Portal:Philosophy of science

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Philosophy of Science

The 'philosophy of science' is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. In this respect, the philosophy of science is closely related to epistemology and philosophy of language. Note that issues of scientific ethics are not usually considered to be part of the philosophy of science; they are studied in such fields as bioethics and science studies.

In particular, the philosophy of science considers the following topics: the character and the development of concepts and terms, propositions and hypotheses, arguments and conclusions as they function in science.The manner in which science explains natural phenomena and predicts natural occurrences. The types of reasoning that are used to arrive at scientific conclusions; the formulation, scope, and limits of scientific method. The means that should be used for determining when scientific information has adequate objective support, and the implications of scientific methods and models, along with the technology that arises from scientific knowledge for the larger society.

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Billiard balls
Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. No wholly random, spontaneous, mysterious, or miraculous events occur, according to this philosophy.

The idea that the entire universe is a deterministic system has been articulated in both Western and non-Western religion, philosophy, and literature. Determinism in the West is often associated with Newtonian physics, which depicts the physical matter of the universe as operating according to a set of fixed, knowable laws. The "billiard ball" hypothesis, a product of Newtonian physics, argues that once the initial conditions of the universe have been established the rest of the history of the universe follows inevitably.

The concept of determinism is extensively used in chaos theory (refer splinter cell chaos theory), used to predict the results of seemingly-random events such as rolling a die. However, determinism is a classical concept and cannot be used in new contextual frameworks such as in quantum mechanics. Determinism presupposes the Cartesian partition that quantum mechanics does not encompass

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A typical satire of Darwin, the caricature in Hornet magazine portraying him with an ape body and the bushy beard he grew in 1866.
Credit: Hornet magazine

The reaction to Darwin's theory came quickly after the publication of Darwin's theory, following twenty years of development of Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin's work was published in On the Origin of Species.


"Cogito ergo sum. – I think, therefore I am."

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Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach (February 18, 1838 – February 19, 1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher and is the namesake for the "Mach number" (aka Mach speed) and the optical illusion known as Mach bands. He was born in Chrlice (now part of Brno), Czech Republic. There he studied mathematics, physics and philosophy, and received a doctorate in physics in 1860.

Mach developed a philosophy of science which was influential in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mach held that scientific laws are summaries of experimental events, constructed for the purpose of human comprehension of complex data. Thus scientific laws have more to do with the mind than with reality as it exists apart from the mind.

Mach had a direct influence on the Vienna Circle philosophers and the school of logical positivism in general. Albert Einstein called him the "forerunner of [the] Theory of relativity".

Did you know...

The EPR thought experiment, performed with electrons. A source (center) sends electrons toward two observers, Alice (left) and Bob (right), who can perform spin measurements.

  • ...that Scientism is an ideology which holds that science has primacy over other interpretations of life?



Philosophy of science

Anti-psychiatry • Determinism • Empiricism • Epistemology • Evolution • Free will • History of science • Holism • Ontology • Philosophy of biology • Philosophy of physics • Pseudoscience • Reductionism • Skepticism • Sociology of scientific knowledge • VitalismRationalismPropositionPositivismObjectivityKnowledge

Further Reading

  • Bernard H. Baumrin. 1963. Philosophy of Science, Volume 1.Publisher: Taylor & Francis, 1963
  • Alexander Rosenberg. 2000.Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction. Publisher-Psychology Press. ISBN 041515281X, 9780415152815
  • Merrilee H. Salmon. 1992. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science: A Text by the Members of the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Pittsburgh. Publisher- Hackett ISBN 0872204502, 9780872204508
  • Martin Curd and Jan A. Cover. 1998. Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. Publisher-W.W. Norton. ISBN 0393971759, 9780393971750
  • Stanley J. Tambiah. 1990. Magic, Science and Religion and the Scope of Rationality. Publisher Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521376319, 9780521376310
  • Terry F. Godlove, Jr. 1989. Religion, Interpretation and Diversity of Belief: The Framework Model from Kant to Durkheim to Davidson. Publisher -CUP Archive, 1989 ISBN 0521361796, 9780521361798
  • Gerd Buchdahl. 1969. Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science. Publisher- The MIT Press-ISBN-10-0-262-02057-2
  • Rudy Rucker. 2004. Infinity and the Mind:The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite. Publisher-Princeton University Press. ISBN: 9780691121277
  • Nancy Frankenberry, Hans H. Penner. 1999.Language, truth, and religious belief: studies in twentieth-century theory and method in religion. Publisher-Scholars Press. ISBN 0788505408, 9780788505409
  • Peter Godfrey-smith. 2003. Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science Publisher- University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0226300633, 9780226300634


  • Cassandra Pinnick, George Gale. Philosophy of Science and History of Science: A Troubling Interaction. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie, Vol. 31, No. 1 (2000), pp. 109-125
  • Watson Davis. Science, Philosophy, Religion Find Ground for Common Front. The Science News-Letter, Vol. 38, No. 12 (Sep. 21, 1940), pp. 180+188+190
  • Karola Stotz, Paul E. Griffiths. Biohumanities: Rethinking the Relationship Between Biosciences, Philosophy and History of Science, and Society. The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 83, No. 1 (March 2008), pp. 37-45
  • Massimo Pigliucci. The Borderlands Between Science And Philosophy: An Introduction. The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 83, No. 1 (March 2008), pp. 7-15


Philosophy of science: Biology • Chemistry • Information • Language • Logic • Mathematics (Education, Probability) • Mind (Artificial intelligence, Perception) • Physics (Space & time, Thermal & statistical physics) • Social sciences (Environment, Psychology) • Technology

Plato at the School of Athens

Epistemology: A priori and a posteriori • Analysis • Analytic-synthetic distinction • Belief • Causality • Coherentism • Constructivist epistemology • Contextualism • Descriptive knowledge • Determinism • Empiricism • Faith and rationality • Fallibilism • Foundationalism • Gettier problem • Holism • Infinitism • Innatism • Internalism and externalism • Knowledge • Objectivity • Positivism • Proposition • Rationalism • Reductionism • Regress argument • Reliabilism • Simplicity • Skepticism • Speculative reason • Theaetetus (dialogue) • Theory of forms • Theory of justification • Transcendental idealism • Truth • Uniformitarianism • Vienna Circle • Vitalism

Ontology: Being • Category of being • Change • Cogito ergo sum • Dualism • Embodied philosophy • Entity • Existence • Existentialism • Identity • Integrative level • Physical object • Properties • Reality • Relativism • Scientific realism • Subjectivism • Substance theory • Type theory • Universal • Unobservables

General: Anti-psychiatry • Commensurability • Demarcation problem • Evolution • Free will • History of science • Pseudoscience • Rhetoric of science • Scientific method • Scientism • Sociology of scientific knowledge

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