A philosophically and historically sensitive account of the engagement of the major protagonists of Victorian British philosophy, Reforming Philosophy considers the controversies between William Whewell and John Stuart Mill on the topics of science, morality, politics, and economics. By situating their debate within the larger context of Victorian society and its concerns, Laura Snyder shows how two very different men—Whewell, an educator, Anglican priest, and critic of science; and Mill, a philosopher, political economist, and parliamentarian—reacted to the challenges of their (...) times, each seeking to reform science as a means of reforming society as a whole. The first book-length examination of the dispute between Mill and Whewell in its entirety, Reforming Philosophy provides a rich and nuanced understanding of the intellectual spirit of Victorian Britain and will be welcomed by philosophers and historians of science, scholars of Victorian studies, and students of the history of philosophy and political economy. (shrink)
The Victorian period in Britain was an “age of reform.” It is therefore not surprising that two of the era’s most eminent intellects described themselves as reformers. Both William Whewell and John Stuart Mill believed that by reforming philosophy—including the philosophy of science—they could effect social and political change. But their divergent visions of this societal transformation led to a sustained and spirited controversy that covered morality, politics, science, and economics. Situating their debate within the larger context of Victorian society (...) and its concerns, _Reforming Philosophy_ shows how two very different men captured the intellectual spirit of the day and engaged the attention of other scientists and philosophers, including the young Charles Darwin. Mill—philosopher, political economist, and Parliamentarian—remains a canonical author of Anglo-American philosophy, while Whewell—Anglican cleric, scientist, and educator—is now often overlooked, though in his day he was renowned as an authority on science. Placing their teachings in their proper intellectual, cultural, and argumentative spheres, Laura Snyder revises the standard views of these two important Victorian figures, showing that both men’s concerns remain relevant today. A philosophically and historically sensitive account of the engagement of the major protagonists of Victorian British philosophy, _Reforming Philosophy_ is the first book-length examination of the dispute between Mill and Whewell in its entirety. A rich and nuanced understanding of the intellectual spirit of Victorian Britain, it will be welcomed by philosophers and historians of science, scholars of Victorian studies, and students of the history of philosophy and political economy. (shrink)
This article examines the nineteenth-century debate about scientific method between John Stuart Mill and William Whewell. Contrary to standard interpretations, I argue that their debate was not over whether to endorse an inductive methodology but rather over the nature of inductive reasoning in science and the types of conclusions yielded by it. Whewell endorses, while Mill rejects, a type of inductive reasoning in which inference is employed to find a property or cause shared by the observed members of a class, (...) which is generalized to all its members, including the unobserved ones. Because of this, Whewell’s inductivism, unlike Mill’s, is able to yield theoretical hypotheses referring to unob-servables such as molecules and light waves. This is contrary to the claims of some critics of inductivism who argue that inductivism is unable to yield such hypotheses. Moreover, I suggest that Whewell’s view of induction conforms more closely than Mill’s view to the practice of scientists such as Kepler, Newton, and Fresnel, who do attempt to discover laws involving unobservables. (shrink)
In this paper I demonstrate that, contrary to the standard interpretations, William Whewell's view of scientific method is neither that of the hypothetico-deductivist nor that of the retroductivist. Rather, he offers a unique inductive methodology, which he calls "discoverers' induction." After explicating this methodology, I show that Kepler's discovery of his first law of planetary motion conforms to it, as Whewell claims it does. In explaining Whewell's famous phrase about "happy guesses" in science, I suggest that Whewell intended a distinction (...) between "inductions," which can be empirically verified, and "mere hypotheses"--or guesses--which cannot. Finally, I argue that Whewell's discoverers' induction is a view worthy of our attention today, because it avoids a number of problems faced by prominent alternative methodologies. (shrink)
In the nineteenth century, William Whewell claimed that his confirmation criterion of consilience was a truth-guarantor: we could, he believed, be certain that a consilient theory was true. Since that time Whewell has been much ridiculed for this claim by critics such as J. S. Mill and Bas van Fraassen. I have argued elsewhere that, while Whewell's claim that consilience can guarantee the truth of a theory is clearly wrong, consilience is indeed quite useful as a confirmation criterion (Snyder 2005). (...) Here I will show that, even when consilience gives evidence for a theory that turns out to be false, there is an important sense in which consilience shows that the theory has captured something correct about the natural-kind structure of the physical world. Whewell was therefore correct to claim that consilience provides a "criterion of reality" (Whewell  1967, vol. 2, 68). Consilience provides this by giving justification for the claim that we have really `cut nature at its causal joints', to adapt Plato's famous phrase. Because of this, consilience can play a role in an argument for scientific realism. (shrink)
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the opinion of science, as well as of philosophy and even religion, was, at least in Britain, firmly in the camp of the plurality of worlds, the view that intelligent life exists on other celestial bodies. William Whewell, considered an expert on science, philosophy and religion, would have been expected to support this position. Yet he surprised everyone in 1853 by publishing a work arguing strongly against the plurality view. This was even stranger (...) given that he had endorsed pluralism twenty years earlier in his contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises. In this paper I show that the shift in Whewell’s view was motivated by three factors: the influence of Richard Owen’s theory of archetypes on Whewell’s view of the argument from design, and Whewell’s perception of the need to strengthen such arguments in light of evolutionary accounts of human origins; important developments in his view of philosophy and his role as a scientific expert; and new findings in astronomy. An examination of the development of Whewell’s position provides a lens through which we can view the interplay of theology, philosophy and science in the plurality of worlds debate.Keywords: William Whewell; Plurality of worlds; Natural theology; Analogies; Archetypes; Conjectures; Evolution. (shrink)
The question of the existence of intelligent life on other worlds has never been a purely scientific one. Philosophical, religious and literary issues have been intertwined with scientific ones throughout the history of the “plurality of worlds” debate. This collection of papers in –Studies in History and Philosophy of Science– explores the interrelation of science, philosophy, religion and literature in debates about extraterrestrial life.
Seven essays explore issues of scientific methodology in various episodes of science from Newtonian physics of the 17th and 18th century to quantum mechanics in the 20th. Addressed to scholars of the history and philosophy of science, but also accessible to general readers. Annotation copyright Book.