Comments about "Philosophy of science" in Wikipedia

This document contains comments about the article Philosophy of science in Wikipedia
In the last paragraph I explain my own opinion.




The article starts with the following sentence.
There is no consensus among philosophers about many of the central problems concerned with the philosophy of science, including whether science can reveal the truth about unobservable things and whether scientific reasoning can be justified at all.
This sentence is to vaque. When there is no agreement among certain issues, you should list them.
To discuss anything that is unobservable is always tricky. For example the inflation theory is a case in point. There will be many different opinions, which can be expected.
A vocal minority of philosophers, and Paul Feyerabend (1924–1994) in particular, argue that there is no such thing as the "scientific method", so all approaches to science should be allowed, including explicitly supernatural ones.
Such an approach is tricky. The problem is when you want to discuss supernatural issues, you must first have a clear definition what you mean.
The question of what counts as science and what should be excluded arises as a life-or-death matter in the philosophy of medicine.
A better sentence is this:
As part of the philosophy of medicine the question what counts as good medical science and what should be excluded (dependent about each particular treatment) can have life-or-death threatening consequences.

1. Introduction

Distinguishing between science and non-science is referred to as the demarcation problem.
However, no unified account of the problem has won acceptance among philosophers, and some regard the problem as unsolvable or uninteresting.
It is not so much the philosophers that have to agree. It are the scientist that should agree. It are the philosphers that should challenge the solution.

1.1 Defining science

1.2 Scientific explanation

1.3 Justifying science

1.4 Observation inseparable from theory

For example, before Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, observers would have likely interpreted an image of the Einstein cross as five different objects in space.
That is possible.
In light of that theory, however, astronomers will tell you that there are actually only two objects, one in the center and four different images of a second object around the sides.
The general theory of relativity allows for such an interpretation, but you have to study each example in detail to investigate what is happening.
Alternatively, if other scientists suspect that something is wrong with the telescope and only one object is actually being observed, they are operating under yet another theory.
This sentence is not clear.
Observations that cannot be separated from theoretical interpretation are said to be theory-laden.
What is the definition of theoretical interpretation? A better sentence is (?):
Observations that can be explained by two different theories are said to be theory-laden.

1.5 The purpose of science

1.6 Values and science

2 History

2.1 Pre-modern

2.2 Modern

2.3 Logical positivism

2.4 Thomas Kuhn

3 Current approaches

3.1 Naturalism's axiomatic assumptions

3.2 Coherentism

3.3 Anything goes methodology

3.4 Sociology of scientific knowledge methodology

3.5 Continental philosophy

4 Other topics

4.1 Reductionism

4.2 Social accountability

5 Philosophy of particular sciences

5.1 Philosophy of statistics

5.2 Philosophy of mathematics

5.3 Philosophy of physics

5.4 Philosophy of chemistry

5.5 Philosophy of Earth sciences

5.6 Philosophy of biology

5.7 Philosophy of medicine

5.8 Philosophy of psychology

5.9 Philosophy of psychiatry

5.10 Philosophy of economics

It can also be defined as the branch of economics which studies its own foundations and morality.
Infact each particular science should study its own scientific foundations and ethical consequences.

5.11 Philosophy of social science3. Background

6. See also

Following is a list with "Comments in Wikipedia" about related subjects

Reflection 1 - the philosophy of the philosophy of science

Science is the art to improve our understanding in more detail in a critical context. The critical context is that other people can chalenge what it is that you understand.
The philosophy of science establishes what are the rules to perform good science. Part of this involves logical reasoning. The philosophy of the philosophy of science or meta philosophy of science studies the foundations of the philosphy of science. It studies the rules of the philosophy of science in general. Many particular sciences start from assumptions. The question is every assumption allowed or are there certain rules which when you make assumptions should be followed. That is a philosophical question.
Philosophy of science is one of the most important areas of investigating. Because it studies the rules how science is performed. Without a good definition you in some sense you can never criticize any book about science. Specific the first paragraph's of any chapter, because that is the starting point on which the rest of chapter is based.
My short story about the Universe is this:
In the beginning there was a point of infinite mass. That point exploded, called the Big Bang. That explosion was the beginning of time and the universe in 3D in all its beauty.
etc. etc.

Reflection 2 - The Philosophy of Mathematics.

