HPS250H1F – Philosophy of Science
Final Exam Notes – Written by Mariela Libedinsky
Template of Exam
- Short answers (9 questions)
- Define concepts (4 questions)
- Short essay (500 words)
Classical Empiricism, Classical Apriorism, Kant
- What were the main early modern views of how general synthetic propositions were justified?
(“Early modern” here means before Kant.)
- Of these, which faced the problem of sensations?
- Which faced the problem of axioms?
- Which faced the problem of induction?
- Which problem was the principle of the uniformity of nature supposed to address?
- Which problem was veracitas naturae supposed to address?
- Which problem was the distinction between primary and secondary qualities supposed to
- What is the difference between the analytic/synthetic distinction and the a priori/a posteriori
- What was the criterion of meaning for the logical positivists?
- Who coined the term “positivism”?
- What did the logical positivists think of Hegel?
- What are some examples of the axioms that apriorists thought were self-evident?
- What were the premises of Kant’s system? (I.e., what were the propositions that he was trying
to make consistent?)
- What is the troubling conclusion of the Ravens paradox?
- What did the logical positivists call their theory of meaning?
- What is the definition of “grue”? What is its opposite?
- What are the three kinds of inference that Godfrey-Smith discusses?
- What is the curve-fitting problem?
- Which fields did Popper think were obvious examples of pseudoscience?
- What were Popper’s criteria of demarcation?
- What does it mean for observations to be theory-laden?
- What does falsifiability mean in Popper’s system?
- What are Popper’s criteria of theory acceptance?
- What is it for a theory to have higher empirical content?
- What was Popper’s view of the process of scientific change?
Kuhn and Lakatos
- What did Kuhn think about comparing empirical content across different paradigms?
- What was Kuhn’s picture of normal science? - What was Kuhn’s picture of revolutionary science?
- What was Lakatos’ picture of the process of scientific change?
- What were Lakatos’ criteria for the progressive modification of a theory’s protective belt?
- What are the definitions of ad hoc1, ad hoc2 and ad hoc3 modifications?
- What are the criteria for comparing research programs for Lakatos?
Feyerabend and SSK
- What did Feyerabend think was the best relationship between old scientific theories and newer
- What was Feyerabend’s picture of the scientific method?
- What were Feyerabend’s criticisms of Popper and Lakatos?
- What is the view of science coming out of the Strong Programme in the Sociology of Scientific
- What was Latour and Woolgar’s description of the activities of a molecular biology lab?
- In general, how do sociologists view scientific facts?
Case 1: Mathematics
- How do we know “facts”?
o Follows from definitions
Case 2: Swans
- How do we justify that all swans are white? experience
Case 3: Gravity
- Theory: Law of Gravity – greater mass = greater attractive force
- Experience: experiments (physical but are all different)
Propositions: Analytic vs. Synthetic
- Analytic propositions – deducible from definitions, cannot contradict the results of experiments
or observations, necessarily hold in all possible worlds the opposite
- Synthetic propositions – the opposite of the above, most propositions of empirical science are
synthetic because the opposite is inconceivable
- How do we justify general synthetic statements, such as laws or social science?
