Philosophy of science is a philosophical direction, which selects science as its epistemological and socio-cultural
phenomenon by its main problems; a particular philosophical discipline, the subject of which is science.
The term “philosophy of science” (Wissenschaftstheorie) first appeared in the work of E. Dyureng’s “Logic and Philosophy of Science” (Leipzig, 1878). Dühring’s intention to build the philosophy of science as “not only a transformation, but also a substantial expansion of the sphere of logic” was not realized, but this terminological innovation proved to be very timely.
The problematic of the philosophy of science (the structure and development of scientific knowledge) goes back to Plato and Aristotle. With the formation of the science of modern times, the philosophy of science in unity with the theory of knowledge becomes the most important field of philosophical research in the works of F. Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, d’Alembert, Diderot, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, later B. Bolzano, who is still limited to the term” (Wissenscgaftslehre). The state and significance of the modern philosophy of science are determined by the place of science in society, in the worldview, as well as by the set of its internal, historically formed concepts and problems.
In the 20th century the philosophy of science also acts as one of the most technically complex sections of professional philosophy, using the results of logic, psychology, sociology and the history of science, which is essentially an interdisciplinary study. In this capacity, it took shape to the 2nd floor. 20 century, but as a special philosophical direction formed a century earlier and was focused on the analysis of primarily cognitive, or epistemological, dimensions of science. Here, the philosophy of science is a set of philosophical currents and schools that form a special philosophical direction, formed in the course of a phased development and characterized by internal diversity (positivism, neopositivism and postpositivism, some trends in neo-Kantianism, neo-rationalism, critical rationalism). At the same time, the philosophy of science continues to exist within the framework of such philosophical doctrines, in which the analysis of science is not the main task (Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, neo-Thomism). In the first case, the problematic of the philosophy of science practically exhausts the content of philosophical concepts, in the second, the analysis of science is built into more general philosophical contexts and determined by them. However, in general, the theme of the philosophy of science, its conceptual apparatus and central problems are determined primarily within the philosophy of science as a special philosophical direction and only with its mediation fall into the focus of attention of other philosophical schools and trends.
As a special direction, the philosophy of science is formed in the writings of W. Whewell, JS Mill, O. Kont, G. Spencer, J. Gershel. Its emergence marked a distinct formulation of the normative and critical task of bringing scientific and cognitive activity into line with some methodological ideal. The prerequisites for putting this task to the forefront were a sharp increase in the social importance of scientific work, the professionalization of scientific activity, the emergence of its disciplinary structure in the 19th century. At the first stage of the development of the philosophy of science, in the focus of her attention was the problems associated with the study of psychological and inductive-logical procedures of empirical cognition. The content of the second stage of the evolution of the philosophy of science (1900-20) was determined primarily by understanding the revolutionary processes that took place in the foundations of science at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The central figures of this stage were both philosophers and outstanding scientists (E.Mach, M.Planq, A.Puankare, P.Dyoum, E.Cassirer, A.Einstein, etc.). This predetermined the fact that the main subject of the analysis became the substantive foundations of science (primarily the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics). The next period (1920-40) can be designated as analytical. He was largely inspired by the ideas of the early L.Wittgenstein and was determined by the program for analyzing the language of science, developed by classical neopositivism (Vienna circle and the Berlin group – M.Shlik, R.Karnap, F.Frank, O.Neyrat, G.Reichenbach, etc.). The neo-positivist philosophy of science saw its task as clarifying the relationship between the empirical and theoretical levels of knowledge, removing from the language of science “pseudoscientific” statements and promoting the creation of a unified science in the model of mathematized natural science. The concept of science in general was reduced to what the English call “science” – natural science. Within the framework of the late neo-positivism of the 1940s-1950s, an important place is occupied by the immanent criticism of the dogmas of empiricism-empirical reductionism and the dichotomy of analytical and synthetic judgments. This is accompanied by a careful study of the logic of scientific explanation, the study of the reduction of theories and the construction of realistic and instrumental models of the structure of scientific theories (N. Campbell, W. Kline, E. Nagel, U. Sellars, K. Hempel, R. Braithwaite, P. Bridgman). The notion of science is expanding, the subject of research is history, in particular the status of historical laws and the function of historical explanation. To the same stage of the philosophy of science, with certain reservations, the concept of the logic of K.Popper’s scientific study, whose central moments were the criticism of psychology, the problem of induction, the delineation of the context of discovery and the context of the justification, the demarcation of science and metaphysics, the method of falsification and the theory of objective knowledge. Already within the framework of the analytical stage of the philosophy of science, the basic dogmas of neo-positivism begin to be criticized. This trend is increasing towards the end of 1950s, when the famous work of W. Kayne “Two dogmas of empiricism” is being discussed, there appears the translation of K.Popper’s book “The Logic of Scientific Research” into English, the works of T. Koon, M. Polanyi, N. Gunmen, N. Hanson.
