Readings in Philosophy of Science: Introduction to the Foundations and Cultural Aspects of the Sciences

Readings in Philosophy of Science: Introduction to the Foundations and Cultural Aspects of the Sciences

Readings in Philosophy of Science: Introduction to the Foundations and Cultural Aspects of the Sciences

Readings in Philosophy of Science: Introduction to the Foundations and Cultural Aspects of the Sciences

Excerpt

The cultural problem of our scientific age which this volume is designed to meet was felicitously formulated by Dr. William S. Carlson, President of the State University of New York, in his talk before the National Conference on Higher Education (Chicago, March 7, 1953) when he said that American universities were suffering from "hardening of the arteries," a malignant malady that prevented communication or "conversation" among the various fields of knowledge. "So hardened are the categories that a man in one basic science cannot communicate with a man in another basic science." We need to loosen up the time-hardened categories of liberal versus vocational, pure versus applied science, humanities versus sciences: "What we need are teachers of the liberal arts who will take the world as it comes and illuminate it with the humanities, the sciences and history," Dr. Carlson went on. "We need also teachers in the specialized professions who can bring to the civilizing forces of the liberal arts the qualities of exactitude, precision, critical skepticism and emancipating doubt. With this creative interaction of intellectual disciplines, we can produce men and women who will think for themselves, who will seek the true meanings, who will criticize institutions and their calculated sophistries, who can explode the myth and label the lie for what it is. Indeed the future of civilization, as we know it, demands of us renewed faith in the ancient purpose of education, notably of higher education." In this way, he pointed out, future citizens "will not be prisoners of a society governed by single minded technicians and narrow minded experts. It will provide insurance that civilization will move forward." (New York Times, March 8, 1953, p. 68).

The relation of philosophy of science to the sciences is like the relation of philosophy of art to works of art, or of literary criticism to works of literature, or of philosophy of history to historical records. In all these "philosophies of X" the aim is not to furnish or prescribe particular solutions to technical problems in X but to clarify problems about X; e.g., how well it fulfills its professed aims or has progressed in its development, and how its results are related to other disciplines and problems of mankind. Thus when Einstein and the other scientist-philosophers in this book discuss the ideal goal and significance of their sciences they are not giving us rules for solving specific technical problems. These are best handled by specially trained scientists who can be . . .

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