Philosophy of Science
   
[note]

A few miles farther on, we came to a big, gravelly roadcut that looked like an ashfall, a mudflow, glacial till, and fresh oatmeal, imperfectly blended. "I don't know what this glop is," [Kenneth Deffeyes] said, in final capitulation. "You need a new geologist. You need a Californian."

John McPhee, Assembling California, p. 11 [The Noonday Press; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993]


καὶ τοῦτο ἔστι πιστώσασθαι κρεῖττον πάσης διὰ λογῶν ἀποδείξεως ἐξ αὐτῆς τῆς ἐναργείας.

(1) And our view may be corroborated by actual observation more effectively than by any sort of verbal argument.

(2) And this is to be proven, better than any demonstration through words [λόγοι], from the observable [ἐνάργεια] itself.

John Philoponus, Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, XVI-XVII, Joannes Philoponus, In Physicorum libros tres priores/quinque posteriores commentaria, ed. Hieronymus Vitelli, Academia litterarum regiae borussicae, Berlin, 1887-1888, p.683 16 ff; (1) first translation, A Source Book in Greek Science, edited by Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, Harvard, 1948, 1975, p.220; (2) second translation, see the analysis of the Greek text and this translation here.


Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.

Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, p.5 [Bantam Book, 2010, 2012]


BILL MURRAY: "Ray, for a moment, pretend that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on."

DAN AYKROYD: "You never studied."

Ghostbusters, 1984, Columbia Pictures

Editorial Essays

Xenophanes [of Colophon, Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος] thinks that a mixture of the earth with the sea is going on, and that in time the earth is dissolved by the moist. He says that he has demonstrations of the following kind:  shells are found inland, and in the mountains, and in the quarries in Syracuse he says that an impression of a fish and of seaweed has been found, while an impression of a bayleaf was found in Paros in the depth of the rock, and in Malta flat shapes of all marine objects. These, he says, were produced when everything was long ago covered with mud, and the impression was dried in the mud. All mankind is destroyed whenever the earth is carried down into the sea and becomes mud; then there is another beginning of coming-to-be [γένεσις, genesis], and this foundation happens for all the worlds.

Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge, 1957, 1964, p.177; for Greek text, see here.

(1) For if you let fall from the same height two weights of which one is many times as heavy as the other, you will see that the ratio of the times required for the motion does not depend on the ratio of the weights, but that the difference in time is a very small one.

(2) For if you let fall at the same time from the same height two weights that differ greatly, you will see that the ratio of the times of the motions does not correspond to the ratio of the weights, but that the difference in the times is a very small one.

(3) For letting fall at the same time two weights from the same height, differing from each other in very great measure, the ratio of the time of the motions does not follow the ratio of the weights, but the difference of the times is the very smallest.

John Philoponus, Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, XVI-XVII, Joannes Philoponus, In Physicorum libros tres priores/quinque posteriores commentaria, ed. Hieronymus Vitelli, Academia litterarum regiae borussicae, Berlin, 1887-1888, p.683 16 ff; (1) first translation, A Source Book in Greek Science, edited by Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, Harvard, 1948, 1975, p.220; (2) second translation, Greek Science After Aristotle, by G.E.R. Lloyd, W.W. Norton, 1973, p.160; (3) third translation, see the analysis of the Greek text and this translation here.


This is the third of four lectures on a rather difficult subject -- the theory of quantum electrodynamics -- and since there are obviously more people here tonight than there were before, some of you haven't heard the other two lectures and will find this lecture incomprehensible. Those of you who have heard the other two lectures will also find this lecture incomprehensible, but you know that that's all right:  as I explained in the first lecture, the way we have to describe Nature is generally incomprehensible to us.

Richard P. Feynman, QED, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, p. 77 [Princeton University Press, 1985]


And the angel... swore... that time will be no more.

Revelation 10:5-6

These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry. Elasticity, gravity, cohesion of parts, communication of motion by impulse [sic]; these are probably the ultimate causes and principles which we shall ever discover in nature.

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section IV, Part I, p. 26 [L.A. Shelby-Bigge, editor, Oxford University Press, 1902, 1972, p. 30]


Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott,
aber boshaft ist er nicht.

Subtle is the Lord God,
but malicious is he not.

Albert Einstein, on visit to Princeton University, April 1921, inscribed over the fireplace, Jones Hall 202 (previously Fine Hall, when Einstein had an office (Room 109) there in 1933, before Fuld Hall of the Institute for Advanced Study was finished in 1939, and before the New Fine Hall of the University was built)

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Philosophy of Science, Note;
ἡ Φυσικὴ Φιλοσοφία

What to call Philosophy of Science in Greek involves some problems. I have used Φυσικὴ Φιλοσοφία, but in origin this did not really mean Philosophy of Science:  It was just what the earliest Greek philosophy was called in general, because the philosophers talked about nature, φύσις. What we see in Latin, Philosophia Naturalis, comes to mean what is now called "Physics" (which would have been Φυσικά, "Natural [Things]," in Greek).

The title of Newton's book on gravity was Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis, the "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." Thomas Jefferson was still using "Natural Philosophy" to obviously mean "Physics." I am not aware of when "Natural Philosophy" dropped out and "Physics" finally came in. The earliest citations for the modern use of "Physics" in the Oxford English Dictionary are for 1834 and 1860. Of course, the term had always existed as the title of Aristotle's Physics, τὰ Φυσικά.

But as "Physics" came in, or came back in from Aristotle, "Natural Philosophy" seems to have dropped entirely out of the universe of discourse. The "Natural Philosophers" are now just the Pre-Socratics. The older term is remembered but rarely used. The Pre-Socratics are just the Pre-Socratics.

At the same time, what "Philosophy of Science" would be in Greek or Latin itself involves a problem. In Latin we would get Philosophia Scientiae, or in Greek ἡ τῆς Ἐπιστήμης Φιλοσοφία. Both of these would simply mean "Philosophy of Knowledge," which sounds like what we already call "Epistemology." The meaning of "science" in English has narrowed from the "knowledge" meaning of scientia to the modern meaning of the natural or social, "hard" or "soft," sciences. This happened by the 1840's. In fact, I have just seen the claim that the modern meaning of "scientist" was coined by William Whewell, at Trinity College, Cambridge [Christoph Irmscher, "Inventing the Scientist," The Wall Street Journal, June 29-30, 2019, C7]. Wissenschaft in German retains a somewhat broader meaning and still gets used for things in philosophy that, in English, would not usually be regarded as sciences.

In Modern Greek, Επιστήμη (losing the breathing) has narrowed down to the English meaning of "science." For "knowledge," Modern Greek has γνώση (which would have been γνῶσις in Classical Greek). But if we used Επιστήμη for its Modern sense, then our term "Epistemology" would, by the same token, mean the "study of science" rather than of knowledge. We could use "Epistemology" itself for "Philosophy of Science." So I am not sure that the Modern meaning is going to be much help.

A possibility could be "Philosophy of Natural Philosophy"; but this is redundant (like the "Department of Redundancy Department"), so I have picked up Φυσικὴ Φιλοσοφία off of the cutting room floor and given it new life here. It may not much matter. English usage is not going to start using an expression in Greek, and Modern Greek can use its own words.

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