Essentials in Philosophy of Science

An essential understanding of Philosophy of Science entails one to first understand what kind of knowledge one ensues in one’s accumulation of it. What is the kind of investigations, beliefs and meanings and questions is one pursuing? A branch of philosophy that inquires into the knowledge and the method for the same is epistemology. Epistemology centrally questions what is knowledge as opposed to mere belief or known fact. If one believes something to be true then that proposition must be justified. Knowledge then becomes of the justified belief. However, this poses a critical question about what justification amounts to and what is the nature of this justification. Such justification is thought to be provided by scientific methods for testing and arriving at our beliefs. Science also tells us the ultimate nature of things, what philosophy begins in question, later scientific developments always seem to be proving and answering them. So science delves into the metaphysical realm of philosophy, where it comprehends and explains the existent nature of reality. Answering within its scope the questions of “how?”, “what?”, “when?”. Ofcourse, the realm of “why?” has remained a contentious issue for both philosophy and science. But, it is the scientific method that makes the difference in our investigation and in our endeavour to seek knowledge.

The main purpose of science is to trace within the constant chaos and change of phenomena, a consistent structure with order and meaning. In confirmation with reason, the phenomenon must be observed then synthesized or analyzed to coordinate our experiences and bring them into a system which in its nature is both imaginative and disciplined. However, the nature of such observation and explanation was in contrast to Aristotelian deductive logic. Aristotelian logic provided a model for the knowledge which restricts the domain of what is knowable to what is necessary and cannot be otherwise. It was teleological in nature. However, modern science wished to work on experiments and gathering of data with actual sensory experience a school of philosophy called the empiricism. Also, proposing that scientists use the method of induction to arrive at truths. Inductive inferences do not entail conclusion but they do make sure the consistency in argument on the basis of probability. Probability is another area of concern in philosophy. However, induction is based on invalid deductive arguments, is induction then enough?

Scientific method also provided for the scope of understanding the limitations of scientific knowledge. The problem of induction was solved by Popper by proposing that science is about rejecting and proving false theories rather than confirming their validity. Since, knowledge must be certain in philosophy, Popper’s methodology seemed to suggest that theories must be ranked according to their errors and degree of falsifiability.

Now, Berkeley’s ideas of idealism alongside Locke’s empiricism poses Hume’s problem that if the contact with the world are mediated by “our” ideas, then how can experience be a reliable guide to our world itself? This gave way to Scientific realism that involved a a metaphysical commitment to a  world of observable and unobservable objects and an epistemological commitment that our current theories are approximately true and they refer to unobservable entities which indeed exist.

It is not of one’s debate to dwell on the issue that if science is of importance in dissecting the reality of the world, however what it aims for and the scientific methods that may be applied in pursuing science is matter of philosophical investigation. The application of such methods proves to be imperative to fathom the world and reality and extend it to realms of ethics.

-Chandrima Chattopadhyay

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