Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
on July 9, 2006
Carl Hempel's "Philosophy of Natural Science" is an introduction to the philosophy of science by one of the twentieth century's finest philosophers of science. This book is one of the best in the popular "Foundations of Philosophy Series", and a classic in the philosophy of science.
The book is slim but quite comprehensive. It covers the structure of scientific hypotheses and their justification, the role of laws in scientific explanations, and the nature of scientific concepts and theoretical reduction, among many other topics.
Hempel is an excellent guide to a very difficult subject. He writes lucidly and argues carefully. Many of his claims are illustrated with examples from the history of science. The book also includes suggestions for further reading.
Some familiarity with analytic philosophy and the history of science will be helpful for readers of this book. But I don't think that this background is required. While those without this background may find some sections of this book difficult, I think that they'll understand a lot.
This book was published in 1966. Therefore, it does not cover some of the latest work in the philosophy of science. Needless to say, as a work of analytic philosophy, many of its claims are controversial. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent introduction to the philosophy of science.
For more recent, and sometimes easier, introductions to the philosophy of science, with some different coverage, I recommend Chalmer's "What Is This Thing Called Science?" or Hung's "The Nature of Science: Problems and Perspectives", though I have more gripes with these books than with Hempel's. I recommend these books not in place of Hempel's but in addition to it.