Questions tagged [philosophy-of-science]

For questions about the branch of philosophy studying science, scientists, the scientific method and related topics.

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Was Occam’s razor ever wrong?

In brief, I am looking for an example where Occam’s razor favoured a theory A over another theory B, but theory B turned out to be a better description of reality later. But let me formulate some ...
Wrzlprmft's user avatar
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36 votes
5 answers
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When did Mathematics stop being one of "the Sciences"?

If you ask a mathematician today, many will tell you that mathematics is not a science. Many physicists, chemists, and scientists in other disciplines would say something similar. Mathematicians will ...
Logan M's user avatar
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31 votes
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Is the Scientific Method uniquely Western?

I'm studying High School Science teaching in Australia. In our Science curriculum there are "cross-curriculum" priorities "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures" and "Asia and ...
pdmclean's user avatar
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7 answers
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In ancient times, how did people conclude that the shape of Earth is a sphere?

This is more of a philosophical question, but I want a mathematical explanation. During ancient times, it was well accepted that the surface of Earth was spherical. People first observed this when ...
Anubhav Mukherjee's user avatar
23 votes
3 answers
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Hypothesis testing: Fisher vs. Popper vs. Bayes

I try to make my question short. I am familiar with Popper’s philosophy as well as with statistical hypothesis testing after Fisher and Neyman-Pearson. I am not so familiar with the Bayesian approach ...
Stefan's user avatar
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19 votes
4 answers
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Conflict between physics and philosophy

In the old days. stars of physicists like Einstein$^{[1]}$, Poincare, Heisenberg, Pauli, $^{[2]}$ Bohr and so on are quite philosophical mind, and like philosophy. $^{[3]}$ But now, it seems to me a ...
Shing's user avatar
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18 votes
1 answer
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Examples of Kuhn loss?

A Kuhn loss is: a success, empirical or theoretical, of a prior theory – or paradigm as Kuhn would have preferred – that does not carry over to the theory or paradigm that replaced it. [Midwinter ...
Michael Weiss's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
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Did ancient Greek mathematicians consider numbers independently of geometry?

I am currently reading Oliver Bryne's edition of Euclid's Elements, and in The Elements many arithmetic propositions are proved geometrically, and it feels to me that numbers are always treated as ...
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What is the origin of polynomials and notation for them?

This may be quite a broad question, but lately I've been wondering about the history behind polynomials. Nowadays these are pretty much the simplest kind of functions to work with, but I'd like to ...
hjhjhj57's user avatar
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16 votes
1 answer
954 views

Hidden agenda of the Galileo trial?

Redondi argued that Galileo's trial on heliocentrism was merely a show trial concealing the real objection against Galileo among the catholic establishment, which was his atomism thought to be at ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
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14 votes
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Which school of philosophy motivated thinking about spaces of higher dimension?

I'm trying to make a link between important mathematical breakthroughs in history and the important philosophical schools at the time. I realize that this topic is awfully broad and could be the ...
hjhjhj57's user avatar
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Historical examples of "pseudoscience" becoming "science"

What are some historical examples of theories/ideas that were initially labeled "pseudoscience" and later considered legitimate "science"? I don't mean theories or ideas that were initially not ...
user7496's user avatar
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Why did Newton want lines to be generated by continued motion of points rather than by apposition of parts?

The following passage has been extracted from the Newton's (John Stewart's English translated version) "Sir Issac Newton's two Treatises: Of the Quadrature of Curves, and Analysis by equations of an ...
Sensebe's user avatar
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12 votes
3 answers
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Why and when did some areas separate themselves from philosophy and some not?

When the Greeks invented science and mathematics in around 600 BC, it was considered as a part of philosophy. Thales of Miletus was a mathematician and philosopher. Aristotle was a philosopher, ...
wythagoras's user avatar
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Mathematics PhD dissertations that opened a new field of research

I propose this as a companion wiki page to the one about PhD dissertations which contain a solution to an open problem in the style of big-list questions, thinking ...
Bence Mélykúti's user avatar
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6 answers
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Why was modern science and mathematics a European phenomenon?

