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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2014
If you're interested in the philosophy of science, this is a great place to start: it's cheap, it's lucid, it provides a broad overview and a comprehensive set of suggestions for further reading. The main areas covered are the definition of science, the problem of induction (Hume), realism vs. anti-realism, the nature of scientific revolutions (Kuhn), criticisms of science, and some specific problems (the nature of space, classification in biology and the modularity of the mind).

Others have mentioned the brevity of this book. Personally, I was happy with the breadth and depth of the material presented, with a couple of caveats: I’d have liked an explanation, or at least an enumeration, of the problems with the logical interpretation of probability, and I’d have liked a little more on causality (or causation). However, I see this latter subject has a Very Short Introduction of its own.

The descriptions and explanations provided by the author, Okasha, are clear and concise. (His punctuation is slightly odd. With some sentences chopped into fragments. But this doesn't obscure his meaning.) Okasha is also careful to be impartial, presenting all sides to an argument and rarely drawing a conclusion. This does mean you get far more questions than answers, but that's philosophy for you.
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on 5 January 2011
A book of this size will never do justice to such an extensive subject as the philosophy of science - but what this covers, it does so extremely well, thanks largely to the author's clear writing and a good choice of subjects.

The fundamentals of induction, explanation, realism and scientific change are all explained intelligibly, arguments are presented with corresponding counterarguments, and where necessary, topics are introduced with the right amount of background information - for example, the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism begins with a summary of the older, more metaphysical debate between realism and idealism; the chapter on scientific reasoning begins with an exploration of the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, and so on.

A chapter on scientific change and the nature of scientific revolutions is particularly enjoyable, introducing the logical positivists and Kuhn's view of science. Another chapter explores some of the more notorious philosophical problems within science, such as the concept of absolute space and the dilemma of biological classification. The final chapter is devoted to a much-needed discussion of the various criticisms often aimed at science, including that old chestnut, scientism.

Overall I found this to be an introduction worthy of the name - it was informative, challenging and kept my interest throughout. Suitable for anyone interested in philosophy or indeed any branch of science.
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on 21 September 2011
I found this book to offer a structured introduction into the subject. It covers important matters such as the historical context and the methods of thought used; such as deductive and inductive reasoning. The author uses various case examples in order to explain the matter at hand, such as Hempel's Model and the theory of Brownian motion. Once the main topics have been covered, including the various approaches to science and defining what it is, the author introduces topics of a more metaphysical nature such as the 'Realist vs Anti-Realist' debate. Throughout all the chapters, not only does the author explain the topic at hand, but he also continues to outline the problems and refutations that surround the issues discussed, these include Hume's problem of induction as well as the 'theory ladeness' of data.

The book is structured with concise information which presents and explains the issues whilst opening the door to further analysis through the inclusion of the various viewpoints and problems which are posed, including the supposed shortcomings of the philosophy of science. Further reading is presented on each chapter in the notes section of the book. It must be stressed that the strong point of this book is it's clear structured presentation of the information, which many authors lack. A lack of order and can often be a source of much confusion for a reader and so it's always a boon to find information laid out like in this work.
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on 4 July 2013
This book de-mystifies scientific thinking for the non-scientist. Anyone who is not a scientist but who deals regularly with scientists will find this book extremely helpful in understanding how these people think and why they reason the way they do. The book also flags up why we should not feel overwhelmed by arguments just because they are based on science - there are often other factors and other types of evidence that carry equal or greater weight in some circumstances.
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on 30 March 2016
Not the greatest VSI. I found many of the chapters far from interesting and too general. I realise that this is an introduction to the topic but I was hoping it would leave me asking questions or keen on further reading. This was not the case here.
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on 9 April 2012
I picked this up as I hadn't realised that there truly was a `philosophy of science'. If there is, I don't think this book properly demonstrates it. A better title might be `a pot-pourri of reflections on the inter-relationship between science and the arts'.

The most `philosophical' point raised is the question of whether the scientific method is ever truly level and objective, or whether it will always be couched within an approach, or paradigm, which is implicitly partly intuitive. This was food for thought, although not developed in any great detail.

Another chapter dealt with the question of knowledge. Giving evidence a plausible - even a probable - interpretation is not quite the same as achieving a logically definitive proof, and we should be aware of this distinction.

A bibliography is provided at the end, and I suppose the book is what it claims to be ( A Very Short Introduction).
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on 30 September 2008
A great little book that introduces the major debates with enough detail to whet the appetite but not enough to intimidate. As befits a book of this nature, the author sensibly avoids polemic and other rhetorical baggage in favour of clear writing, leaving the reader free to concentrate on the ideas. The result is straightforward, unpretentious and concise.
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on 19 January 2006
What do philosophers think about science? This book provides a brief history of the philosophy of science, describes some logical assumptions in the practice of science and problems in science, and discusses Thomas Kuhn's scientific revolutions. The book concludes with a discussion on science and society.
Philosophy of science, as described in this book, seems to have become a rather esoteric subject removed the daily practice of scientists and the everyday use of science. Some questions that spring to mind but which are not covered in this book: Does the publication and independent verification of results lead to the self-correcting nature of science? Why is the simplest explanation the best? How can scientists who cannot easily perform experiments, such as astronomers and sociologists, make verifiable theories?
Chapter 6 presents three problems in science: Newton's view of absolute space, the classification (by feature or by genetics) of living creatures and the whether the mind is modular or not. It's not clear to me how the philosophy of science can help in resolving these problems. Newton's view was probably driven by his desire to prove the literal truth of the Bible. In this day and age of automated indexing systems, does it really matter which method is used to classify creatures? Finally, shouldn't scientists collect more data before deciding if the mind is modular or not?
This book covers a number of topics in the field but fortunately doesn't get bogged down in a deep technical discussion on any single topic. It is a reasonable overview of the topic for the interested reader and one of the better books in the "Very Short Introduction" series.
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It's tempting to ask why we need to have a better understanding of the philosophy of Science, when it can be said that "Science is what Scientists do" - it's a broad field of study and can any single definition cover all the bases? I think the answer to this question lies in the growth of "pseudo- science" - be it intelligent design or some aspects of alternative medicine and such like. If we want to be able to identify what is not science, we need to be able to understand what Science actually is. On that basis this book is an excellent starting point for such an understanding.
This book provides an excellent over-view of the major developments and theoretical aspects of the Philosophy of Science and provides a well laid out and accessible introduction to the subject. As the name of the series suggests there is no intention in the book to provide either a definitive or entirely comprehensive account of the contested field of Science philosophy. There seems to be little need for much prior knowledge of science as a body of content before reading this book, and this helps in its general tone.
As an introductory text on the subject it's hard to fault - and the bibliography will direct the reader to more in depth reading if required.
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on 6 January 2011
I haven't had any background in Philosophy but I had to study it in the master. So I read this book and it helped me know every fundamental knowledge in Philosophy. It explains very understandably and easily for someone who doesn't have any idea about it to think about Philosophy critically. So far, I recommend this book to you.
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