Parallel to the analytical philosophy of science, various paradigms of the study of science as a socio-cultural phenomenon in the framework of the sociology of knowledge (M.Sheler, C.Mangheim) and the sociology of science (L.Flek, F.Znanetsky, R.Merton) are put forward. The subjects of research are the connection of the scientific community with certain styles of thinking, social roles and value orientations of scientists, the ethos of science, the ambivalence of scientific norms. In general, allowing social nature and the conditionality of scientific knowledge, sociologists continued to consider natural science and mathematics as objective knowledge, which gives an image of reality independent of the individual and society. In this respect, the social history of the science of the Soviet historian B.Gessen was much more consistent, which introduced Western scholars and philosophers to the possibilities of the Marxist approach and had a significant impact on the prospects for the analysis of science.
The postpositional stage in the development of the philosophy of science is connected with discussions between representatives of the “historical school” and “critical rationalism.” The main topics were the possibility of reconstructing the historical dynamics of knowledge and the ineradicability of the sociocultural determinants of cognition (M. Polanyi, S. Toulmin, N. Hanson, T. Kun, I. Lakatos, J. Agassi, P. Feyerabend, K. Hubner, H. Spinner, L.Laudan and others). At this stage, the philosophy of science is transformed into an interdisciplinary study. The mutual influence of philosophy and some social and science disciplines begins, which leads to a blurring of the subject and methodological boundaries between the philosophy of science, the social history of science, social psychology and the cognitive sociology of science. The answers to questions posed in general terms by philosophers are given by sociologists and historians in the analysis of concrete cognitive situations (case studies). The learned chemist and social psychologist M.Polani criticizes the concept of “objective knowledge” of K.Popper in his concept of “personal knowledge“. The historian of physics T. Kun proposes an alternative to Popper’s theory of the development of scientific knowledge as a “permanent revolution”, giving an opposite interpretation of revolutions in science. Supporters of the Frankfurt “critical theory” formulate a program of “finalizing science”, which assumes a social orientation of scientific and technological progress (M. Böhme, V. Krohn). The authors of the “strong program” in the cognitive sociology of science (B. Barnes, D. Bloor) disclose the macrosocial mechanisms of knowledge production from social resources. Ethnographic research of science (K.Knorr-Cetin, I.Elkana) and analysis of scientific communication and discourse (B. Latur, S.Vulgar) supplement the picture with the help of microsociological methods showing how scientific knowledge is constructed from the content of activity and communication of scientists (in during the rewriting of scientific protocols, in the process of scientific and pseudo-scientific discussions).
The diversity of approaches within the framework of the modern philosophy of science makes possible their typologization, only resorting to complex estimates. Thus, normative orientation in the philosophy of science can be represented in two versions. The first, the logistic option involves a reorganization of scientific thinking by these or other standards and criteria (logical empiricism). The second, historicist variant is based on the analysis of the history of science as a system of normatively meaningful conclusions from it (J.Holton). Here, attempts are made to make a logical-methodological explication of the historical and scientific material (the semantic model of the scientific theory of P. Suppes, Φ.Sappe, M. Bunge), in the framework of “critical rationalism”, falsification models and methodologies of research programs are proposed. Similar structures are shared by the structuralist conception of the scientific theories of J.Snid and V.Stegmuller, the constructivist philosophy of science by P.Lorentzen, J.Mittelstrasse. Descriptivist tendencies developed in the “historical school” of the philosophy of science and the cognitive sociology of science, whose representatives sought specific study of various episodes of the history of science and adopted the methods of sociology and anthropology of scientific knowledge, phenomenological and hermeneutical attitudes.
In the development of the philosophy of science, there were several typical ideas about the nature and functions of the philosophy of science. One of them says that the philosophy of science is the formulation of a general scientific picture of the world, which is compatible with the most important scientific theories and is based on them. According to another, the philosophy of science is the identification of the prerequisites of scientific thinking and those grounds that determine the choice by scientists of their problems (an approach close to the sociology of science). Further, the philosophy of science is understood as an analysis and clarification of the concepts and theories of science (neopositivism). Finally, the most common belief is that the philosophy of science is a meta-scientific methodology that conducts a demarcation between science and the non-science, that is, determining what scientific thinking differs from other methods of cognition, what are the main conditions for the correctness of scientific explanation and what is the cognitive status of scientific laws and principles, what are the mechanisms for the development of scientific knowledge.
