Philosophy of science

Iliffe, Robert (2003) Philosophy of science. In: Porter, Roy (ed.) The Cambridge history of science vol. 4: eighteenth-century science. Cambridge University Press, pp. 268-284. ISBN 9780521572439

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In recent years philosophy of science and the history of philosophy of science have been subjected to a number of critiques by scholars from areas such as sociology of science and history of science. The following is a litany of some of their complaints. Philosophers of science (it is argued) do not deal with the practical engagement with the world that is the central part of scientific activity, and their view of the nature and function of scientific theory is fanciful and biased (“theory” is seen as prior to, and more historically significant than “practice”). Historians of philosophy anachronistically decide what constituted important problems in the past, selecting for study the works of great men whose doctrines they wrench from their historical contexts. They then misinterpret and present the corpus of an individual's published writings as if it were coherent across various projects and over lengthy periods of time. Philosophers are taken to be in dialog with the timeless problems of their ancestors, and the “progressive, ” pure aspects of scientific work are divorced from other areas of an individual's intellectual output, such as theology and economics, which are seen as inferior productions. In dealing with the legacy of Newton, “Newtonians” merely develop and never radically challenge powerful suggestions that are inherent within the public texts of the Master, whereas “anti-Newtonians” are lumped together, whatever their doctrines, and whatever the traditions within which they write. As one corollary of Newtonocentrism, historians have tended to argue that all decent examples of exact science in the eighteenth century are the result of successfully grappling with problems laid out or “hinted” at in Newton's works.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Depositing User: Robert Iliffe
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:55
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2012 11:06
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