Review [Book Review]

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):663-668 (1996)
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Abstract

Two things seem to make science different from other human activities: the existence of a special method and the claim that this method produces objective knowledge of the world. Yet, as Barry Gower’s impressive book shows, after centuries of philosophical reflection on scientific method, there is considerable disagreement as to what exactly this method is. What is more interesting is that all attempts to characterise scientific method, from Galileo and Descartes up until the present, suffer from an internal tension: whatever the method of science be in its details, it should satisfy two general desiderata which, at least prima facie, pull in contrary directions. On the one hand, it should be amplia- tive: it should be able to move from the finite data and observations available at any given time to hypotheses and theories which go far beyond these data, either by generalising them over unexamined (or even unexaminable) domains or by introducing unobserved and unobservable causes which bring the phenomena about. This ‘content-increasing’ aspect of scientific method is indispensable, if science is seen as an activity which purports to extend our knowledge beyond what is immediately observed by means of the senses. On the other hand, the method of science should be epistemically probative: it should be able to convey epistemic warrant to its conclusions (hypotheses and theories). Otherwise, its claim to extending our knowledge of the world beyond what is actually observed is dubious. The tension arises because ampliative methods don’t carry their epistemically probative character on their sleeves. Since the conclusion of an ampliative method can be false, even though all of its premises are true, the following question arises: what makes it the case that the method conveys whatever epistemic warrant the premises enjoy to the intended conclusion rather than to its negation?

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Stathis Psillos
University of Athens

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Scientific Realism and the 'Pessimistic Induction'.Stathis Psillos - 1996 - Philosophy of Science 63 (5):S306-S314.

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