Re: [asa] HPSS - Survey of Views

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Sat Apr 05 2008 - 19:56:15 EDT

Dave,
  Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify. I didn't intend to convey the implications that you inferred. I do not think that philosophy of science is either irrelevant or uninteresting. I enjoy it and would like to learn more. I merely tried to express the simple reality that in all my career of dealing with scientists of many flavors, the topic of philosophy of science seldom arose, at least not the formal philosophers. Few took the time to read more than a cursory summary of the topic. That is not at all to say it isn't of interest, only that it isn't of a lot of practical value for most scientists. Perhaps it could be. I have urged my alma mater to include a course on scientific methodology and philosophy so that students do get introduced to the basics before they launch their career.
  For my part, rather than taking the time to read their original works, in light of my long backlog of reading material, I'd appreciate concise summary statements on this list of what these philosophers actually said and contributed.
  Randy
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Randy Isaac
  Cc: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2008 2:46 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] HPSS - Survey of Views

  Randy -- I'm never quite sure to make of it when practicing scientists waive aside POS by saying "we just do the science." I guess there's an analogue here between legal academia and law practice -- I think much more deeply now about jurisprudence and legal philosophy than I did in practice. In practice, my view of the world was very pragmatic -- I had cases to handle and little time to think about the broader context of what I was doing.

  But I never thought the broader context was just irrelevant. Actually, it bothered me sometimes that I didn't have the luxury of thinking more deeply about my work -- which is one reason I'm glad I've had the chance to move into academia. I suppose we could say the same about just about any field in which there are both theoretical and practical questions -- e.g., theology and pastoring, pedagogical theory and teaching, communications theory and journalism, sociological theory and social work, and so on.

  So, sure, the typical working scientist doesn't think very deeply about the broader context of his or her work. But that doesn't make those broader questions irrelevant. I mean, to say "we just do the science" is really just question begging, isn't it?

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Received on Sat Apr 5 19:58:00 2008

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