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Philosophy of Science

The 'philosophy of science' is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. In this respect, the philosophy of science is closely related to epistemology and the philosophy of language. Note that issues of scientific ethics are not usually considered to be part of the philosophy of science; they are studied in such fields as bioethics and science studies.

In particular, the philosophy of science considers the following topics: the character and the development of concepts and terms, propositions and hypotheses, arguments and conclusions, as they function in science; the manner in which science explains natural phenomena and predicts natural occurrences; the types of reasoning that are used to arrive at scientific conclusions; the formulation, scope, and limits of scientific method; the means that should be used for determining when scientific information has adequate objective support; and the implications of scientific methods and models, along with the technology that arises from scientific knowledge for the larger society.

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Spacetime, according to general relativity, is bent by objects with mass, causing time dilation.
Philosophy of physics is the study of the fundamental, philosophical questions underlying modern physics, the study of matter and energy and how they interact. The main questions concern the nature of space and time, atoms and atomism. Also the predictions of cosmology, the interpretation of the results of quantum mechanics, the foundations of statistical mechanics, causality, determinism, and the nature of physical laws. Classically, several of these questions were studied as part of metaphysics (for example, those about causality, determinism, and space and time). Today, the philosophy of physics is very close to the philosophy of science, and is the most active subtopic within it.

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The School of Athens is one of the most famous paintings by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael.
Credit: Raffaello Sanzio

The School of Athens shows the greatest philosophers, scientists and mathematicians of classical antiquity. Plato and Aristotle, the Greek philosophers that were considered most important, are standing in the center of the composition at the top of the steps.


"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

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Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach (February 18, 1838February 19, 1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher and is the namesake for the "Mach number" (aka Mach speed) and the optical illusion known as Mach bands. He was born in Chrlice (now part of Brno), Czech Republic. There he studied mathematics, physics and philosophy, and received a doctorate in physics in 1860.

Mach developed a philosophy of science which was influential in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mach held that scientific laws are summaries of experimental events, constructed for the purpose of human comprehension of complex data. Thus scientific laws have more to do with the mind than with reality as it exists apart from the mind.

Mach had a direct influence on the Vienna Circle philosophers and the school of logical positivism in general. Albert Einstein called him the "forerunner of [the] Theory of relativity".

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The EPR thought experiment, performed with electrons. A source (center) sends electrons toward two observers, Alice (left) and Bob (right), who can perform spin measurements.


Philosophy of science • Science • History of Science • Philosophy • Logic • Epistemology



Philosophy of science: Biology • Chemistry • Information • Language • Logic • Mathematics (Education, Probability) • Mind (Artificial intelligence, Perception) • Physics (Space & time, Thermal & statistical physics) • Social sciences (Environment, Psychology) • Technology

Plato at the School of Athens

Epistemology: A priori and a posteriori • Analysis • Analytic-synthetic distinction • Belief • Causality • Coherentism • Constructivist epistemology • Contextualism • Descriptive knowledge • Determinism • Empiricism • Faith and rationality • Fallibilism • Foundationalism • Gettier problem • Holism • Infinitism • Innatism • Internalism and externalism • Knowledge • Objectivity • Positivism • Proposition • Rationalism • Reductionism • Regress argument • Reliabilism • Simplicity • Skepticism • Speculative reason • Theaetetus (dialogue) • Theory of forms • Theory of justification • Transcendental idealism • Truth • Uniformitarianism • Vienna Circle • Vitalism

Ontology: Being • Category of being • Change • Cogito ergo sum • Dualism • Embodied philosophy • Entity • Existence • Existentialism • Identity • Integrative level • Physical object • Properties • Reality • Relativism • Scientific realism • Subjectivism • Substance theory • Type theory • Universal • Unobservables

General: Anti-psychiatry • Commensurability • Demarcation problem • Evolution • Free will • History of science • Pseudoscience • Rhetoric of science • Scientific method • Scientism • Sociology of scientific knowledge

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