Philosophy of Science

I am intrigued by two things that I’m hoping my scientifically minded and trained friends can help me with:

  1. In your training in your field was it a requirement to study the Philosophy of Science? If it wasn’t a part of your training…have you done some work in this area on your initiative?
  2. Do you have any recommendations for study in the area of the Philosophy of Science?
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  1. Nope and not really. In the first MA I did (in linguistics) we read a lot of early post-modern philosophers on the analysis of discourse and the practice of hermeneutics. People like Foucault, Derrida, Ricoeur, Gadamer, Bakhtin. Mostly they just made my brain hurt.

  2. I just read @jstump articles here on BioLogos and assume he did all the heavy reading, so I can just take his word for it.

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No. Yes. But then I had an interest in philosophy. Not everyone in science does. But actually doing science is in many ways more informative about how science works than anything in the philosophy of science. On the other hand, there is difference between doing science (or talking about the discoveries of science) and talking about science itself and how it works. The philosophy of science will help you more with the latter. You don’t need it to do science but it will give you some vocabulary and background for talking about how science works.

Karl Popper is one of the biggest names in this topic.
Quine is another important contributor.
Francis Bacon plays some role in the birth of modern science

Michael Polanyi is a name I have heard from Christians a lot, but there is some reason to be skeptical about whether this is really a good source for the philosophy of modern science.
Charles Sanders Pierce, the founder of pragmatism, is a earlier Christian view of science.

For some particularly defunct views on science which I would strongly criticize, but which should be mentioned as having a part in the history of the philosophy of science, there is…
Aristotle was way ahead of his time but rather far from understanding modern science
Isaac Newton’s rationalism
John Locke’s empiricism
David Hume’s problem of induction
Wittgenstein and logical positivism
Feyerabend’s anything goes
Thomas Kuhn and his “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” which may have some applicability for the softer sciences but totally misses the mark in the case of the harder sciences.

P.S. I personally read from the writings of Popper, Pierce, Aristotle, and Kuhn. In the other cases, it was more a matter of reading about them than reading what they wrote.


I found reading (and trying to understand) philosophy very helpful intellectual exercises, and in addition to the list above by Mitchell, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is very interesting. Books on Philosophy of Science can often discuss approaches to doing science and examinations of major theories - however, when all is said, doing science is what matters.

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