Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Is "Science?" (And thanks to Dr. Harold I. Brown)

(Dr. Harold I. Brown)

I am now reading through the best philosophy of science reader I've yet to find: Philosophy of Science - The Central Issues, by Martin Curd & J.A. Cover of Purdue University. Though 10 years old, is there a better text than this? What would make this even better would be to add seminal essays written in the past 10 years.

Here we have it all - Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend and many, many more. I was introduced to the philosophy of science as an undergraduate, studying with Harold I. Brown. The three texts Dr. Brown had us read were Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (of course!), and Imre Lakatos's Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. This was heady stuff for a young undergraduate like myself. But a lot of it stuck with me, thanks to Brown's excellent and passionate teaching. (Note: Of Brown's Perception, Theory, and Commitment Kuhn said “The best and most original aspect of the book is its overall conception.”)

Curd and Cover give us the big, important essays. Then they provide extremely valuable, in-depth commentary on the readings. What distinguishes science from pseudoscience? Is scientific change a rational process? In what sense is science objective? What are natural laws, and what do they describe? Are scientific theories to be understood as offering a true account of the world? These questions and a lot more are addressed. I find myself wanting to learn more and more, and wish everyone who uses the word "science" would have these readings under their belt.

It's 1300+ pages long. For me, it's like reacquainting with an old friend who still has much to say to me today.