Mathematics starts from the following assumption (axioma):
A straight line between two points is the shortest connection between two points.
But this raises a new question:
What is the shortest connection between two points?
In fact what you have done is you have replaced one concept that is not clear by a different concept that is not clear.
The shortest connection between two points is a fixed connection (a line) that observed from behind one point towards the other point is also a point. (This point has the size of the thickness of the fixed connection).
This definition in fact also services as an experiment and this definition is also the same as the definition of: What is a straight line

The Philosophy of Mathematics studies the frame work of mathematics. As already mentioned are assumptions. There are many different ones: Defintions, Hypothesis, Propositions, Lemmas, Corrollaries and Theorems. Each of these require a good definition.
Mathematics defines a mathematical world in 3D of infinite size. In this world nothing changes and there exists no concept of time. This is different from the physical world. The physical world exists in time. This time can be measured with the use of a clock, but because a clock is in itself also a physical process, it by itself can introduce errors.

Reflection 3 - The Philosophy of physics

The philosophy of physics studies the ground rules of physics. It also involves assumptions. The ground rules of physicics are called theories and laws.
Physics involves the study of the behaviour of processes.
There are two types of processes: Single object or Multi object based processes. The difference between the two is important when the concept of mass is used.
In the case of a single object process still many objects can be considered, each with there own mass and weight. The mass is established by means of comparison. In the case of the solar system to calculate the mass requires Newton's Law as a start.

The most important way to study physics is by performing actual experiments. With an actual experiment experiment I mean from certain clearly defined initial state towards a final state.

Consider the following experiment: There is an observer at platform. At a certain moment a train passes in front of him with a constant speed v.

The description of this experiment is clearly too simple.
What you need is a train a distance 1 km to the left of you with a clock. Secondly a red sign one km to the right of you, also with a clock.
The experiment consist of starting the train, driving the train, and stopping the train. The distance travelled (2 km) divided by the difference in clock readings, give you the average speed.

The main reason why this experiment requires more detail is because now it can be understand why you can call the observer on the platform at rest and an observer on the train the moving observer.

What this experiment also allow you to demonstrate is that there are two reference frames involved: One a reference frame based on the platform and a second reference frame based the (moving) train.
Initial both frames are the same, but as soon the train starts to move, there is a separation between the two frames. They will combine again when the train stops.

Are these two reference frames physical the same? The first issue is that during the whole experiment there is acceleration in volved, caused by the forces introduced when you start and stop the train. A second issue is that when you place a small box filled with water, in the train, the level in box will not remain flat. It will only become flat when you stop the train. Now perform the following experiment: 1) Place a clock near the track at the beginning of the experiment 2) Also place a clock in the train at the beginning of the experiment. 3) Move the train forward and backward. 4) compare the two clock readings.
This is the third issue: the two clock readings are not the same. Is this a time symmetrical experiment? : No.
After the train moves forward and stops, you must 'reverse' the engine, such that the train moves in opposite direction.

Reflection 4 - The Philosophy of physics - Thought experiments

IMO Thought experiment can almost not used, as a substitute for a real experiment, to perform science. Of course you can first to develop an experiment in your 'mind', discus it with people and than to actual perform it, but that is not a thought experiment. A thought experiment is strictly performed in your 'mind' and be discussed, but no actual experiment is performed.

Also here you the same problems as with an actual experiment: you have to describe the experiment completely. However here you have an additional problem: what are the assumptions on which the experiment is based and how do you know that every one understand the same without very little experimental backup.

A typical case is the Schrödinger cat thought experiment which is controlled by the radio active decay of an chemical element with a certain given half-life time. The problem is in order to know that you must actual perform a real experiment 1000 times in order to know the half-life of the piece of radioactive material you want to use.
That means you can not do this experiment completely as a thought experiment.

Suppose what does it mean when the half-life time is 10 minutes. When you put the cat in the box at that moment you press the start button. When the button is pressed a shield is removed between the radioactive element and the glass container which contains the poisenous gas. When the radioactive element now transmits an alpha particle, the glass container will break and the cat will die. This button also starts a timer. After 10 minutes the shield is again restored and no alpha particle can reach the container.
What does this mean? This means when you open the Box after 10 minutes you have a 50% chance that the cat is a live.
However in order to validate this claim you have to perform also this experiment 1000 times. The reason is that you can have a piece of material which has an half-life time of 10 minutes but that does mean that each time when an alpha particle is transmitted it will actual hit the glass container. That can be much less Maybe once every hour.

What is even more tricky to claim that before you open the box, to claim that the state of cat in the box is in a superposition state, that means that the cat is both alive and dead (simultaneous).
That is in conflict of a certain common understanding that the physical state of the universe is grosso modo completely indepent of human experiences and observations.

The philosophical question is: Does the Schrödinger cat thought experiment actual learns you something?


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Created: 18 February 2019

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