How would you describe the relationship of science and philosophy of science? Is it a worldview that sets a tone to scientific jargon? I mean that statements of eg. physics are under submission of the worldview of philosophy of science?

  • 1
    +1 Interesting question with a lot of potential. Could you develop it a bit more?
    – DBK
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 23:48

4 Answers 4


Philosophy of science is the science about science, or to put it differently the theory of science. It is a meta-science which determines which endeavors are scientific in the first place and not merely pseudoscience.

So basically, it asks what science is. What do we have to assume to conduct science? Can we know anything (for sure) and, if so, what can we know? What rules one should apply in science? Which standard should we adhere to, strict or pragmatic? Is there such a thing as scientific progress? Are there different fields which require a different methodology, e.g.: Can we conduct "physics" in the same way we conduct "sociology"? Can science influence our sense of morality? Can it affect ethics or is that something else entirely?

It is a very broad field, and for me philosophy of science is quite frankly the king of all sciences.

  • But many philosophers would disagree. They somewhy try to use the argument that if science tries to justify itself, it's circular. Metaphilosophy is circular too.
    – rus9384
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 19:20
  • At least four of the example questions you give belong in metaphysics.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 15:30
  • @PeterJ Only if you are a proponent of metaphysics though. There are philosophies objecting that metaphysics is even possible, and there are others claiming metaphysics is either meaningless or that its statement may have truth values that cannot be known.
    – k0pernikus
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 16:26
  • Yes. All these arguments come from people who admit they do not understand metaphysics. This should make you wonder. These four examples belong in metaphysics whatever you and I think. It's just how things are.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:17

Philosophy of Science is the study of the assumptions, foundations, and implications of natural science (which is usually taken to mean biology, chemistry, physics, earth science and astronomy, as opposed to social science which deals with human behavior and society).

It asks questions like:

"What is science?",

"What are the aims of science" and

"How one interpret the results of science?".

Scientism is the broad-based belief that the assumptions and methods of research of the physical and natural sciences are equally appropriate (or even essential) to all other disciplines, including philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences.

Positivism is the closely related philosophy which holds that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method (which means the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses).

One of the central questions in the Philosophy of Science is distinguishing science from non-science, although many regard the problem as unsolvable or moot.

Historically, the main point of contention was between science and religion and, even today, many opponents of intelligent design claim that it does not meet the criteria of science and should thus not be treated on equal footing as evolution.

The criteria for science typically include: • the formulation of hypotheses that meet the logical criteria of contingency (i.e. not logically necessarily true or false), falsifiability (i.e. capable of being proved false) and testability (i.e. there is some real hope of establishing whether it is true or false)

• a grounding in empirical evidence

• the use of the scientific method

Empiricism (and, later, Positivism and Logical Positivism) grounded science in observation, and campaigned for a systematic reduction of all human knowledge to logical and scientific foundations.

Non-science, on the other hand, (e.g. Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion) was non-observational and hence meaningless, a theory also known as Verificationism.

Karl Popper (1902 - 1994), in response to the Logical Positivists, recognized that a theory might well be meaningful without being scientific, and that the central feature of science was that it aims at falsifiable claims (i.e. claims that can be proven false, at least in theory), which he called Falsificationism.

The American Thomas Kuhn (1922 - 1996) pointed out that most science was what he called normal science (problem solving work within the bounds of current theory and knowledge).

However, when many anomalies are generated during the process of doing normal science, it may become accepted that the work is actually extraordinary (or revolutionary) science within the current scientific paradigm.

There may then occur a paradigm shift (such as the shift from Newtonian science to Einsteinian science) until the new paradigm is accepted as the norm by the scientific community and integrated into their previous work.




Wolfgang Smith answers very intelligently on this “It is difficult, almost impossible, in fact, for the scientific community to recognize the fact that Cartesian bifurcation is a philosophic postulate, for which there is absolutely no scientific basis [...] It is not that they can conceive or imagine a scientific proof of that hypothesis; it is rather that they are unable to conceive that it might not be true.” ― Wolfgang Smith

“It behooves us ... to consider the fateful formula E = mc2, which almost everyone in the world attributes to Albert Einstein's theory [of relativity]. Despite the fact, however, that Einstein did derive this formula from his special theory of relativity, it stems actually from [the] classical part [of the theory]: i.e., from the Maxwell equations for electromagnetic fields, which goes back to 1865. The famous formula has consequently no bearing whatsoever on relativistic physics, a fact Einstein himself admitted in 1950. Obviously, however, in the interim that fateful formula came to be viewed worldwide as the consummate vindication of Einstein's theory: what indeed could be more convincing than the explosion of an atom bomb?” ― Wolfgang Smith, Physique et métaphysique

“THE DIFFICULTIES AND INDEED PERPLEXITIES which beset us the moment we try to make philosophic sense out of the findings of quantum theory are caused, not just by the complexity and subtlety of the microworld, but first and foremost by an adhesion to certain false metaphysical premises, which have occupied a position of intellectual dominance since the time of René Descartes.” ― Wolfgang Smith, The Quantum Enigma: Finding the Hidden Key

“I find it surprising that [Eddington] seems not to recognize the incongruity of sitting on [a chair described as] an aggregate of quantum particles, especially after we have been told that these aggregates are 'partly subjective': how can one sit on a 'partly subjective' chair? And for that matter, how can one sit on a 'mathematical structure'? My colleagues in mathematics would find this hard to comprehend. What is missing in mathematical structures, of course, is substance: the very thing that has been 'filtered out' by the physicist. A chair without substance, it turns out, cannot be sat upon.” ― Wolfgang Smith, Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions: A Critique of Contemporary Scientism

“Even the tiniest plant that blooms for a fortnight and then is seen no more is vaster in its metaphysical roots than the entire cosmos in its visible form: for these roots extend into eternity. And how much more does this apply to man! "Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew the" (Jer. 1:5)” ― Wolfgang Smith


You want the great scientist and philosopher of science, Michael Polanyi.

"So long as we use a certain language, all questions that we can ask will have to be formulated in it and will thereby confirm the theory of the universe which is implied in the vocabulary and structure of the language."

"The amount of knowledge which we can justify from evidence directly available to us can never be large. The overwhelming proportion of our factual beliefs continue therefore to be held at second hand through trusting others, and in the great majority of cases our trust is placed in the authority of comparatively few people of widely acknowledged standing."

"a series of observations which at one time were held to be important scientific facts, were a few years later completely discredited and committed to oblivion, without ever having been disproved or indeed newly tested, simply because the conceptual framework of science had meanwhile so altered that the facts no longer appeared credible."

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