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Alexandrova, Anna, and . Making Models Count

2008, Philosophy of Science 75(3): 383-404.

Abstract: What sort of claims do scientific models make and how do these claims then underwrite empirical successes such as explanations and reliable policy interventions? In this paper I propose answers to these questions for the class of models used throughout the social and biological sciences, namely idealized deductive ones with a causal interpretation. I argue that the two main existing accounts misrepresent how these models are actually used, and propose a new account.

Comment: A good exploration of the role of models in scientific practice. Provides a good overview of the main theories about models, and some objections to them, before suggesting an alternative. Good use of concrete examples, presented very clearly. Suitable for undergraduate teaching. Would form a useful part of an examination of modelling in philosophy of science.

Bechtel, William P., and Jennifer Mundale. Multiple realizability revisited: Linking cognitive and neural states

1999, Philosophy of Science 66 (2):175-207 (1999)

Abstract: The claim of the multiple realizability of mental states by brain states has been a major feature of the dominant philosophy of mind of the late 20th century. The claim is usually motivated by evidence that mental states are multiply realized, both within humans and between humans and other species. We challenge this contention by focusing on how neuroscientists differentiate brain areas. The fact that they rely centrally on psychological measures in mapping the brain and do so in a comparative fashion undercuts the likelihood that, at least within organic life forms, we are likely to find cases of multiply realized psychological functions.

Comment: One of the better arguments against multipe realizability. Could be used in any philosophy of mind course where that claim arises as a demonstration of how it could be challenged. A good deal of discussion about neuroscientific practices and methods, but not excessively technical.

Cartwright, Nancy, and . The Truth Doesn’t Explain Much

1980, American Philosophical Quarterly 17(2): 159 - 163.

Summary: It has sometimes been argued that the covering law model in philosophy of science is too permissive about what gets to count as an explanation. This paper, by contrast, argues that it lets in too little, since there are far too few covering laws to account for all of our explanations. In fact, we rely on ceteris paribus laws that are literally false. Though these are not a true description of nature, they do a good job of allowing us to explain phenomena, so we should be careful to keep those two functions of science separate.

Comment: This relatively brief article offers a good illustration of how, contrary to some preconceptions, science does not always aim at absolute or universal truths, and instead allows pragmatic considerations to play a large role. Useful as part of an examination of what scientific laws really are and what their role is.

Chang, Hasok, and . Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress

2004, Oxford University Press USA

Back Matter: In Inventing Temperature, Chang takes a historical and philosophical approach to examine how scientists were able to use scientific method to test the reliability of thermometers; how they measured temperature beyond the reach of thermometers; and how they came to measure the reliability and accuracy of these instruments without a circular reliance on the instruments themselves. Chang discusses simple epistemic and technical questions about these instruments, which in turn lead to more complex issues about the solutions that were developed.

Comment: A very good practical case study that provides some great insight into a number of philosophocal questions about science. Would make a good inclusion in a history and philosophy of science course.

Chang, Hasok, and . The Persistence of Epistemic Objects Through Scientific Change

2011, Erkenntnis 75(3): 413-429.

Abstract: Why do some epistemic objects persist despite undergoing serious changes, while others go extinct in similar situations? Scientists have often been careless in deciding which epistemic objects to retain and which ones to eliminate; historians and philosophers of science have been on the whole much too unreflective in accepting the scientists’ decisions in this regard. Through a re-examination of the history of oxygen and phlogiston, I will illustrate the benefits to be gained from challenging and disturbing the commonly accepted continuities and discontinuities in the lives of epistemic objects. I will also outline two key consequences of such re-thinking. First, a fresh view on the (dis)continuities in key epistemic objects is apt to lead to informative revisions in recognized periods and trends in the history of science. Second, recognizing sources of continuity leads to a sympathetic view on extinct objects, which in turn problematizes the common monistic tendency in science and philosophy; this epistemological reorientation allows room for more pluralism in scientific practice itself.

Comment: An interesting argument about ontology and scientific practice; would be useful in any philosophy of science course that engages with issues in scientific practice.

Douglas, Heather, and . Inductive Risk and Values in Science

2000, Philosophy of Science 67(4): 559-579.

