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The Philosophy of Science: An Historical Anthology (Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies) Paperback – 7 Apr 2009
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"The introductions, which occupy one–sixth of the volume, are carefully, clearly, and at times even beautifully written. Perhaps most important, they are always intelligently sympathetic to the authors whose views they are presenting." (The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, 1 April 2011)
"For years I′ve fielded queries from colleagues around the world seeking an anthology through which to teach introductory history and philosophy of science courses by means of primary sources from the Greeks to the twentieth century. My answer has always been discouraging: No one book fills that need. But not anymore. This superb new collection is the book we′ve all been wanting. It′s sure to become a classroom staple and a standard reference in the library of every historian and philosopher of science who thinks that Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein deserve to be heard speaking for themselves."
– Don Howard, University of Notre Dame
"This text provides a unique combination of historical and classical sources, combined with very helpful introductions. Its breadth of coverage means it may profitably used as a text in philosophy of science courses at many levels."
–Peter Machamer, University of Pittsburgh
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All the big thinkers are here from Aristotle to Carnap.
A great buy and the book looks sexy!
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Since it is strong in both the range of primary texts and the level and engagement of the editorial commentary, this anthology would serve well in a number of contexts. It would work very well in undergraduate courses in which historical approaches to the philosophy of science are explored because students unfamiliar with debates in the history of science would receive a much-needed introduction through the editorial commentary. This commentary is provided by the editors at the beginning of each of the book's 9 units.
The anthology would also work well for a beginning-level graduate course in the history of the philosophy of science or as a supplementary text in a course on the history of science. A graduate student in such a situation would not only benefit from the commentary but also from the wide range of primary texts provided in a single volume. Working through this anthology would provide such a graduate student with the necessary breadth of the field that he or she will need when moving further along in the discipline.
Given its breadth and accessibility, I wholeheartedly recommend this text for anyone interested in the philosophy of science!
Anyone looking to understand the core of philosophy of science for its own sake or to provide a cornerstone for the study of more specific branches in the field would be greatly aided by the reading of this anthology.
I would have liked to have seen a few selections by authors coming from the `continental' tradition, but that is more a problem with academic institutions than with this book. To take the massive corpus of scientific and philosophical thought and reduce it down to something understandable for people with no background in either deserves more than praise. Because of this, I fully recommend this volume.
Commentaries from the editors guide the reader through the main themes and the shifts in the narrative. It is good to have extracts from scientists. The philosopher/scientist Duhem advised young scientists to read the works of the great scientists rather than philosophers. He gave that advice when positivism was on the rise and it is still apt. He is represented here by his argument against the decisive nature of crucial experiments, a theme that took on new life under the influence of a paper by Quine.
The use of a large number of small extracts provides breadth at the cost of depth. It is good to find Koyre among the supplementary reading for the Copernican revolution in cosmology and Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" would be a useful addition for a gripping account of the episode from a man who combined a grasp of the science with the narrative skills of a novelist.
In the later sections there appears to be a bias towards logical empiricists, perhaps reflecting the dominant school of thought in the US where the book will be most used. A local hero, the great philosopher-scientist Peirce is represented with two pieces and an extract from Dewey would not be out of place, especially as they both stand as a corrective to positivism. The same can be said of Karl Popper although the logical empiricists were unwilling to take on the new direction that he offered with his theory of conjectural objective knowledge in place of theories of justified subjective beliefs. As Quine acknowledged, following Popper, the paradoxes of confirmation (spelled out by Hempel on The Raven Paradox) do not arise with the Popperian "negative" use of evidence.
The commentary on Popper is a part of the book that could be improved. It has to be said that he overplayed his hand with falsification and the demarcation criterion, possibly because it played such a large part in his own intellectual development, as described in the paper included here. But when someone has decided to take evidence seriously then it is not such a big deal whether a theory is defined as scientific, any more than it is a big deal for an auto to have a steering wheel. The focus moves on to questions like "How does this theory compare with competitors?", "What questions does this theory answer and what questions does it raise?", "How can it be tested?" and "What are its practical applications?".
One of the editors raises the Duhem-Quine consideration that a test result depends on statements of the situation and ancillary theories, not just the theory under investigation, concluding "There can, therefore, be no such decisive refutation of a theory as Popper suggests". However in "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" Popper wrote "In point of fact, no conclusive disproof of a theory can ever be produced; for it is always possible to say that the experimental results are not reliable, or that the discrepancies which are asserted to exist between the experimental results and the theory are only apparent and that they will disappear with the advance of our understanding."
Other criticisms of Popper are offered and it would be a good exercise for students to find how many of them are valid in the light of a close examination of the original texts.