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Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

77 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192802835
ISBN-10: 0192802836
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Editorial Reviews


"Very helpful.... Okasha presents the issues and arguments with delightful clarity."--Philosophia Christi

About the Author

Samir Okasha is currently Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York. He has published numerous articles in philosophy journals, in the areas of philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and epistemology. He has previously held a Jacobean Fellowship in Philosophy at University of London and has taught at the University of Mexico.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 1st edition (July 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802835
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.4 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Allen Morgan on November 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Yet another excellent entrant in the VSI series. Okasha, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of York, gives a well-organized quick tour of the main topics in the Philosophy of Science.
Starting with an introductory chapter on "What is Science", he takes the reader on a tour of "Scientific Reasoning", "Explanation in Science", "Realism and anti-Realism", "Scientific Change and Revolutions". He then adds a chapter on three specific historical philosophical disputes in the Philosophy of Science: (1) the dispute between Newton and Leibniz about the nature of space (absolute or relative), (2) the dispute among three different schools of taxonomic classification in biology and (3) the dispute among psychologists about the 'modularity' of the human mind. He then ends with a wrap up chapter on some of the disputes about science ('Scientism', or an over-reliance on 'science' as a model for all of (or the only legitimate kind of) 'knowledge'; Science and Religion; and the debate around whether Science is 'value-free').
In each case, he gives a very clear, even-handed overview of the arguments that have raged (since the 16th Century) about these topics. He is quite good at giving analogies or examples that make otherwise abstract propositions understandable. He deftly lays out (which is difficult to do) the reasons why philosophical questions about science are not resolvable by science itself, and thus why disputes over these topics continue even today (e.g., all 'empirical' scientific theories ultimately rest on concepts that are more or less 'metaphysical' - which doesn't mean that choosing among fundamental principals is simply a matter of taste, belief or faith (e.g.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Craig MACKINNON on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What this book claims to do, it does well. It is in the Oxford "Very Short Introductions" series, and so does not pretend to be anything but a cursory introduction to the field of Philosophy of Science. Given that caveat, the book is well-written, great fun to read, and is still likely to give us mere "laymen" in the field something to think about.

Okasha assumes some scientific and philosophical knowledge on the part of the reader. There is not the space to dedicate explanations of specific scientists or scientific theories. The book appears to be for scientists rather than philosophers - he clearly goes into more detail describing the philosophical aspects than the scientific ones. At the same time, he tries not to take sides in the debates of the field, such as the importance of direct observation, the ideas of Kuhn (on scientific revolutions), Popper (on the definition of science), etc. He also covers the basic scientific issues such as causality, inductive vs. deductive reasoning, and how conflict can arise between science and religion.

I'm not sure if a non-scientist will follow all Okasha's examples. However, it's probably unlikely that a non-scientist will pick up this book. This book has helped me immensely in preparing lectures for a module in "The Nature of Scientific Enquiry" for a general science course we have started this year. The clarity and conciseness with which the author presents the material makes this a nice little book, well worth the low cost.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Scott Stratton on February 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a layman learning about Evolutionary Biology. Naturally I've been drawn into the ID/Evolution debate (in some cases on this site) and as part of that debate you end up talking a lot about what science really is, and particularly, what is a Theory. Lots of opponents of evolution cry out that it is ONLY A THEORY. True, but it is a theory (as I learned from this book) in the same sense as all other "theories"; such as the theory of gravity, theory of electricity, etc.! And so on... so anyway, I felt I needed to understand more about the "science of science".

I picked this up to get that brief education and I was richly rewarded. It provides a thorough but concise introduction to the Philosophy of Science. It covers the main topics and gives summaries of the major points of view. It gives references to further reading and even provides some charts and graphics. I now feel equipped to at least discuss the basic problems of the philosophy of science and now know where to go get more information.

My only criticism is the chapter that describes a specific problem in the philosophy of science from 3 of the main branches of science (Physics, Biology, and Psychology). I thought the Biology and Psychology examples were pretty weak - they didn't seem like much of a controversy today or terribly relevant. The controversy in Biology between Cladistics and Phenetics has some historical interest, but doesn't seem to be a pressing current issue (but I'm not a professional biologist, either, in all fairness).

That small issue aside, it was a great read. I recommend it and I'm going to go buy and read some more of the books in this series.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Kam-Hung Soh on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
What do philosophers think about science? This book provides a brief history of the philosophy of science, describes some logical assumptions in the practice of science and problems in science, and discusses Thomas Kuhn's scientific revolutions. The book concludes with a discussion on science and society.

Philosophy of science, as described in this book, seems to have become a rather esoteric subject removed the daily practice of scientists and the everyday use of science. Some questions that spring to mind but which are not covered in this book: Does the publication and independent verification of results lead to the self-correcting nature of science? Why is the simplest explanation the best? How can scientists who cannot easily perform experiments, such as astronomers and sociologists, make verifiable theories?

Chapter 6 presents three problems in science: Newton's view of absolute space, the classification (by feature or by genetics) of living creatures and the whether the mind is modular or not. It's not clear to me how the philosophy of science can help in resolving these problems. Newton's view was probably driven by his desire to prove the literal truth of the Bible. In this day and age of automated indexing systems, does it really matter which method is used to classify creatures? Finally, shouldn't scientists collect more data before deciding if the mind is modular or not?

This book covers a number of topics in the field but fortunately doesn't get bogged down in a deep technical discussion on any single topic. It is a reasonable overview of the topic for the interested reader and one of the better books in the "Very Short Introduction" series.

Kam-Hung Soh, 19 January 2006.

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