Philosophy of Science
Spring 2004

Some useful vocabulary

Ontology:
An account of what there is (e.g., what kinds of objects, what kinds of forces, what kinds of laws of nature, etc.)

Metaphysics:
The branch of philosophy dealing with how things really are (which includes ontology – what kind of stuff there really is).

Epistemology:
The branch of philosophy dealing with what we can know and how we can come to know it.

Epistemic/
epistemological:
Having to do with knowledge or knowing.
Rationality:
Acting for good reasons.  (We might need to provide a further account of what exactly counts as a “good reason”.)

Logical consistency:
(Of a scientific theory)  Not giving rise to contradictory conclusions (P and not-P).

Empirical adequacy:
(Of a scientific theory)  Matches all the empirical data.  (Weaker sense:  Matches all the empirical data collected so far.  Stronger sense:  Matches all the empirical data, including data yet to be collected or observed.)

Realism:
The view that scientific theories aim to give a literally true account of what kind of stuff is in the world, how that stuff evolves over time, and how that stuff interacts.

Antirealism(1):
The disbelief in the mind-independent existence of a class of entities.

Antirealism(2)
The claim that our scientific theories do not need to aim at telling a literally true story of what the world is like.

Descriptive:
A claim about how things are.

Normative:
A claim about how things ought to be (regardless of how they actually are).

Subjective:
Having to do with how things seem to a particular person.

Objective:
Having to do with how things actually are.  Something any person could see, regardless of who they are.

Relativism:
The view that there is no single or objectively special set of standards entitled to govern a domain of practice.

Paradigm:
An impressive achievement which inspires people and provides a basis for further work; or, an achievement + a body of work based on the achievement taken to give insight into some of the workings of the world (we could call this an exemplar); or all of the above + shared values of the scientists working within a paradigm.

Normal science tradition:
A paradigm-guided body of work.


Anomaly:
A puzzle which consistently resists solution.

Crisis:
A period of instability generated by the persistent failure of the best people in the field to solve the puzzles they’re trying to solve.










     
    
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