Thursday, February 26, 2015

Outro: What Does Science Mean to You?

"To me there has never been a higher source of earthly honor or distinction than that connected with advances in science." - Isaac Newton

"Science never solves a problem without creating ten more." - George Bernard Shaw

We come to the end of our journey through Philosophy of Science and Science, Technology, and Society Studies. We’ve spent time with Realists (Mill, Sokal, Hacking), Positivists (The Vienna circle), Constructionists (Bloor, Forman, Kuhn), Anarchists (Feyerabend) and Skeptics (Popper, Fraassen.) Philosophers, historians, sociologists, and even an anthropologist, a physicist, and literature professors have had their say.

I’ve tried to present a series that would represent a diverse range of views, and show that science really is a philosophically complex and interesting topic. Looking back on it, I can see that we missed some spots that perhaps should have been covered. Realists were not silent through the 60’s and 70’s, and, in retrospect, I think it would have been fairer if I had given them more space. 

I would like to finish the series by asking what science means to you. Is it the sine qua non of rationality, as the Positivists think? Is it socially constructed, as the Sociologists say? What are we to make of scientific theories? Are the laws they describe the hidden structure of the universe, as the Realists think? Or are they human postulates which grapple with the unknown and the unknowable, as the Skeptics think? Does the context of discovery (or invention) meaningfully effect the content of the mature theory, or is it dross which a good theory leaves behind? Last, what is the moral dimension of science, if any? Is it the moral activity par excellence, as the Enlightenment thought, or is it in some way tainted by the lust for power, as the Postmodernists argue? Or does science have nothing to do with morality at all? What should the role of science in our every day lives be, if any? 

What does science mean to you? 

Thanks for your company. The next series will look at methods and philosophy in history. 

An introduction to philosophy of science:

Part of a series on Science, Technology, and Society (XX of XX)

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