The History of the the Philosophy of Science

The Pre-Socratics were the first philosophers of science.  They were recognized as the sophos (the wise ones).  They were ecliplised by the British and German philosophers of science in the seventeenth century and were largely disconnected from science hence forth. Science sets the agenda, but philosophers bring philosophical reasons instead of scientific reasons.  Science answers the questions. The Pre-Socratics were the first to deal with metaphysics and did so to provide a rational philosophy.  This allowed for a rational and objective observation and the use of reason to systematize and order the content to make it coherent.

The Sophists were worldly-wise in contrast with the sophos–frustrated by the plurality of answers in the current philosophy. The Sophists were the original skeptics as evidenced in Pyrrho. They came out of the sixth century BC and broke away from religious dogma, which had never happened before.  Their methods were pragmatic and subjective–rhetorical and fashionable.  The phrase, “The One and the Many” became important.  The One (reality) had everything related to it (Many).  This is where we get Monism–the quality of oneness.  We see Monism appear later in Leibniz’s monads, which take us to a single substance and leads to atomic theory.

Ionian cosmology picked up the discourse. The poet, Hesiod, promoted a moral consistency with the gods and the Milesians used this as the next step of consistency to get to the natural order. Thales (624-546 BC) is often referred to as the first philosopher when he predicted an eclipse of the sun.  This was the first step in the evolution of metaphysical discovery. Thales’ theorem postulated that if angles A and C were the diameter of a circle then angle B was a right angle.  The world was rational and could be predicted and ordered.

Anaximander (611-547 BC) was Thales’ pupil.  The Aperion was considered to be the intermediate boundaries of the heavens.  Reality must be more fundamental than water (a la Thales).  The Apeiron was in eternal motion.  Anaximander postulated many universes. Universes are always in the mode of creation and destruction. This was very naturalistic–the universe was its own cause.  It was through Anaximander we first see the theory of evolution. The Earth was believed to be a cylindrical column. Since it’s on the center it does not fall.  This principle was applied to matter.  Democritus took these principles and applied it to the atom itself.  Democritus believed there we an infinite number of universes being created and being destroyed at every moment.

Descartes came around during the Enlightment and sought a non-empirical explanation for the emprical.  This takes us back to Descartes’ skepticism.  How could he know if he was being deceived by an evil demon? Well, Descartes didn’t believe that God would allow him to be so deceived by a demon. Knowledge about who God is, a priori, would be to have humans have the ability to have knowledge of the objective world and to experience it via the senses.


One thought on “The History of the the Philosophy of Science

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