philosophy, science, & philosophy of science

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun Sep 01 2002 - 12:36:01 EDT

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             I would undoubtedly be helpful if high school students could be
    given some formal education in philosophy. I can, however, foresee
    problems with trying to get that into the curriculum. Nowadays
    "philosophy" is used very loosely to mean just about anybody's ideas
    about anything - as in "The Playboy Philosophy." Serious philosophical
    education, in the western world at elast, would have to give a
    significant amount of time to traditional thinkers - Plato, Aristotle,
    etc. I'm sure, however, that in many areas this would be protested in
    the name of "diversity" & such "dead white males" would have to be
    replaced by more PC types. (Cf. an introductory philosophy class at a
    college where I once tauhgt, in which one of the primary texts was
    _Black Elk Speaks_.) & of course there would be those who would insists
    that only "Christian philosophy" be taught.

           I am ambivalent about the proposals for teaching the philosophy of
    science at this level, having in mind the following from Bernard's 1865
    _An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine_:

    "In a word, if men of science are useful to philosophers, and
    philosophers to men of science, men of science remain free, none the
    less; and masters in their own house; as for myself, I think that men
    of science achieve their discoveries, their theories and their science
    apart from philosophers. ... As for Bacon and other more modern
    philosophers who try a general systematization of precepts for
    scientific research, they may seem alluring to people who look at
    science only from a distance; but works like theirs are of no use to
    experienced scientists; and by false simplification of things, they
    mislead men who wish to devote themselves to cultivating science."

             I don't think by any means that philosophy of science is
    useless, but for beginning students at least it's a lot better for them
    to hear from practicing scientists what they think science is & how it's
    done. Cf. the definition of mathematics by Bertrand Russell (who also
    knew a bit about philosophy) as "what mathematicians do." The work of
    professional philosophers who try to tidy things up & present a neat
    unified philosophy of science is something that can be considered later.

             One result of this approach is likely to be that students will
    see that methodological naturalism is, in fact, a basic presupposition
    of the way science is done, regardless of the religious or a-religious
    beliefs of various scientists.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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