Ideas from 'Philosophy of Science' by Alexander Bird [1998], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Philosophy of Science' by Bird,Alexander [UCL Press 2000,1-85728-504-2]].

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1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
Instrumentalists say distinctions between observation and theory vanish with ostensive definition
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Anti-realism
Anti-realism is more plausible about laws than about entities and theories
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 6. Probability
Subjective probability measures personal beliefs; objective probability measures the chance of an event happening
Objective probability of tails measures the bias of the coin, not our beliefs about it
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 1. Justification / b. Need for justification
Many philosophers rate justification as a more important concept than knowledge
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / b. Pro-coherentism
As science investigates more phenomena, the theories it needs decreases
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 1. Observation
If theories need observation, and observations need theories, how do we start?
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 4. Prediction
Explanation predicts after the event; prediction explains before the event
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Kuhn came to accept that all scientists agree on a particular set of values
Relativity ousted Newtonian mechanics despite a loss of simplicity
Realists say their theories involve truth and the existence of their phenomena
There is no agreement on scientific method - because there is no such thing
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
Instrumentalists regard theories as tools for prediction, with truth being irrelevant
14. Science / C. Induction / 2. Aims of Induction
Induction is inference to the best explanation, where the explanation is a law
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
Anything justifying inferences from observed to unobserved must itself do that
If Hume is right about induction, there is no scientific knowledge
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Any conclusion can be drawn from an induction, if we use grue-like predicates
Several months of observing beech trees supports the deciduous and evergreen hypotheses
We normally learn natural kinds from laws, but Goodman shows laws require prior natural kinds
14. Science / C. Induction / 6. Bayes's Theorem
Bayesianism claims to find rationality and truth in induction, and show how science works
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / a. Explanation
We talk both of 'people' explaining things, and of 'facts' explaining things
The objective component of explanations is the things that must exist for the explanation
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
Explanations are causal, nomic, psychological, psychoanalytic, Darwinian or functional
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / b. Contrastive explanations
Contrastive explanations say why one thing happened but not another
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / d. Lawlike explanations
'Covering law' explanations only work if no other explanations are to be found
Livers always accompany hearts, but they don't explain hearts
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / k. Probabilistic explanations
Probabilistic-statistical explanations don't entail the explanandum, but makes it more likely
An operation might reduce the probability of death, yet explain a death
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / a. Best explanation
Inference to the Best Explanation is done with facts, so it has to be realist
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / c. Against best explanation
Maybe bad explanations are the true ones, in this messy world
Which explanation is 'best' is bound to be subjective, and no guide to truth
14. Science / D. Explanation / 4. Explanation Doubts / a. Explanation as pragmatic
Maybe explanation is so subjective that it cannot be a part of science
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / a. Natural kinds
Rubies and sapphires are both corundum, with traces of metals varying their colours
Tin is not one natural kind, but appears to be 21, depending on isotope
Natural kinds may overlap, or be sub-kinds of one another
Membership of a purely random collection cannot be used as an explanation
Natural kinds are those that we use in induction
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / b. Defining kinds
If F is a universal appearing in a natural law, then Fs form a natural kind
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / c. Knowing kinds
In the Kripke-Putnam view only nuclear physicists can know natural kinds
Darwinism suggests that we should have a native ability to detect natural kinds
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / f. Reference to natural kinds
Nominal essence of a natural kind is the features that make it fit its name
Jadeite and nephrite are superficially identical, but have different composition
Reference to scientific terms is by explanatory role, not by descriptions
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
Laws are more fundamental in science than causes, and laws will explain causes
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
Newton's laws cannot be confirmed individually, but only in combinations
Parapsychology is mere speculation, because it offers no mechanisms for its working
Existence requires laws, as inertia or gravity are needed for mass or matter
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
'All uranium lumps are small' is a law, but 'all gold lumps are small' is not
We can only infer a true regularity if something binds the instances together
Similar appearance of siblings is a regularity, but shared parents is what links them
Accidental regularities are not laws, and an apparent regularity may not be actual
If we only infer laws from regularities among observations, we can't infer unobservable entities.
Where is the regularity in a law predicting nuclear decay?
Laws cannot explain instances if they are regularities, as something can't explain itself
There can be remarkable uniformities in nature that are purely coincidental
A law might have no instances, if it was about things that only exist momentarily
If laws are just instances, the law should either have gaps, or join the instances arbitrarily
There may be many laws, each with only a few instances
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / b. Best system theory
A regularity is only a law if it is part of a complete system which is simple and strong
With strange enough predicates, anything could be made out to be a regularity
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / d. Knowing essences
If flame colour is characteristic of a metal, that is an empirical claim needing justification
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / h. Mass
In Newton mass is conserved, but in Einstein it can convert into energy