Abstract: Although epistemic values have become widely accepted as part of scientific reasoning, non-epistemic values have been largely relegated to the “external” parts of science (the selection of hypotheses, restrictions on methodologies, and the use of scientific technologies). I argue that because of inductive risk, or the risk of error, non-epistemic values are required in science wherever non-epistemic consequences of error should be considered. I use examples from dioxin studies to illustrate how non-epistemic consequences of error can and should be considered in the internal stages of science: choice of methodology, characterization of data, and interpretation of results.

Comment: A good challenge to the "value-free" status of science, interrogating some of the assumptions about scientific methodology. Uses real-world examples effectively. Suitable for undergraduate teaching.

Egan, Frances, and . Folk psychology and cognitive architecture

1995, Philosophy of Science 62(2): 179-96.

Abstract: It has recently been argued that the success of the connectionist program in cognitive science would threaten folk psychology. I articulate and defend a “minimalist” construal of folk psychology that comports well with empirical evidence on the folk understanding of belief and is compatible with even the most radical developments in cognitive science.

Comment: A good defense of folk psychology. Would be a good inclusion in a course on philosophy of mind/philosophy of cognitive science to show that scepticism need not be taken to extremes.

Franklin, L. R., and . Exploratory Experiments

2005, Philosophy of Science 72(5): 888-899.

Abstract: Philosophers of experiment have acknowledged that experiments are often more than mere hypothesis-tests, once thought to be an experiment’s exclusive calling. Drawing on examples from contemporary biology, I make an additional amendment to our understanding of experiment by examining the way that `wide’ instrumentation can, for reasons of efficiency, lead scientists away from traditional hypothesis-directed methods of experimentation and towards exploratory methods.

Comment: Good exploration of the role of experiments, challenging the idea that they are solely useful for testing clearly defined hypotheses. Uses many practical examples, but is very concise and clear. Suitable for undergraduate teaching in an examination of scientific methods in a philosophy of science course.

Longino, Helen, and . Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry

1990, Princeton University Press

Publisher’s Note: Conventional wisdom has it that the sciences, properly pursued, constitute a pure, value-free method of obtaining knowledge about the natural world. In light of the social and normative dimensions of many scientific debates, Helen Longino finds that general accounts of scientific methodology cannot support this common belief. Focusing on the notion of evidence, the author argues that a methodology powerful enough to account for theories of any scope and depth is incapable of ruling out the influence of social and cultural values in the very structuring of knowledge. The objectivity of scientific inquiry can nevertheless be maintained, she proposes, by understanding scientific inquiry as a social rather than an individual process. Seeking to open a dialogue between methodologists and social critics of the sciences, Longino develops this concept of “contextual empiricism” in an analysis of research programs that have drawn criticism from feminists. Examining theories of human evolution and of prenatal hormonal determination of “gender-role” behavior, of sex differences in cognition, and of sexual orientation, the author shows how assumptions laden with social values affect the description, presentation, and interpretation of data. In particular, Longino argues that research on the hormonal basis of “sex-differentiated behavior” involves assumptions not only about gender relations but also about human action and agency. She concludes with a discussion of the relation between science, values, and ideology, based on the work of Habermas, Foucault, Keller, and Haraway.

Comment: Longino offers a way to accomodate critiques of science as being socially constructed with the claim that science is objective. This contextual empiricism is an interesting solution, and would provide a useful point of discussion in an exploration of these issues in a course that discusses scientific objectivity.

Okasha, Samir, and . Philosophy of Science: A very short introduction

2002, Oxford University Press.

Back Matter: What is science? Is there a real difference between science and myth? Is science objective? Can science explain everything? This Very Short Introduction provides a concise overview of the main themes of contemporary philosophy of science. Beginning with a short history of science to set the scene, Samir Okasha goes on to investigate the nature of scientific reasoning, scientific explanation, revolutions in science, and theories such as realism and anti-realism. He also looks at philosophical issues in particular sciences, including the problem of classification in biology, and the nature of space and time in physics. The final chapter touches on the conflicts between science and religion, and explores whether science is ultimately a good thing.

Comment: The book is extremely readable and clear. It is perfect as an introduction for undergraduate students to philosophy of science. It offers an overview of the most important topics of the field including philosophical problems in biology, physics, and linguistics.