Of course much of this can be debated on what you mean by the word “modern” But most of us would agree that the Arabic World and places like India were the leading mathematical and ...
user4281's user avatar
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3 answers
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Leibniz's stand on axioms and definitions

Recently, while discussing, a friend claimed that Leibniz was fond of proceeding axiomatically and from definitions, which I find hard to believe. My conception is that Leibniz was more interested in ...
Mark Fantini's user avatar
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Who was the first to say "Shut up and calculate!"?

The best thing I could find on the internet was this apparently forgotten article from 2004: N. David Mermin, Could Feynman have said this?, Physics Today 57 (5), 2004.
user 85795's user avatar
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What was Kolmogorov’s point of view in the philosophy of mathematics?

Today the standard interpretation of intuitionistic logic is the Brouwer-Heyting-Kolmogorov interpretation which was presented independently by Arend Heyting and Andrei Nikolajewitsch Kolmogorow. ...
Christian's user avatar
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3 answers
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Philosophy behind category theory

Category theory represented a huge change in the way the community thought about mathematics, leaving its the set theoretic nature behind and bringing up the importance of arrows between the objects ...
hjhjhj57's user avatar
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What's the origin of the concept of the five senses?

It is commonly said (to children) that we have five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing. The term "sixth sense" refers to something supernatural. But we do have more senses. Balance, for ...
LocalFluff's user avatar
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2 answers
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Why was the Vienna Circle so important?

As far as I know the Vienna Circle was very relevant to science in the twentieth century. Why? What was the importance of the members' philosophy in science? Would science be too different from what ...
hjhjhj57's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
254 views

How was difference in water pressure perceived in ancient cultures or the middle ages?

I recently wondered: Even when diving to just 2-3 meters without any modern equipment one can feel the change in pressure. Do we have any evidence how this was perceived and explained back in ancient ...
Henry Dorsett's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
584 views

Are there any canonical books on history of science?

I was looking for some fundamental books on history of science. I picked Thomas Kuhn book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" but it's not exactly about history of science - it's more on ...
Sergey's user avatar
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8 votes
2 answers
940 views

What were the obstacles that made the discovery of calculus very late?

I wonder What were the obstacles that made the discovery of calculus very late ? Why the discovery of calculus took so long? I know that some of the ideas and techniques of calculus appeared in ...
pie's user avatar
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2 answers
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How did Wittgenstein fulfill eligibility requirements for a PhD in philosophy without having a Bachelor's degree in philosophy?

The Wikipedia article about Wittgenstein says: In Norway it was clear that Moore was expected to act as Wittgenstein's secretary, taking down his notes, with Wittgenstein falling into a rage when ...
user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
375 views

Has there been debate between relationship of philosophy of mathematics and physics?

Did there exist and does there still exist a debate over which school of mathematical thought (i.e. formalism, logicism, intuitionism, etc.) had the most affinity or application for physics? In ...
user278039's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
6k views

Why did Aristotle make mistakes in his laws of motion?

I was studying Aristotle's laws of motion and comparing them to Newton's. He states that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones. I really can't understand how he could have committed such a ...
jack's user avatar
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3 answers
372 views

Claims that fully formal proofs are impossible to write down

It is sometimes asserted that human-readable mathematical proofs that we construct and publish are just informal approximations to the gold standard, which is a completely formal proof in a formal ...
Timothy Chow's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
394 views

When and how did the notion/idea of physical constant emerge?

Physical constants (e.g. c, h, G, alpha and so on) play a central role in our scientific theories and they have yet drawn much of controversial flavor into questions concerning the foundational status ...
Louis    's user avatar
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What are the early examples of taxonomies in the history of science?

When you think of taxonomies, the first thing that comes to mind is Linneaus. But taxonomies were and continue to be used for all kinds of classification, from biology to astronomy and even ...
Teusz's user avatar
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Who was the first scientist to suggest that objects can keep moving without applied force?

In the old days Aristotels argued that object needs a force to keep going in 'space'. Some philosophers, Philoponus and Buridanus (?), later argued that there was a need for some kind of 'impetus'. ...
Marijn 's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
365 views

Were Gauss's 1846 remarks on the distinction between right and left related to orientability of surfaces?

Recently i was striked by a quotation of Gauss from a letter to his student Gerling from the date June 23, 1846. This letter states in very concise words that the distinction between right-handed and ...
user2554's user avatar
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6 votes
4 answers
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Why statistical moments are called moments?