Problem 1: sensations
- Objective or subjective
o There is no way to guarantee that the visual sensation can confirm the objective reality
- We cannot know with certainty that our senses aren’t deceiving us
- Pyrrho 360 BC – 270 BC: we cannot know how things really are, only how they seem
Problem 2: induction
- There is no guarantee that our theory won’t be contradicted in the future
- Experience is only based on the past, not the future
- Inductive generalizations are inevitably fallible
David Hume 1711-1776 - Any attempts to justify inductive generalizations are inevitably doomed
- How do we show how general synthetic propositions can be justified
o Despite the problem of induction
o Despite the problem of sensations
Empiricism & Apriorism
General Synthetic Proposition
- Justifying “facts” through intuition is induction (ex. All swans are white)
o Francis Bacon 1561-1626: All synthetic general propositions are based on experience
summed up by induction
o John Locke 1632-1704: agreed with Bacon
- Recall “The Problems” (see above)
Vericitas Naturae – Truthfulness of Nature
- Bacon: when we read it with a pure mind, we cannot misread it nature doesn’t lie
- Theory of natural selection trustworthy senses are essential for our survival
- This solves the Problem of Sensations (a.k.a Pyrrho’s Problem)
- Vicious circle: natural selection Empiricism
Senses help us survive Problem of Pyrrho
Primary & Secondary Qualities
- Locke: not every sensation corresponds to the objective properties
- The only “valid” objective observation is shape
o Objective properties, shape
o Subjective properties, smell, taste, sound, color
- Physics trusting our senses problem of Pyrrho empiricism back to the beginning
Problem of Induction
- Theory: law of gravity
- Experiment: seeing things fall down
Uniformity of Nature
- Things of the same kind behave in the same way
- The Principle of Uniformity of Nature allows us to extrapolate from past experience to the
general synthetic proposition and to ensure that there won’t be any surprises in the future
- Hume’s Problem = uniformity of nature/empiricism
- General synthetic propositions based on experience and induction are inevitably fallible
- Absolute certain general synthetic propositions are justified independent of experience
- Rene Descartes: there are general ideas that are optional o Cogito ergo sum doubting everything, doubt is certain, thought is certain, existing is
Matter is Extension
- Indispensable properties of matter – things that don’t comply to all or some of the 5 senses
- The only attribute of matter is that it takes up some space (this is extension)
- This is apriori knowledge
- Descartes’ 1 law:
o Every part of matter maintains its state, unless a collision with another part changes this
- Descartes’ 2 Law:
o Every part of matter, regarded by itself, tends to continue moving only along straight
Apriorism: General Science
Axiom 1 Axiom 2
Theorem 2 Theorem 3
- The only difference is that our starting point is self-evident axioms, not definition
- This doesn’t have much to do with experience or induction
- Leibniz: key apriori proposition = The Principle of Sufficient Reason
- Anything that happens does so for a reason (unless there is sufficient reason why it should not
- Law of Inertia
- Uniformity of Nature: we can rely on inductive generalizations
Empiricism vs. Apriorism
- Can there be synthetic propositions which are justified not by experience but apriori?
- Empiricism - Apriorism
- No synthetic apriori propositions - Synthetic apriori propositions
- Pyrrho’s Problem/Hume’s Problem
Sensualism vs. Rationalism
- Are senses our only source of knowledge about the world?
- Rationalism - Sensualism: knowledge through senses
- Human mind has a way of knowing the
world directly, by passing senses
- This is not a philosophical issue but
Empiricism vs. Apriorism - Can there be synthetic propositions which are justified not by the experience but apriori
(independent of experience)?
- Empiricism - Apriorism
- No synthetic apriori propositions - There are apriori propositions
- Bacon, Locke - Leibniz, Descartes
- Pyrrho’s Problem (sensations) - Problem of Axioms
- Hume’s Problem (induction)
The Problem of Axioms
- Descartes & Leibniz: other absolutely certain propositions (theorems) are then deduced from
- What makes the axioms infallible? How are they absolutely certain?
o Axioms and theorems are fallible
- Axioms are synthetic propositions – their definitions are discovered
- Matter is extension – the only attribute of matter is extension/it takes up space
- A definition that holds true in all possible worlds
- A definition that may or may not be true, opposite is conceivable subjective to each world
and our world
Synthetic Apriori Problem of Axioms
- Axioms cannot be self-evident and cannot be both apriori and synthetic
Analytic & Empirical: Synthetic & Empirical:
No analytic proposition defined empirically Things you cannot know apriori, observations
Analytic & Apriori Synthetic & Apriori
Logic, something is true by definition Are there propositions that are both synthetic
According to empiricism, NOPE.
According to apriorists, YEAH.
- Principle of sufficient reason
- Matter is extension
- At this point, Descartes defines matter as a material object whose only attribute is extension.
