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Understanding Philosophy of Science [Paperback]

James Ladyman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: 25.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Dec 2001
Few can imagine a world without telephones or televisions; many depend on computers and the Internet as part of daily life. Without scientific theory, these developments would not have been possible.

In this exceptionally clear and engaging introduction to philosophy of science, James Ladyman explores the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. He discusses whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, and considers in detail the debate between realists and antirealists about the extent of scientific knowledge. Along the way, central topics in philosophy of science, such as the demarcation of science from non-science, induction, confirmation and falsification, the relationship between theory and observation and relativism are all addressed. Important and complex current debates over underdetermination, inference to the best explaination and the implications of radical theory change are clarified and clearly explained for those new to the subject.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (20 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415221579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415221573
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


An excellent introduction to philosophy of science that can be recommended as a starting point to the general reader... The writing is exceptionally clear and the text is enlivened by periodic snippets of dialogue between enthusiastic science lover Alice and her more sceptical friend Thomas.

About the Author

James Ladyman is Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Bristol

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Our starting point is the desire to arbitrate the following dispute that arises when Alice, who has been reading a Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, is trying to explain the exciting things she has learned about the Big Bang and the history of the universe to her friend Thomas. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book around for Philosophy of Science. 17 Mar 2003
By A Customer
There are quite a few accessible, useful and well-written introductory books in philosophy of science available at present. (Good examples include books by Anthony O'Hear, A. F. Chalmers, Alex Rosenberg and Alexander Bird.) However, James Ladyman's new book is far and away the best introduction to philosophy of science now available in Britain. Why? Well, designing a good textbook is basically a matter of knowing what to concentrate on and what to leave out, and Ladyman knows exactly the areas to concentrate on. Ladyman looks at two key questions:- firstly, what, if anything, is distinctive about scientific method?; and secondly, do successful scientific theories serve as reliable guides to how the world actually is? Here we have the two key questions in philosophy of science - one about the methods of science and the other about its aims. This two-part framework allows Ladyman a lot of room to pursue interesting and relevant issues in science and its justification, taking in key figures like Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn en route. It's a well-structured book for the student, with a lot of helpful discussion material and useful suggestions for further reading. If you're at all interested in learning about the philosophy of
science, you really ought to start here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for students. 5 May 2010
As a Masters student, I feel like this is one of the best books of its type that I've come across. Sometimes you need a book that can cut past all the complicated and excessively long thick description and teach you the basics without being patronising. It's also great as a refresher book, with some really good examples taken from day-to-day life and non-frustrating socratic dialogue (which is a rare occurence...).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book for a wide readership 11 Jan 2008
Having studied philosophy at university many years ago I found this book provided a superb re-introduction to an area that I'd always had some interest in but not focused on at the time.

The first half provides as clear and concise accounts of demarcation, inductivism, falsification and epistemology as will be found anywhere; Hume, Popper, Kuhn at al are all covered in a very clear and precise style. The second half updated my knowledge of the field considerably with developments in underdetermination and theory change that have taken place since my degree. I'll admit that I didn't find all of these areas straightforward but that was by no means a reflection on the quality of the writing but rather on the challenges of the subject matter. Ladyman has produced an excellent introduction to the subject for the undergraduate or layman that also manages to deal admirably with some of the complexities a post-graduate student would have to tackle.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not good enough 11 Jun 2004
By A Customer
First things first: This is not a bad book. It approaches the philosophy of science in very general terms: Ladyman's terms are the layman's term, and I mean this as a compliment. But the book has also some serious flaws: It doesn't go into nearly enough detail to make it a useful textbook at university level; it is probably aimed at first-year students or high-school seniors who aren't quite sure what all this buzz about philosophy of science is about. It is difficult to imagine this book as the basis of a solid course in philosophy of science -- partly because the presentation is skewed towards the author's personal views, which means the book is not as impartial as it should be and does not nearly present a representative cross-section of positions in the field. Also, the suggestions for "further reading" are of marginal usefulness, which after reading the book leaves one at a bit of a loss where to continue. Any professional reader, including students enrolled in introductory Philosophy of Science courses, would be better off investing into a good anthology, of which there are several. Some, such as the Curd/Cover anthology "Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues", also include many good introductory chapters; others, such as the MIT Press volume "The Philosophy of Science" (Boyd et al.) represent the complete spectrum. As supplementary reading, Ladyman's book has a place in the literature, but it does not suffice as a 'stand-alone' companion for serious study.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, expressive, incisive analysis 16 Feb 2013
By Alex B
It is a rare treat for a leading, globally respected philosopher, specialising in a relatively narrow and technical field, to write a general, pitched to any undergraduate, textbook. Ladyman does not disappoint and it was unsurprising that this incredibly clear, non-technical and thorough introduction has been richly rewarded with the ultra-prestigious Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award. It should be noted here that the book's emphasis is very much on natural, rather than social science. And whilst there is obviously some degree of overlap, it may have been more accurate for this book to have been called Philosophy of Natural Science.

Understanding Philosophy of Science is, very sensibly, split into two parts. The first part deals with methodology. Here Ladyman kicks off with a lengthy and fruitful taxonomy on the historical formation and subtle variants of induction before proceeding to a beautifully clear analysis on the so-called 'problem of induction', which seeks to understand whether, if ever, we can make inferences from observed cases to unobserved ones. Using Ladyman's example, heat has always expanded when heated in the past, but what is to say it will do that next time? Is it fair to make such an inference? Or, objects have always fallen in the past, but can we infer they will do so next time we drop one? Ladyman then goes into the key arguments for and against such inference. He introduces ten reasons to adopt inductive reasoning and whilst there is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a little repetition here (circularity is alluded to a few times) it is a more than useful analysis. Ladyman then provides an entertaining a crystal clear look at the twentieth century philosopher Karl Popper.
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