Essays in the history and philosophy of science

In previous years, this same kind of conference had been held in Dublin and so this was a first not just for Queens, but for Northern Ireland. Many papers presented over the two days went on to be published in noteworthy journals, an indication of the high quality on display. Given the number of papers presented, not all could be presented in this volume, but what follows is a selection of some of the best received papers, which cover areas as diverse as philosophy of science and mind, epistemology, political philosophy and ethics and a time span stretching from the classical era to modern analytic philosophy. With such a diverse group of philosophical minds gathered together, the chance to hear a new take on a familiar field, or to hear discussion of areas of philosophy one had never come across was not wasted.

Essays in the history and philosophy of science

Support Aeon Donate now Philosophers periodically fret about the apparent lack of progress in their discipline. By discovering its methods and unifying a lot of us around them, science has figured out how to get human behaviours connected to the larger physical environment in ways that yield information about it, information that we can use to rocket off to the Moon or just bring pleasure to our ever-curious prefrontal cortex.

Philosophy, by comparison, seems to have little to brag about. A number of attempts have recently been made to dispel the fretting. And in Philosophical Progress: In Defence of a Reasonable OptimismDaniel Stoljar argues that although we return to the same philosophical topics time and again, the questions we ask about those topics change from one time to another, and are progressively being answered.

But all of them — mine will be another — face fundamental criticisms. Some propose that the whole idea of making progress toward the truth gets philosophy wrong.

II. Empathy

Consider the latter time-honoured goal, for example. Whole ways of doing philosophy would have to be sent packing or provided with a new identity if that were not so. As Aristotle says in the first sentence of his Metaphysics, all human beings by nature desire to understand.

And it appears that not everything we want to understand is addressed by science. As Carlos Fraenkel observes in his reply to Papineau, also in The Times Literary Supplement, the naturalistic worldview of many contemporary analytical philosophers is rather different from that of the Greeks, preventing what we do from contributing progressively improved enlargements on their themes.

Selected Papers - Elliott Sober

This point is not decisive, however, since joint intellectual concerns — and thus the required continuity — can be discerned by moving to the most general level of investigation. Here we find what Stoljar calls philosophical topics.

Essays in the history and philosophy of science

In an online articlehe mentions three of them: In any case, Ancient Greek philosophy had its own naturalists, the pre-Socratic Atomists. And the idea of the Atomists that reality can be Many as well as One — though a response to ancient notions that we might regard as outlandish, and though it in part leads into modern physics — could easily come up for discussion in a modern course on metaphysics, given the interests and terms of debate currently found in that sub-field of philosophy.

The reference to modern physics reminds us of a commonly cited fact — that philosophy came first and gave birth to science — that could in its own way seem to delegitimise or quickly answer the progress question. As David Chalmers points out in a paper that has generated considerable internet discussion, the Big Questions of philosophy tend to stay behind when the sciences leave home.

Tracing, with science, the innumerable causal pathways associated with our behaviours, philosophy wants to know whether these leave room for me to really be free and deserve praise or blame for my behaviour.

And if there are truths about how things ought to be as well as scientific truths about how things are, what are they and how are they discovered?

Might there be no truths of the former kind at all? In that case, what should we say about morality? Philosophy wants to know.

Essays in the history and philosophy of science

Homo sapiens is still a young species, and potentially the first of many to mull over intellectual problems It is hard to see, therefore, how the urge to make progress with such issues could be ruled out as illegitimate.

But philosophers disagree with each other about them all day long — and will do so through the night, too, if you supply the refreshments. Chalmers crisply identifies the result: I want to suggest that science can be helpful here in a new way, not by its example but through some of its results.

In particular, a new direction of thought is suggested by reflection on large-scale facts involving evolution and deep geological time.

See a Problem?

Even at the age of aboutyears, Homo sapiens is still a young species, and potentially the first of many — whether organic or non-organic — to mull over intellectual problems on our planet.

As science itself shows, science and philosophy have hardly drawn their first breath. The first outlines of the story were discerned more than years ago. Sure, having taken a science class or two, we can rattle off geological eras taking us millions of years into the past: Nor do we regard the end of days as nearer than the beginning.

But as it turns out, we human beings are not very good at making our everyday, lived understanding of the place of humans in the world line up with these temporal facts. Part of the problem of course is that scientific timescales resist comprehension.

And the future is at a comparative disadvantage if it wants to be known and talked about: Perhaps there is also a connection between our macro-level tendencies and what happens at the micro level of individual human lives. Recent psychological studies suggest that most of us, however old or young we might be, are under the illusion that the big important changes in our lives have already happened.

This is even called by a name suggestive of larger things:Website for Elliott Sober, Professor in the Philosophy Department at University of Wisconsin Madison.

Home; Selected Papers for the History of Philosophy of Science, Genesis Redux – Essays on the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life, , Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The history of artificial life is thus also a history of theories of soul and intellect. Taking a historical approach to a modern quandary, Genesis Redux is essential reading for historians and philosophers of science and technology, scientists and engineers working in artificial life and intelligence, and anyone engaged in evaluating these.

Regarding history of science, one is surprised to read the editors' nonsense that "On the crucial issue of the indebtedness 0f seventeenth-century physics to fourteenth-centure physics recent scholarship has tended to support Duhem's view" (p.

).Reviews: 1. Jan 01,  · "This volume assembles twelve texts published between and The editors allow one to see the genesis of the ideas of Duhem, philosopher and historian, of the variety of his styles, and sometimes also the limits of his work/5(2).

A citation index of Philosophy containing thousands of bibliographies. Philosophy of Science, Misc; History of Western Philosophy. History of Western Philosophy; PhilPapers is a comprehensive index and bibliography of philosophy maintained by the community of philosophers.

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