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Philosophy of Science: Does science make progress Essay Example

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Philosophy of Science: Does science make progress

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Newton, Leibniz, Huygens, lay the foundation for what would become the empiricist current in the philosophy of science, beginning with John Locke in the 17th century. Empiricism asserts that experience is not only the ultimate source of our knowledge but also of our concepts. For Locke, experience gradually limits the scope of what we can know, even as it helps us clarify those ideas which itself engenders. An empiricist philosopher of the 18th century, David Hume, took Lockes idea of skepticism of what can be known one step further, by showing that most of our more basic concepts have no proper grounding in experience. In particular, Hume also discarded the idea of induction – generalizing from particular to universal statements – a position we will find echoed in Karl Poppers philosophy of science.After the Galilean and Newtonian conceptual revolutions in science, progress was constant and gradual for the next couple of centuries, until the end of the 19th century. So much so that, at this time, physics at least was considered an almost complete science and no new upheavals were expected to occur. There were, of course, the occasional discrepancies between experiment and theory, but it was thought that no revolutionary ideas needed to be introduced to reconcile facts and theory. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, not one, but two such revolutions in physics took place: Einsteins Special and General Relativity and Quantum Theory, which changed not only our view of Nature, but also our ideas about Science itself.The philosophy of science becomes a bone fide subfield of philosophy for the first time with the logical positivism of the early 20th century. Following the remarkable success of Einsteins theory of relativity, and drawing inspiration from this success, at the core of logical positivism lays the idea of cognitively meaningful statements. These are statements which are true or false either because their truth-value can be determined a priori (analytic) or it can be determined by finding observations that would show it to be true or false (synthetic). This criterion of cognitive meaningfulness is called verificationism. Verification, in the case of an analytic statement, consists in logical proofs, while for a synthetic statement; it consists of observations and experiment.The verification of synthetic statements relies heavily on the principle of induction criticized by David Hume and, later on, Karl Popper. Other criticisms

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Works Cited

Curd, Martin and Cover, J.A. Philosophy of Science: the central issues. W.W. Norton, 1998.

Feynman, Richard P. The Meaning of It All. Addison-Wesley, 1999.

Jaynes, Edwin T. Probability Theory: The Logic of Science. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Kuhn, T.S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Popper, Karl. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge, 2002.

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preview essay on Philosophy of Science: Does science make progress
  • Pages: 10 (2500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Unsorted
  • Level: Ph.D.
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