History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction

History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction

History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction

History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction

Excerpt

This is not a detailed history of science. It tries to bridge the gap between science and the humanities by considering scientific ideas in a context of history and philosophy. The gap is of fairly recent origin. It results from unavoidable specialisation in an increasingly technical world. Technicians often lack any coherent philosophical background; while men of general culture lose respect for a science they know all too little about. The outcome is regrettable. Scientific workers may pursue mere technical mastery for its own sake: they may lose sight of human problems. Others are inclined to regard science as no more than the power behind mass production, sanitation, atomic bombs and space travel: they fail to understand its vital contribution to humane thought.

The book is elementary, in that it assumes little scientific knowledge in the reader: but it may not be found altogether easy, as it does not avoid difficult ideas. The material is chosen for the importance of its influence on thought, or for the way it illustrates the genius of an age or man. The choice must depend partly on personal opinion; and most readers will, no doubt, find too little about some topics and too much about others.

In several cases, however, the apparent lack of balance is deliberate. Applied sciences, like medicine and engineering, are only briefly noticed. This is natural in a book whose theme is the relation of science to thought rather than to action. There is not much about the life sciences in the earlier chapters. Their important connection with the development of empiricism is, I hope, sufficiently stressed in the sections on Hippocrates, Aristotle, the Alexandrians and William Harvey. But, before the spread of evolutionary ideas, the influence of biology seems scarcely comparable with that of mathematics and the physical sciences. The balance is redressed in the 19th century, when biology dominates the scene.

Greek science is treated more fully than some other subjects because nearly all the most significant ideas behind modern science have their origin in it. The comparison of Locke and Plato in . . .

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