Re: philosophy, science, & philosophy of science

Date: Mon Sep 02 2002 - 09:15:53 EDT

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    George Murphy wrote:

    > 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 suspect that Bernard is partly considering that medicine is more
    like an art than a science. Even today, for those who have the
    luxury to practice like a Marcus Welby, MD, medicine is still an art.

    I would argue that philosophy is a very good place to get people to
    think about "what is truth". (Pilate, although viewed as the "bad guy",
    actually asks a very good question.) However, a course in philosophy
    will only help if you have a good teacher. Although I am sure there
    are some exceptions, I seem to recall in my K-12 experience that
    they typically put some incompetent (i.e., not just inexperienced)
    PE teacher on the job of teaching science and would probably do
    the same for any philosophy course.

    Add to this the fact that popular books (insert the usual list of
    characters both pro and con for some particular position) are
    taken to be serious books of science by the general public. Real
    science books are difficult to follow for the general public, are very
    conservative about speculation, generally tend to minimize cultural
    importation, and tend to avoid drawing metaphysical conclusions.
    There are no pile drives, no bar fights, and no cheap love scenes. In
    short, they're dull and boring.

    So we have a public dumbed-down by TV, and now we hope to
    education them properly about science. It's definitely true that
    the problem is partly education, but there is a much deeper
    infrastructral problem and a nasty feed-back loop to overcome to

    by Grace alone we proceed,

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