The Nature of the Natural Sciences

The Nature of the Natural Sciences

The Nature of the Natural Sciences

The Nature of the Natural Sciences

Excerpt

What is science? That question seldom emerges when scientists talk with each other. Most scientists believe they know quite well what science is and, since they all share much the same fundamental presuppositions, their beliefs rarely broach a subject for debate. However, the challenging experience of teaching students who do not intend to become scientists --students willing to doubt fundamental presuppositions to which they feel no commitment--has led me to a critical re-examination of beliefs I once held unquestionable. In this book I have tried to explain the lines of reasoning and the kinds of considerations that have led to what seems to me now a more tenable set of beliefs. Perhaps this analysis will have some value for others (both students and teachers) who--having adopted the familiar textbook stereotype--are yet not fully satisfied with this orthodox answer to the question: "What is science?" I do not deceive myself that my answer will prove acceptable to everybody, but I do believe that the reader who joins me in exploring the paths here laid out will come at least to a better understanding of the full scope of that not-so-simple question. He will, I hope, find that I have cleared a way for him through two major difficulties that ordinarily block the road to understanding.

First: I have sought everywhere to deal with "real" science, as it has been created and appraised by "real" scientists. The "ideal" science analyzed in neat philosophic syllogisms may be attractive in its straightforwardness, but it is lamentably "ideal" in that nothing like . . .

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