This makes is an analytic proposition (subjectively)
- Now, Leibniz needed to experience or discover that anything that happens does so for a reason
- Immanuel Kant, German, 1724-1804, “Critique of Pure Reason”
- Absolute certainty is attainable by means of certain synthetic propositions
- Our world is knowable – compiles with the principle of Universal Causality this ensues
1. The recipe of classical empiricism doesn’t guarantee absolute certainty
2. The recipe of classical apriorism doesn’t guarantee absolute certainty 3. We do have absolute certain general synthetic propositions
- In the textbook:
o our theories are only based on phenomena
o we only “know” what we experience with our sensations
o We perceive things in space and time
o This is done in a continuous process
o This fact relies on an external source (the outside world, not your imagination)
o Forms: they are apriori
o A thing in itself we cannot know what properties it has or which laws it obeys
- Uniformity of Nature
o things of the same kind behave in similar ways
o similar case, similar effect
- this cannot be justified by empiricism or induction due to a vicious cycle
- not self-evident either (See: Hume’s Problem)
Substance & Property
- world of phenomena is formed by sensations and intellect
- intellect = cause and effect
- intellect = substance and properties
- Kant realized that apriorism is dependent of an external source, which is not our minds, that
cause all of the above
- Absolute certainty of knowledge being attainable
- There can be absolutely certain synthetic propositions
- Absolute certainty of knowledge being unattainable
- There can be no absolutely certain synthetic propositions
Against Kantian Apriorism
- Absolute certain knowledge
o Universal Causality (not complying = unknowable) if the world complies with Principle of
Universal Causality it is knowable
o All events have their causes and the same initial conditions always produce the same
o There can be uncaused events, although they may start the same they might not
produce the same effects
o In that situation there is an indefinite number of possible outcomes
- Probabilistic Determinism o All events have their causes but the same initial conditions may produce different
Aprorism vs. Empiricim II
- Can there be synthetic apriori propositions?
- Are things in themselves knowable?
YES & YES: classical apriorism NO & YES: classical empiricism
- Synthetic apriori propositions are - No synthetic apriori proposition is
YES & NO: Kantian apriorism NO & NO: logical empiricism
- Synthetic apriori propositions - No synthetic propositions of
- World of phenomena = knowable phenomena are knowable
- Agreeing with Kant regarding phenomena
- Only singular propositions (that are empirical) are absolutely certain
- Proving which theory is better with sensory evidence
o Scientific vs. unscientific
o Mechanism evaluating the competing theories to determine which is best
- Observational term (statements): designates an observable object or property
- Theoretical term (statements): does not designate observable “facts” or properties of an object
- Carnap thought a mechanism or formula was a necessary thing in order to determine the
probability of a theory being successful (but never completely true)
Popper’s Conception of the Growth of Scientific Knowledge
Karl Popper – Theory Ladenness
- Names, physics, colors, instruments, unaided eye, terms
- Against positivism: there are no purely observational propositions
- They all rely on theory ladenness
- 2 aspects: what we experience, why we trust what we experience
- Any proposition that describes the above
- Problem of refutation
o When a theory is proved wrong just once, it doesn’t decrease its probability of being
right – it takes it right down to 0
o A proposition that has a percentage/sum supporting it still makes a generalized
Probability vs. History of Science
- Planets revolving in ellipse all of them do this is based on experience and thus has a high
probability of the theory being true
- Scientists don’t sum probabilities, they understand and produce mechanisms to make
Infallibalism to Fallibalism
- Infallibalism – absolute certain synthetic proposition (Aristotle) - Carnap: a single proposition can be certain, a fact can be certain by experience
- Popper: all knowledge is fallible
Karl Popper 1902-1994
- Open society theory
- 1934: Logic of Scientific Discovery
- 1963: Conjectures and Refutations (Ethics)
- How Popper picked his favorite theory:
o Eliminate unscientific theories
o Create a mechanism/criteria as to why one theory is better than the other
- Scientific theories are falsifiable and have empirical content
- Unscientific theories are unfallsifiable and anything can happen
- Empirical content: the class of all events/facts that a theory excludes/forbids
- Greater empirical content
o Predictions of theory 1 are more detailed
o Predictions of theory 1 are more precise
o Theory 1 predicts more facts
Incommensurability and Kuhn’s Paradigms
Popper on Theory Choice
- Scientific theories
o Needs to have some empirical content, corroborated evidence (observed) to decide
which is best