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Alan F. Chalmers introduces his book What Is This Thing Called Science? with the smilingly discouraging words “we start off confused and end up confused on a higher level”. This is somewhat reminiscent of Socrates’ statement never used by today’s scientists “I know that I know nothing”. Certainly both show human unquenchable thirst for understanding of the manifested universe in the first case and realization of our inability to do so in the later, both of which are a mark of a true scholar. In any case Chalmers attempts to put a bell on a cat when it comes to our modern fascination and worship of This Thing Called Science that we think is capable to live up to Francis Bacon’s ideal of improving man’s lot on earth.
So far the evidence of scientific development has been human progress in the domain of destruction of life, reaching its logical apex by the detonation of the first atomic bomb. An event so prolific that the great scientist Robert Oppenheimer had nothing else come to his mind but the words of ancient Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” .
While many prescribe to Bacon’s method of collecting facts though organized observation and deriving theories from them, the author promises to suggest some improvements on modern theories of science.
The author returns idealists to harsh reality by proclaiming (p. xvi) that “attempts to give a simple and straightforward logical reconstruction of the scientific method encounter further difficulties when it is realized there is no method that enables scientific theories to be conclusively [proved or ] disproved .” Readers should be ready to be questing their core beliefs on science, since even the Introduction has Feywrabend’s quote “science has no special features that render it intrinsically superior to other branches of knowledge such as ancient myths or Vooodo”.
 

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理論概論寫得好其實很難,需要作者對學科內有史以來各類觀點的深入瞭解和客觀評估,加上作者自身的理論體系,為此教材類書的獨創性增色不少,避免了泛泛之 談。Chalmers從1976年編寫第一版科學哲學教材開始,至1998已更新到第三版。在科學學科內部日益走向專家化細分化的大環境下,第三版較第二 版完成了更大的轉變,由討論方法論轉向本體論,即因果律的根本驅動和科學實在論。又增入最新的貝氏定理與新實驗主義,雖然這兩種思潮的理論解說力因為其過 於貼近實踐操作而減弱。前者完全基於概率論,解釋了科學推論的一種性質與方法,卻給人隔靴搔癢淺嘗則止的感覺。後者則試圖將實驗作為一種獨立的知識,希冀 與理論性的普適論述劃清界限,在這個充分自足自洽的“生命體”內,實驗另一端僅導向具體法則,而非宏大假說。
  
  作者Chalmers曾是Popper的學生並深受其“證偽”思想影響,在前六章的書寫看得出來他對Popper學派批評實證主義和歸納主義 的承接。也是全書最明朗易懂的部分。再自然引入Kuhn和Lakatos對科學的結構性論述,則稍微拉遠了觀看科學實踐的距離,進行科學哲學的客觀建構。 此後,科學哲學傾向多元化甚至混沌,極端的例子如Feyerabend號稱“anything goes”的無政府主義態度。Feyerabend支持十九世紀哲學家Mill的自由論,提倡個人的全面教化以達至美好生活,為討論科學首次引入外在的人 性化的價值觀,甚至顛覆既有的科學論述,認為科學源自形而上的偏見和宗教需求,與巫術無大分別。潛臺詞為,科學不過是與其他類型平等的知識,也是一種意識 形態。不過Chalmers不惜筆墨大量談論這個與主流觀點格格不入的“異端”思想,正體現了“科學”的自我反思自我糾正功能。
  
  哲學探討對科學史實卻總是後設的,不支配,不影響,甚至不能緊隨常出常新的科學現象。如第一版的中文版序言,不得不承認,“我們始於迷惘,終 於更高水準的迷惘”。另外,科學哲學之所以存在,應該不是為了加強科學之範式建構,而是始於哲學自身孜孜不倦求其所以然的樸素本質。如此,便可對今日很多 冠以“科學”的名堂產生抗體。科學從來不會因借名而得到抬舉。
  
  L老師推薦此書為首部,行文標準,援例經典,既為入門,也提綱挈領。此後再讀其他幾本跨學科的專著,便知曉“What We Talk About When We Talk About Science”。。。
 

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