The core problematic of the philosophy of science has changed significantly in the process of its evolution. At the beginning of the century, the focus of the philosophy of science was, first, the idea of the unity of scientific knowledge and the associated task of constructing an integral scientific picture of the world, an analysis of the concepts of determinism, causality, space and time, the correlation of dynamic and statistical patterns. The second element of the traditional theme of the philosophy of science was the structural characteristics of scientific research – the correlation of analysis and synthesis, induction and deduction, logic and intuition, discovery and substantiation, theory and facts. Since the 1920’s the problem of demarcation – the division of science and metaphysics, mathematics and natural science, natural-scientific and social-humanitarian knowledge – comes to the forefront. The problem of empirical substantiation of science, the question of whether it is possible to build the whole of science on the foundation of purely empirical knowledge, becomes very important at this time. Empirical reductionism is closely related to the question of the status and significance of theoretical terms, an analysis of their reducibility to empirical terms, as well as their instrumental, operational and ontological meanings. Awareness of the relative independence of the theoretical and empirical levels of scientific knowledge translates the problem of justifying science in the study of verification procedures, deductive-nomological explanation, confirmation, falsification.
In the 1960s the problems of the philosophy of science are substantially updated. In the framework of criticism, and then of the general rejection of fundamentalist programs that presupposed the principal possibility of reducing the whole aggregate of scientific knowledge to some further indivisible and reliable elements of experience, integral concepts are introduced that orient the sociocultural approach to the problem of the foundations of scientific knowledge. An interest in metaphysical (philosophical) dimensions of science is reviving. From the problems of the structure of scientific knowledge, the analysis shifts to the problems of its growth, the cumulative models of the development of science are challenged. To explain the nature of scientific revolutions, the concept of incommensurability is introduced. The concept of scientific rationality acquires new content, by which scientific criteria, methodological norms of scientific research, criteria for the choice and acceptability of theories are formulated in the philosophy of science, rational episodes of the history of science are rationalized. There is a steady trend of historization of the philosophy of science, in connection with which the correlation of philosophy and the history of science is put forward in the number of central problems. Expansion of the subject field of the philosophy of science marks an analysis of the world outlook and social problems of science. In this connection, the question arises of the social conditioning and determination of scientific knowledge, the relationship between science and other forms of rationality, the possibility of internalism and externalism as approaches to the reconstruction of the development of scientific knowledge. The notions of “implicit knowledge”, “paradigm”, “theme”, “ideals of natural order”, “tradition”, “social imagery”, “historical ensembles”, “scientific world picture”, “style of scientific thinking” begin to play an important role.
At the turn of the 1970s-1980s, when the main post-positivist conceptions of the philosophy of science were already developed and discussed, a shift in the problematics in two different directions was outlined. First, the representatives of this discipline became more attentive to the epistemological foundations of the models they put forward, which led to a revival of discussions about realism and instrumentalism, to a more detailed discussion of the problem of conceptual frameworks, and so on. An even more noticeable shift is associated with the spread of models developed in the philosophy of science (mainly by natural science) to the analysis of social and human sciences. In addition to the traditional philosophical and methodological analysis of historical science (as the antipode of the “natural sciences”), the methodology of economic science, the philosophical and methodological analysis of psychology, sociology, social anthropology and other human sciences began to develop actively. At the same time, the tendencies connected with the reassessment of the role of science in modern life, with the opposition of scientism and anti-scientism, the development of countercultural and religious trends, led to crisis phenomena within the philosophy of science, to the denial of its philosophical and general cultural significance (P. Feyerabend, R. Rorty).
Historiography of the philosophy of science in the 20th century, as a rule, is limited to references to Anglo-American and German authors, whose works set the dominant direction of development. The picture, however, would be incomplete without taking into account the contribution of other national schools, which form not so much the periphery reproducing accepted ideas as an extensive reservoir of alternative theories and approaches. Among them, French (A.Puancare, E.Meyerson, P.Dyuy, G.Bashlyar, A.Koire, M.Fuko), Finnish (G.X. von Britt, L.Routila, J.Hintikka), Polish (L. Fleck, K. Aidukevich, T. Kotarbinsky).