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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science



An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science

Lisa Bortolotti

ISBN: 978-0-745-63539-2 December 2008 Polity 256 Pages


An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science provides a lively and accessible introduction to current key issues and debates in this area. The classic philosophical questions about methodology, progress, rationality and reality are addressed by reference to examples from the full range of natural and social sciences. Lisa Bortolotti uses a historically-informed perspective on the evolution of science and includes a thorough discussion of the ethical implications of scientific research. Special attention is paid to the complex relationship between the advancement of science, policy making and public interest and to the continuity between scientific research and other human activities.

The book is designed to help students think for themselves about the issues identified above, and includes information tables and questions for further reflection to support all stages of the teaching and learning experience, from the comprehension of primary and other secondary texts to debate and essay writing. It also includes a thematic bibliography and a glossary of technical terms.

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science is an excellent introduction to philosophy for students and provides researchers of scientific disciplines with an opportunity to reflect upon the value and impact of their work. It is also a stimulating read for anybody who is interested in the philosophical issues raised by the status of scientific knowledge, the practice of science and the role of experts in contemporary society.

Introduction: WHAT IS SCIENCE?.

Chapter one: DEMARCATION.

1.1. Science and Non-science.

1.1.1. Analytic and synthetic statements.

1.1.2. The ‘elimination’ of ethics.

1.1.3. Metaphysics as poetry.

1.2. Science and Pseudoscience.

1.2.1. Is astrology falsifiable?.

1.2.2. Context-dependent factors in demarcation.

1.2.3. “Anything goes”.

1.3. Natural and Social Sciences.

1.3.1. Laws and experiments in the social sciences.

1.4. What is Scientific Research?.

1.4.1. Procedural questions.

1.4.2. Functional questions.

1.4.3. Delimiting research.

1.5. Good and Bad Science.


Preview of future attractions.

Issues to think about.

Further resources.

Chapter two: REASONING.

2.1. Ways of Reasoning.

2.1.1. Justification and truth.

2.1.2. Deductive arguments.

2.1.3. Non-deductive arguments.

2.1.4. Reasoning in scientific practice.

2.2. The Scientific Method: Induction.

2.2.1. Innovations in the rise of modern science.

2.2.2. Thought experiments.

2.3. The Problem of Induction.

2.3.1. Can we dissolve the problem of induction?.

2.3.2. Attempting a solution to the problem of induction.


Preview of future attractions.

Issues to think about.

Further resources.

Chapter three: KNOWLEDGE.

3.1. What is a Theory?.

3.1.1. Conceptions of scientific theories.

3.1.2. The hidden complexity of observation.

3.2. Theory Confirmation.

3.2.1. The paradox of the ravens.

3.2.2. Alternative accounts of confirmation.

3.2.3. The new riddle of induction.

3.2.4. Attempted solutions to Goodman’s riddle.

Is there something wrong with ‘grue’?.


3.3. Models of Explanation.

3.3.1. Hempel’s models of explanation.

3.3.2. Relevance, symmetry and causal relations.

3.3.3. A pragmatic approach to explanation.


Preview of future attractions.

Issues to think about.

Further resources.


4.1. Meaning, Reference and Natural Kinds.

4.1.1. How terms get their meaning.

4.1.2. Twin-Earth.

4.1.3. Intuitions about natural kinds.

4.2. Implications of Descriptivism.

4.2.1. Meaning incommensurability.

4.2.2. Partial reference and imperfect translations.

4.3. Realism.

4.3.1. Realism in the philosophy of science.

4.3.2. Arguments against realism.

The Pessimistic Meta-Induction.


Duhem-Quine Thesis.

4.4. The Realism Debate.

4.4.1. Alternatives to realism.


Constructive empiricism.

NOA: Realism is just metaphysical foot-stamping.

4.4.2. Defending realism.

Structural realism.

Internal realism.


Preview of future attractions.

Issues to think about.

Further resources.

Chapter five: RATIONALITY.

5.1. Revolutions.

5.1.1. Kuhnian revolutions.

5.1.2. The Rationalists.

5.2. Paradigm Shifts.

5.2.1. The “discovery” of oxygen.

5.2.2. The Chemical Revolution as an illustration of Kuhn’s theory.

5.3. Beyond Revolutions.

5.3.1. Research programs.

5.3.2. Styles of reasoning.

5.3.3. Theory choice.


Preview of future attractions:.

Issues to think about:.

Further resources.

Chapter six: ETHICS.

6.1. Instrumentalization.

6.2. Ethical Constraints on Research Objectives.

6.2.1. Two notions of disability.

6.2.2. Objections to enhancement.

6.2.3. Do we have a moral obligation to enhance?.

6.3. Ethical Constraints on Research Methods.

6.3.1. Methodological deception in psychology.

6.3.2. Objections to methodological deception.

6.3.3. Benefits of methodological deception.

6.3.4. Deception outside psychology.

6.4. Ethical Constraints on Scientific Research.


Issues to think about.

Further resources.



Thematic Bibliography.

General Readings on Philosophy of (the) Science(s).

On Science, Pseudoscience and Bad Science.

On Natural vs. Social Sciences.

On Induction and Inductivism.

On Thought Experiments.

On the Nature of Scientific Theories and Models.

On Confirmation and Probability.

On Theory and Observation.

On Explanation.

On Laws.

On Meaning, Reference, and Natural Kinds.

On ‘Species’.

On ‘Jade’.

On Incommensurability.

On Realism.

On Underdetermination and the Pessimistic Meta-Induction.

On Revolutions and Progress.

On Science and Society and Research Ethics.

On Enhancement, Disability and the Ethics of Genetic Engineering.

On the Ethics of Scientific Research involving Animals.

On Deception in Psychological Research

"Without presupposing any prior knowledge of either philosophy or science, Lisa Bortolotti explains all the central issues clearly and adds some interesting twists of her own. This is an excellent first book for anybody who wants to understand the relation between scientific theorizing and reality."
David Papineau, King's College, London

"What are scientists really trying to prove anyway? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science seeks to examine the very fundamental nature of science. In a way, it is the science of science. Filled with classical philosophical questions about science and how human ideas and thoughts concerning science have changed through the years, to the constant raging debates of today, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science provides as much insight into science as philosophy can bring. A riveting and educational read, highly recommended."
Midwest Book Review

"Lisa Bortolotti's An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science is clearly written and structured and the many exercises interspersed in the text will be very useful for teachers and students wanting to test what has been learned. The chapter on ethics is a welcome addition to standard topics such as demarcation, confirmation and realism."
James Ladyman, University of Bristol