Top positive review
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If you only buy one book on philosophy of science, make it this one.
on 21 October 2014
This third edition expands considerably on its already very useful predecessors. Chalmers writes clearly and vividly, and this is a readable and - generally speaking - reliable survey of the field, so far as I am any judge.
He does not always get it right, it has to be said: I am personally quite interested in Bayesian approaches to science, and though these methods have their weaknesses, Chalmers does not understand enough about the subject to pinpoint them accurately. In fact his criticisms of Bayesian methods betray, I am sorry to have to say, an ignorance of probability and statistics which makes his chapter on this the weakest of the lot.
But the introduction to Deborah Mayo's "New experimentalism" was a revelation to me. Moreover his broad conclusion - that there is not and can never be a once-for-all authoritative approach to science valid in all times and all places - seems to me to be well argued.
He builds on what was already a good survey of induction, and the approaches of Popper, Kuhn, and their successors, in previous editions. One way in which the discussion on induction might have been improved would be to draw the distinction between abduction (or retroduction) and induction made by Peirce and discussed by Hanson in his classic "Patterns of Discovery". This is a useful way to help untangle what is otherwise a complex and confusing concept, given that induction as usually described is actually two processes, not one.
But overall, this book is the best short introduction to the subject that I have encountered.