This is an essential introduction for all students of science, philosophy, history, and religion wanting a useful guide to Galileo’s great classic.
Maurice A Finocchiaro is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus; University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has written and translated numerous works on Galileo and the history of science including Galileo on the World Systems: A New Abridged Translation and Guide (1997) and The Essential Galileo (2008).
However, it is doubtful whether any practising scientist, religious believer or not, now thinks of laws in the way that the word literally implies. How, instead, scientists do or should view scientific laws has been debated since the time of Hume and Kant, and it is a vigorous field of investigation among current philosophers of science.
In this book, scientists (physical and biological), historians and students of ideas, all of them theologically informed, tackle this topic from many angles. They do so in relation to the lead public lecture at the conference from which the book stems, given by the eminent and iconoclastic philosopher of science, Professor Nancy Cartwright. She asked the question, “How could laws make things happen?”, and her answer was “They couldn’t!”
After many philosophical and theological adventures the Greek concept of rationality laid the foundations of a revolutionary way of thinking: the scientific method, which transformed the world.
But looking at the newest fruits of the world's rationality - relativity theory, quantum mechanics, the unification of physics, quantum gravity - the question arises: what are the limits of the scientific method? The principal tenet of rationality is that you should never stop asking questions until everything has been answered ...
"A Comprehensible Universe is a thoughtful book by two authors who have professional expertise in physics and astronomy and also in theology. They are exceptionally well informed about the history of the relation between science and theology, and they maintain throughout their discussion a respect for empirical evidence and a dedication to rationality. Even though I do not agree with all of their conclusions on matters of great complexity I am impressed by the fairness of their argumentation."
Abner Shimony, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Physics, Boston University
An important task of the philosophy of the special sciences, such as philosophy of physics, of biology and of economics, to mention only a few of the many flourishing examples, is the clarification of such subject specific concepts and principles. Similarly, an important task of 'general' philosophy of science is the clarification of concepts like 'confirmation' and principles like 'the unity of science'. It is evident that clarfication of concepts and principles only makes sense if one tries to do justice, as much as possible, to the actual use of these notions by scientists, without however following this use slavishly. That is, occasionally a philosopher may have good reasons for suggesting to scientists that they should deviate from a standard use. Frequently, this amounts to a plea for differentiation in order to stop debates at cross-purposes due to the conflation of different meanings.
While the special volumes of the series of Handbooks of the Philosophy of Science address topics relative to a specific discipline, this general volume deals with focal issues of a general nature.
After an editorial introduction about the dominant method of clarifying concepts and principles in philosophy of science, called explication, the first five chapters deal with the following subjects. Laws, theories, and research programs as units of empirical knowledge (Theo Kuipers), various past and contemporary perspectives on explanation (Stathis Psillos), the evaluation of theories in terms of their virtues (Ilkka Niiniluto), and the role of experiments in the natural sciences, notably physics and biology (Allan Franklin), and their role in the social sciences, notably economics (Wenceslao Gonzalez).
In the subsequent three chapters there is even more attention to various positions and methods that philosophers of science and scientists may favor: ontological, epistemological, and methodological positions (James Ladyman), reduction, integration, and the unity of science as aims in the sciences and the humanities (William Bechtel and Andrew Hamilton), and logical, historical and computational approaches to the philosophy of science (Atocha Aliseda and Donald Gillies). The volume concludes with the much debated question of demarcating science from nonscience (Martin Mahner) and the rich European-American history of the philosophy of science in the 20th century (Friedrich Stadler).Comprehensive coverage of the philosophy of science written by leading philosophers in this fieldClear style of writing for an interdisciplinary audienceNo specific pre-knowledge required
Born at Kendal near Lake Windermere in the northwest of England into a Quaker background, Eddington attended Owens College, Manchester, and afterward Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won high mathematical honors, including Senior Wrangler. He became Plumian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge in 1913 and in 1914 Director of the Cambridge Observatory. Eddington was a conscientious objector during the First World War. By the end of his career, he was widely esteemed and had received honorary degrees from many universities. He was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society (1921–1923), and was subsequently elected President of the Physical Society (1930–1932), the Mathematical Association (1932), and the International Astronomical Union (1938–1944). Eddington was knighted in 1930 and received the Order of Merit in 1938. During the 1930s, his popular and more philosophical books made him a well known figure to the general public. Philosophers have found his writings of considerable interest, and have debated his themes for nearly a hundred years.