Philosophy of Science
Spring 2004

Some useful vocabulary

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

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

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

Having to do with knowledge or knowing.
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.)

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.

The disbelief in the mind-independent existence of a class of entities.

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

A claim about how things are.

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

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

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

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

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.

A puzzle which consistently resists solution.

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.

Phil 160 home