Philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical underpinnings, systems and implications of science, whether natural sciences (physics, biology, etc.) or social sciences (psychology, economics , etc.). The philosophy of science is closer to epistemology and ontology, two fields from which it borrows a lot and to which it raises new questions.
Philosophy being the science of statements, in parallel the philosophy of science is the science of scientific statements (purification of the questions to ask to science and its actors, clarifications of the scientific language …) without worrying to solve them. Moreover, a resolute philosophical question enters into the history of knowledge. The philosophical work consists in questioning the way of passing from meanings to denotations (a more difficult process in the human sciences). The philosophy of science questions science, and also epistemology, the ontology of the objects of science, the history of science … all disciplines that interact with scientific knowledge.
The history of the philosophy of science is based on the history of science.
The philosophy of science is divided into two main branches:
- the general philosophy of science
- philosophy of special sciences
General philosophy of science
There are approached in general philosophy of sciences, among other problems:
- the nature of scientific thought, its discourse and its concepts;
- the processes by which science becomes an activity;
- the relationship between science and nature;
- the ways of judging the validity of theories in science;
- the scientific method;
- scientific reasoning and their philosophical scope;
- the reciprocal implications between scientific method and society …
Note: On “the continent”, by singularity with the Anglo-Saxon world, epistemology is part of the philosophy of science … But the “consensus” is discussed!
Need of philosophy and utility
For a long time the science, as a corpus of knowledge and methods, was the object of study of the philosophy of sciences, which studied the scientific discourse relative to ontological or philosophical postulates, that is to say, non-autonomous postulates in themselves. The analyzes of science (the expression “metascience” is sometimes used) have first of all focused on science as a body of knowledge, and have long been part of philosophy. This is the case of Aristotle, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, the circle of Vienna, then Popper, Quine, Lakatos finally, among the most important.
Epistemology, on the contrary, is based on the analysis of each particular discipline pertaining to so-called “regional” epistemologies. Epistemology will allow the recognition of science as autonomous disciplines in relation to philosophy.
Aurel David explains that “science has managed to close at home. It tackles its new difficulties by its own means and does not help in any way the highest and most recent productions of metascientific thought”.
For the Nobel Prize in physics Steven Weinberg, author of The Dream of an Ultimate Theory (1997), philosophy of science is useless because it has never helped scientific knowledge to advance.