What is Science?
There is much controversy over what really is science and what does it consists of. The literature on this area is enormous and philosophy of science is a whole academic discipline in itself, which tries to answer the above question. It also addresses the question of how knowledge is acquired and which methods of research are ‘’scientific’’. How can we distinguish between legitimate science and astrology? Much relevant question is in what sense is psychoanalysis a science, or psychology in general?
In recent times science is widely regarded as that there is something special about it and its methods. But what is so special about science and what is the basis of this authority? It is simply not possible to give a neat definition, which will separate all the things that have ever been called ‘science’. Science is a phenomenon that has developed through the ages. Science’s most distinguishing feature is that it is an empirical enterprise about the real world of sensation. Science attempts to understand this empirical world. Bodies of science known as ‘theories’ or ‘paradigms’ or ‘set of models’, are collections of laws. In Newtonian physics we find Newton’s three laws of physics, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and so forth. A major part of science involves the use of law to effect explanation. The other side of explanation is prediction. Closely connected comes the notion of testability. Furthermore, a genuine scientific theory leaves itself open to check against the real world. Testability is a two way process. The researcher looks for positive evidence, and for confirmation. Also a body of science must be falsifiable. A scientist must be prepared to reject his theory. Some other features of science are the urge for simplicity and unification. Finally, a scientist should not cheat or falsify data.
In this essay an early offered account from philosophers of science of what is science and where scientific knowledge derives from will be described. This account is that of logical empiricism and where it evolved (logical positivism). Moreover, two of the main criticisms of logical empiricism will be discussed; firstly the falsification theory of Karl Popper and secondly Thomas Kuhn’s theory of science, the notion of a ‘’paradigm’’ and his criticisms of Popper’s theory.
Logical Positivism - Logical Empiricism
One of the earliest accounts of science comes from logical positivism, which is the name for the set of doctrines advocated by the members of the Vienna circle from about 1920 to 1936. Prominent members of this group were Rudolf Schlick, Herbert Feigl, Hans Hanh, Otto Neurath and Friedrich Waismann. Its three main tenets are: firstly, that scientific attention should be restricted to observable facts. Inferred constructs, such as beliefs or motives, have no place in science. Secondly, the methods of the physical sciences should also be applied to the social sciences. And third, science is objective and value free. This development sought to analyze which propositions have meaning and which do not and then to restrict the philosophical discourse to those things that can be talked about. Wittgenstein’s famous statement shows what was meant: ‘‘what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence’’(Wittgenstein, 1921/1961). However, the logical positivist’s central criterion, that all philosophical statements should be reduced to sensory experience, rules out the discussion of metaphysical concepts. Moreover they argue that there is no point to discuss about things like the ultimate nature of the universe because these propositions can never be proved or disproved.
By the mid-1930s logical positivism had evolved into logical empiricism and spread to Britain and America. Empiricism includes a wide variety of philosophical doctrines held by philosophers such as Aristotle, Locke, Mill, and Ayer. Empiricists...
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