Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Gruesome ravens

Marking a stack of tripos essays about ravens and white shoes, grue and green, theory and observation, Kuhn and rationality, laws and explanation, and the like, makes me realize (not for the first time) how out of sympathy I have become with philosophy done at that level of arm-waving generality. Kicking up the dust and complaining that we can’t see might amuse, but in the end, what’s the point?

My one serious foray into the philosophy of science was my book Explaining Chaos. And though of course I’d do things differently if rewriting the book now, I still think it exemplifies the right approach if we want to do something interesting: start from conceptual/foundational issues actually generated from within a particular field of science, and try to sort out what’s going on locally. That’s hard enough to do well, and at least we might learn something useful about the science in the process.

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