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What Is This Thing Called Science? (Fourth Edition)

What Is This Thing Called Science? (Fourth Edition)

Alan F. Chalmers

September 2013 - 304 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-1-62466-039-9
$53.00
Paper 978-1-62466-038-2
$23.00
Examination 978-1-62466-038-2
$4.00

Quick Overview

In addition to overall improvements and updates inspired by Chalmers’s experience as a teacher, comments from his readers, and recent developments in the field, this fourth edition features an extensive chapter-long postscript that draws on his research into the history of atomism to illustrate important themes in the philosophy of science. Identifying the qualitative difference between knowledge of atoms as it figures in contemporary science and metaphysical speculations about atoms common in philosophy since the time of Democritus offers a revealing and instructive way to address the question at the heart of this groundbreaking work: What is this thing called science? (Co-published with the University of Queensland Press. HPC holds rights in North America and U. S. Dependencies)

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eBook available for $18.95. Click HERE for more information about Hackett eBooks.

Co-published with the University of Queensland Press. HPC holds rights in North America and U. S. Dependencies.

Since its first publication in 1976, Alan Chalmers's highly regarded and widely read work—translated into eighteen languages—has become a classic introduction to the scientific method, known for its accessibility to beginners and its value as a resource for advanced students and scholars.

In addition to overall improvements and updates inspired by Chalmers’s experience as a teacher, comments from his readers, and recent developments in the field, this fourth edition features an extensive chapter-long postscript that draws on his research into the history of atomism to illustrate important themes in the philosophy of science. Identifying the qualitative difference between knowledge of atoms as it figures in contemporary science and metaphysical speculations about atoms common in philosophy since the time of Democritus offers a revealing and instructive way to address the question at the heart of this groundbreaking work: What is this thing called science?

 

Comments on the previous edition:

"This timely and valuable revision will do much to preserve What is this thing called Science? as the best overall introductory textbook in the philosophy of science available in the English language.  The new chapters give an insightful and concise treatment of major developments in the field from the last two decades, in the same accessible and lively style that made the first two editions such successes. . . . I would recommend the new edition heartily. . . ."
     —Hasok Chang, University College London

 

Table of Contents:

Preface to the first edition
Preface to the second edition
Preface to the third edition
Preface to the fourth edition
Introduction

1. Science as knowledge derived from the facts of experience
A widely held commonsense view of science
Seeing is believing
Visual experiences not determined solely by the object viewed
Observable facts expressed as statements
Why should facts precede theory?
The fallibility of observation statements
Further reading

2. Observation as practical intervention
Observation: passive and private or active and public?
Galileo and the moons of Jupiter
Observable facts objective but fallible
Further reading

3. Experiment
Not just facts but relevant facts
The production and updating of experimental results
Transforming the experimental base of science: historical examples
Experiment as an adequate basis for science
Further reading

4. Deriving theories from the facts: induction
Introduction
Baby logic
Can scientific laws be derived from the facts?
What constitutes a good inductive argument?
Further problems with inductivism
The appeal of inductivism
Further reading

5. Introducing falsificationism
Introduction
A logical point in favour of falsificationism
Falsifiability as a criterion for theories
Degree of falsifiability, clarity and precision
Falsificationism and progress
Further reading

6. Sophisticated falsificationism, novel predictions and the growth of science
Relative rather than absolute degrees of falsifiability
Increasing falsifiability and ad hoc modifications
Confirmation in the falsificationist account of science
Boldness, novelty and background knowledge
Comparison of the inductivist and falsificationist view of confirmation
Advantages of falsificationism over inductivism
Further reading

7. The limitations of falsificationism
Problems stemming from the logical situation
Falsificationism inadequate on historical grounds
The Copernican Revolution
Inadequacies of the falsificationist demarcation criterion and Popper's response
Further reading

8. Theories as structures I: Kuhn's paradigms
Theories as structures
Introducing Thomas Kuhn
Paradigms and normal science
Crisis and revolution
The function of normal science and revolutions
The merits of Kuhn's account of science
Kuhn's ambivalence on progress through revolutions
Objective knowledge
Further reading

9. Theories as structures II: research programs
Introducing Imre Lakatos
Lakatos's research programs
Methodology within a program and the comparison of programs
Novel predictions
Testing the methodology against history
Problems with Lakatos's methodology
Further reading

10. Feyerabend's anarchistic theory of science
The story so far
Feyerabend's case against method
Feyerabend's advocacy of freedom
Critique of Feyerabend's individualism
Further reading

11. Methodical changes in method
Against universal method
Telescopic for naked-eye data: a change in standards
Piecemeal change of theory, method and standards
A light-hearted interlude
Further reading

12. The Bayesian approach
Introduction
Bayes' theorem
Subjective Bayesianism
Applications of the Bayesian formula
Critique of subjective Bayesianism
Further reading

13. The new experimentalism
Introduction
Experiment with life of its own
Deborah Mayo on severe experimental testing
Learning from error and triggering revolutions
The new experimentalism in perspective
Appendix: happy meetings of theory and experiment
Further reading

14. Why should the world obey laws?
Introduction
Laws as regularities
Laws as characterisations of powers or dispositions
Thermodynamic and conservation laws
Further reading

15. Realism and anti-realism
Introduction
Global anti-realism: language, truth and reality
Anti-realism
Some standard objections and the anti-realist response
Scientific realism and conjectural realism
Idealisation
Unrepresentative realism or structural realism
Further reading

16. Epilogue to the third edition
Further reading

17. Postscript
Introduction
Confirmation by arguments from coincidence
Philosophical versus scientific knowledge of atoms
Independent evidence and the 'theory-dependence of observation': Perrin's experiments on Brownian motion
Partitioning of theories: atomism in nineteenth-century chemistry
Realism versus anti-realism again
Strongly confirmed theories are never completely discarded
Approximate truth is all we have
Levels of reality
Further reading

Notes; Bibliography; Index of names

 

About the Author:

Alan Chalmers Author PhotoAlan Chalmers is Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, where he has taught since 1971.