymmetry between verification and falsification

Thomas Kuhn


The Copernican Revolution (1957)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)

  • Progress of science not cumulative, driven by the application of a method


Kuhn’s History of Science

Two projects:

  • Descriptive — what is the structure of scientific history?

    Normal science Scientific revolution

  • Explanatory — why does the history of science have this structure?


Kuhn 1
Kuhn (1)

1. Kuhn’s History of Science

Descriptive Project:

Immature Science


Normal Science




Scientific Revolutions

The Ptolemaic model

The earth is at the centre of the planetary system


How to explain the retrograde motion of planets






  • Explanatory Project

    Why is normal science stable?

    It is conducted wholly within the terms of a disciplinary matrix:





    standards of evaluation

    All are generated by the disciplinary matrix


  • Explanatory Project

    Why is theory change revolutionary?

    Theory change is brought about by a ‘gestalt switch’ a complete change of world view

    There is no neutral point from which one can assess theories from two paradigms simultaneously

Kuhn s assumptions
Kuhn’s Assumptions

Dominant Paradigms

As a field matures, one paradigm becomes the dominant one. Once paradigms are established research progresses quickly

Paradigm guides direction of Research

Paradigms give concepts and laws to build on.

Paradigm Shift

Paradigm shift occurs when old paradigm shown inadequate

Paradigms are Incommensurable

Paradigms have different world view. It is difficult to compare them

Science defines truth relative to a paradigm and not absolutely. Truth is a story



is any activity of the organism that can be either directly or indirectly observed . . . (Powell, 3)



is any activity of the organism that can be either directly or indirectly observed . . . (Powell, 3)


is a relatively permanent change in behavior that results from some type of experience . . . (Powell, 3)