According to the Jeff Miller's Earliest Known Uses of the Words of Mathematics "Moment was taken into Statistics from Mechanics by Karl Pearson when he treated the frequency-curve (or observation ...
AChem's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
435 views

Nowadays I see a distinct "line" dividing people working in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences. Why?

The direction in which leading research is heading in these subjects (Math, Physics) is very much different and don't seem to be in tandem. Is this something that developed in more recent times? This ...
Wave Metric's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
7k views

How did people react to the realization that Aristotle's ideas had gone without question for way too long?

Recently read the book "Gravity" by George Gamow, in which he says: For centuries Aristotelian philosophy and scholasticism dominated human thought. Scientific questions were answered by dialectic ...
davelook's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
466 views

What is the origin of "normal" in normal coordinates and normal modes?

I am trying to understand why vibrational modes of polyatomic molecules are called "normal" mode of vibrations and with corresponding normal coordinates. What is the origin of the term normal here? I ...
AChem's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
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What was the major influence of Francis Bacon on the development of modern science?

I am reading "Advice for young investigators" by Santiago Ramón y Cajal , in which the author suggested Francis Bacon had made no impact on the scientific development*: "It would not be wise in ...
Shing's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
553 views

David Hilbert and the limits of science

David Hilbert wrote a couple of anecdotal paragraphs regarding "the limits of science." He recalled that in the early 19th Century the position of a philosopher - or philosophy in general - was that ...
Bubastis's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
147 views

Is there an explicit description of Landis-Petrovskiĭ's mistake in their "solution" to Hilbert's 16th problem?

The second part of the Hilbert's 16th problem (determination of the upper bound on the number of limit cycles for two-dimensional polynomial vector fields of given degree), proposed in 1900, is still ...
Ali Taghavi's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
183 views

Different models for the development of mathematics: Latin versus butterfly

Ian Hacking's 2014 book *Why is there philosophy of mathematics at all?", see here, contains many interesting ideas. One of the ideas is the dichotomy of two distinct models for the development ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
456 views

Modern critiques of, alternatives to Kuhn's paradigm shifts?

Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts dates back over 50 years. Are there modern critiques of or alternatives to his theory? It seems to have been controversial from the start, with some people apparently ...
user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
121 views

What are the earliest known accounts of the demarcation problem (science versus pseudo science)?

The demarcation problem, i.e. the problem of differentiating science from pseudo science has been on my mind recently. This might be considered a philosophy topic for philoSE but since my question has ...
MM8's user avatar
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5 votes
3 answers
345 views

The Greeks did not discover "a single scientific law"

The title is drawn from a sentence in a Jim Holt article, "The Dangerous Idea of the Infinitesimal," now a chapter in his book collection.1 I found this a striking claim, and perhaps true, as the ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

What was the full name of I. Bernard Cohen?

I've seen quite a few of the names I. Bernard Cohen in the history of science book. But I couldn't find what I. meant.
ististyle's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
256 views

Who said that math or statistics is not free from class interest?

I'm not 100% sure this is the right site for this question, but here it goes. An already dead professor said in a lecture that Stalin (or perhaps another communist leader) wrote once something along ...
lfba's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
1k views

Gauss on philosophers

Carl Friedrich Gauss said: When a philosopher says something that is true then it is trivial. When he says something that is not trivial then it is false. On one occasion I read that supposedly ...
Wlod AA's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
432 views

Who influenced Gauss in his abstract approach to mathematics?

I have studied that Gauss was one of the firsts mathematicians to defend this idea, about the Abstract Math and the conception of number, claiming that "What is calculated (in the sense of things ...
Lucas Barbiere's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
289 views

What did it historically mean in physics for something to "exist"?

What is the history of influential definitions of objective existence --- This Is Real, It Exists --- in physics? Where did they appear in the literature and in what context were they put forward? ...
Shing's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
937 views

History of the study of indeterminism in classical mechanics

The classic Norton's dome problem, space invaders and other examples, show that Classical Mechanics, held as the paragon of determinism for ages having inspired Laplace's statements on determinism, is ...
Cicero's user avatar
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