Friday, December 08, 2006

Stemwedel and Cohen on Popper

Janet Stemwedel and Benjamin Cohen discuss Popper (via Instant Messenger) at Page 3.14. Worth reading.

benjaminrcohen: Now, this reminds me too...Popper's working in a scientific moment when physics is the ascendant form of inquiry amongst all others

benjaminrcohen: and that isn't the case anymore, at least not in the same way it was in the first half of the century

janetdstemwedel: The Vienna Circle also thought physics was the bees' knees.

benjaminrcohen: Hempel and Carnap and the lot?

janetdstemwedel: Also, Bertrand Russell circa 1912 when he wrote that mature science (like physics) had no use for a concept of cause.

benjaminrcohen: So we shouldn't throw in Duhem, being French and all, since we know what's what with the French

janetdstemwedel: Duhem was kind of into chemistry though, so I cut him slack

Duhem should also be cut a bit of slack because he insists, surprisingly vehemently, that he is only talking about physics, and that other sciences can't be assumed to work the same way, and, appealing to Claude Bernard, he even gives physiology as an example of a science that works in a way completely different from physics. The notion that there is a single scientific method, or that there is a feature all sciences and only sciences share, is completely foreign to Duhem. He also recognizes the limits of his arguments, which depend crucially on the fact that theory in physics consists entirely of mathematical equations applicable to experimental facts. One of the many reasons why Duhem, for all his limitations, is a better philosopher of science than most philosophers of science we have had since.

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