Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series)
How does science work? Does it tell us what the world is "really" like? What makes it different from other ways of understanding the universe? In Theory and Reality, Peter Godfrey-Smith addresses these questions by taking the reader on a grand tour of one hundred years of debate about science. The result is a completely accessible introduction to the main themes of the philosophy of science.
Intended for undergraduates and general readers with no prior background in philosophy, Theory and Reality covers logical positivism; the problems of induction and confirmation; Karl Popper's theory of science; Thomas Kuhn and "scientific revolutions"; the views of Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan, and Paul Feyerabend; and challenges to the field from sociology of science, feminism, and science studies. The book then looks in more detail at some specific problems and theories, including scientific realism, the theory-ladeness of observation, scientific explanation, and Bayesianism. Finally, Godfrey-Smith defends a form of philosophical naturalism as the best way to solve the main problems in the field.
Throughout the text he points out connections between philosophical debates and wider discussions about science in recent decades, such as the infamous "science wars." Examples and asides engage the beginning student; a glossary of terms explains key concepts; and suggestions for further reading are included at the end of each chapter. However, this is a textbook that doesn't feel like a textbook because it captures the historical drama of changes in how science has been conceived over the last one hundred years.
Like no other text in this field, Theory and Reality combines a survey of recent history of the philosophy of science with current key debates in language that any beginning scholar or critical reader can follow.
An outstanding introduction to the philosophy of science
By Richard Francis - April 13, 2004
This outstanding introduction to the philosophy of science should not only please the undergraduates for which it was designed but also a broader audience of readers who are curious as to what this enterprise is all about. Godfrey-Smith manages to cover the subject even-handedly, even as he advocates a particular view or approach to the subject. The view that he defends is an unlikely combination of naturalism, empiricism and realism. I say "unlikely" because these three attitudes are not usually found bound into one package. The tension between empiricism and realism, in particular, has traditionally been emphasized. Though I am a skeptic about realism, I found Godfrey-Smith's defense of that view to be the best there is. I do wish he had extended this defense beyond van Fraassen's particular form of anti-realism to the form of anti-realism defended by Laudan. But that is a minor quibble.The first seven chapters follow a broadly historical logic. The two chapters on Kuhn are... read more
An (almost) excellent introduction to Philosophy of Science
By Peter Gilbert - September 2, 2007
This is by far the most convincing Introduction to Philosophy of Science that I've come across so far. As most previous reviewers agree, it is both deep and accessible, it makes a serious (not merely 'pro forma') attempt at being balanced and giving non-standard science studies a fair run for its money (unlike other books I have reviewed in the past). What's more, it even conveys a sense of the history of the debates that have shaped philosophy of science, while at the same time making the historical discussions relevant to the systematic interest of the philosophical argument. In this regard, it is much more of an introduction to philosophy of science than, for example, Losee's 'Historical Introduction to Philosophy of Science'. There are some minor problems, though, which means the book doesn't quite deserve five stars: first, the order of the chapters is somewhat idiosyncratic -- some crucial topics, such as scientific explanation, appear only on the last few pages of the book... read more
A Model of Balance and Clarity
By Herbert Gintis - March 21, 2004
I studied a lot of philosophy of science when I was in college and graduate school, just for fun. But that was many years ago, and I needed a dispassionate overview of the field and a guide to the various philosophical problems confronting scientific explanation. This was the perfect book.Godfrey-Smith saves his own position for the last few chapters of the book, and tries to present a variety of views in the body of the book with great tolerance for imperfections, rough edges, and infelicities. Yet, he has no qualms about proclaiming that a certain view is no longer treated seriously in the field (e.g., logical positivism, covering law theory, analytic/synthetic division).The book covers the whole of the Twentieth Century, from logical positivism, through Quine, Goodman, and Popper, to Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Science Studies, feminism, and post-modernism. He is more balanced than I, I must say, since I really hate post-modernism and all of its fellow-travellers, whereas the... read more
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