HPS100H1 Study Guide - Classical Mechanics, Inductive Reasoning, Superstring Theory


Department
History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Course Code
HPS100H1
Professor
all

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Lecture 1- Introduction to History and Philosophy of Science
History of Science
-We are interested in the history of scientific theories and the changes in the mosaic
of accepted theories.
-The history of science shows that the mosaic of accepted theories changes through
time.
Scientific Mosaic
-A set of theories accepted by the scientific community of the time.
-The mosaic is always in the process of constant change.
Scientific Change
-Any change in the scientific mosaic.
-Example: Over the years, there are several types of Theories of Free Fall:
1) General Relativity: The apple is in a state of inertial motion in a curved space.
2) Newtonian Physics: The apple is moving with acceleration being pulled by the
Earth’s gravity.
3) Aristotelian Physics: The apple, a heavy body, is descending towards the
centre of the universe.
Philosophy of Science
-Physical Theories: General Relativity, Newtonian Physics, Aristotelian Physics
-Astronomical Theories: Contemporary Astronomy, Kepler’s Astronomy, Geocentric
Astronomy
-As physical theories and astronomical theories have changed, are there any
theories immune to change or does everything in the mosaic change?
-Is there absolute knowledge?
-Is there scientific knowledge?
Reading 1
-Worldview is a system of beliefs that are interconnected, intertwined, interrelated
like a jigsaw puzzle. It starts with a core belief which then connects to many other
peripheral. However, trying to replace one belief would mean that the whole
worldview would have to change.
-Aristotelian Worldview was a dominant system of beliefs that shared by a large
segment of western culture after his death and largely based on his beliefs.
-Aristotelian Worldview: The Earth is in the centre of the universe.

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-Newtonian Worldview: The Earth revolves on its axis, completing a revolution every
24 hours.
Lecture 2- Analytic and Synthetic Propositions
Can analytic propositions be absolutely certain? YES, because analytic
propositions are either definitions or follow from definitions.
Analytic Propositions
1) Deducible from definitions.
2) Cannot contradict the results of experiments or observations.
3) Necessarily hold in all possible worlds: the opposite is inconceivable.
Example: Mathematics follows a pattern where some basic theorems follows
immediately from definitions and subsequent theorems will follow with the
combination of a definition and another theorem and so on.
-All propositions of formal sciences (e.g. mathematics, logic) are analytic.
-Once proven, a mathematical theorem remains in the mosaic forever.
Can synthetic propositions be absolutely certain? NO, theories in empirical
science cannot be absolutely certain.
Synthetic Propositions
1) Not deducible from definitions.
2) Can contradict the results of experiments or observations.
3) Do not necessarily hold in all possible worlds: the opposite is conceivable.
-Intuitive answer: It must be somehow based on experience – our observations
and experiments .
-Example: In theory, all swans are white because it is based on our experience that
each individual swan is white. Or Gravity
-This is a synthetic proposition as there is a possibility of a black swan.
-Most propositions of empirical science are synthetic (e.g. physics, biology,
sociology), because the opposite is conceivable.
-Apparently, all synthetic propositions, such as laws of physics, chemistry, biology,
psychology, sociology, or economics, must be somehow based on experience. This
presents 3 major problems.
1) Problem of Induction

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No matter how many confirming instances are observed, inductive generalizations
remain fallible.
2) Problem of Sensations
There is no guarantee that senses convey the exact picture of things as they really
are.
3) Problem of Theory-Ladenness
The results of experiments and observations are shaped by our accepted theories.
Fallibilism
-Capable of making mistakes.
-No synthetic proposition is infallible. Empirical knowledge cannot be absolutely
certain.
Reading 2
Representational theory of perception
A general theory about perception involving all our senses. Our sense provide
representations of things in the external world. There is no way for us to know if our
senses are accurate or is there a way to knowing for sure what reality is like.
Hume's Problem of Induction
The assumption that nature is uniform and regular, and things might be different
outside of our limited experience and history. We might see only white swans, and
by induction conclude that all swans are white. The problem is that we just haven't
yet seen a black swan. We assume nature is uniform - if it is a swan it must be
white, or regular - why should there be exceptions?
Hempel's Raven Paradox
Illustrates a problem where inductive logic violates intuition. It reveals the problem
of induction.
Goodman's Gruesome Problem
He accepted Hume's observation that inductive reasoning was based solely on
human habit and regularities to which our day-to-day existence has accustomed us.
Goodman argued, however, that Hume overlooked the fact that some regularities
establish habits while some do not. How then can we differentiate between
hypotheses that construe law-like statements from those that are contingent?
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