Re: Comte and philosophers of science

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Dec 28 2005 - 21:16:40 EST

My point was simply that philosophers shouldn't try to tell scientists how to do science - & that if they do scientists are unlike to pay much attention to them. That's the case whether or not those philosophers are specialists in the philosophy of science - a modern category as you note. I wasn't trying to pick on sociologists.

Comte said that asking about the chemical composition of the stars was an example of a meaningless question because (in line with his positivistic principles) there was no observational way of answering it. Within 30 years spectroscopy was being used to determine the elements in stellar atmospheres.

I'm not sure what difference you see between a "professor of physics" and a "physicist." I assume you mean that the latter are active in some kind of research in physics as distinguished from simply teaching the subject, but people don't get to be professors of physics unless they've done some research in the area, & often they're continuing to do it.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: ;
  Sent: Wednesday, December 28, 2005 7:50 PM
  Subject: Comte and philosophers of science

  Just a small query to clarify about the A. Comte comment. There was likely no such category as 'philosopher of science' in the days of Comte. Probably this wasn't being suggested that he was such a philosopher?

  Comte gave lectures in astronomy and mathematics at Ecole Polytechnique, studied in his youth at a medical school and later coined the term 'sociology' after first considering ideas about 'social physics.' Sociologists of today are very different than what they were in Comte's positive vision.

  Likewise (in regard to looking at what scientists do), a professor of phyics and a physicist differ considerably, as do a philosopher of science and a scientific philosopher, as with a philosopher of religion and a theologian.

  Perhaps each and all are represented at ASA, valuing plural perspectives.

  Happy end of 2005,

  p.s. Please note that bringing up Comte is not meant to open a foray into the differences between 'natural law' and 'positive law' that may apply to the completed legal case in Dover

  p.p.s. as for George's comparison, its hard for me to tell which is worse or lousier (more lousy?). But it might be better for them to collaborate than compete for incompetence or who best misses the mark :->

  "George L." <> wrote:

  1) "Intelligent design as a metascience" is fine as long as we realize that its a specifically theistic metascience, thus religious, thus not something that should be appealed to by a science that operates in accord with methodological naturalism, which just gets us back to where we started: Intelligent design can be good theology but it's bad science.

  2) Scientists may make lousy philosophers but they generally don't compare in badness with philosophers telling scientists how to do science. Comte & the supposed impossibility of knowing stellar compositions is a prime example. If you want to know how science works, look at what scientists - both experimental & theoretical - do. Philosophers of science come in afterwards, after scientific successes & failures have occurred, & clean things up & make them look more respectable for their fellow philosophers. & if what's worked isn't in accord with current ideas about the philosophy of science, so much the worse for those ideas.

  George L. Murphy

  Find your next car at Yahoo! Canada Autos
Received on Wed Dec 28 21:19:39 2005

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