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Understanding Philosophy of Science [Paperback]

James Ladyman
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 29 2001 0415221579 978-0415221573 1
Few can imagine a world without telephones or televisions; many depend on computers and the Internet as part of daily life. Without scientific theory, these developments would not have been possible.

In this exceptionally clear and engaging introduction to philosophy of science, James Ladyman explores the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. He discusses whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, and considers in detail the debate between realists and antirealists about the extent of scientific knowledge. Along the way, central topics in philosophy of science, such as the demarcation of science from non-science, induction, confirmation and falsification, the relationship between theory and observation and relativism are all addressed. Important and complex current debates over underdetermination, inference to the best explaination and the implications of radical theory change are clarified and clearly explained for those new to the subject.

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Review

'An excellent introduction to philosophy of science that can be recommended as a starting point to the general reader... The writing is exceptionally clear and the text is enlivened by periodic snippets of dialogue between enthusiastic science lover Alice and her more sceptical friend Thomas.' - Network, 2002

'I have no reservations in recomnmending [it] as the ideal introductory volume for anyone wishing to learn more about philosophy of science' - Philosophers Magazine

'Amongst the many introductory books on philosophy of science this one stands out in two ways: Ladyman writes very clearly about philosophical issues and problems and he tries more than most philosophers do to explain why they deserve the attention of science students. He does an excellent job of introducing key philosophical problems to students who are unlikely to be taking other philosophy courses.' - Philosophical Books

'His approach is balanced throughout ... a success on many levels ... Particularly impressive in this book is the effortless way that Ladyman introduces the ideas of active, contemporary philosophers of science ... Few books of this kind will contain ideas as up to date.' - Mind

About the Author

James Ladyman is Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Bristol

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Our starting point is the desire to arbitrate the following dispute that arises when Alice, who has been reading a Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, is trying to explain the exciting things she has learned about the Big Bang and the history of the universe to her friend Thomas. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not good enough... May 24 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
First things first: This is not a bad book. It approaches the philosophy of science in very general terms: Ladyman's terms are the layman's term, and I mean this as a compliment. But the book has also some serious flaws: It doesn't go into nearly enough detail to make it a useful textbook at university level; it is probably aimed at first-year students or high-school seniors who aren't quite sure what all this buzz about philosophy of science is about. It is difficult to imagine this book as the basis of a solid course in philosophy of science -- partly because the presentation is heavily biased by the author's main (research) interests. There are some original elements, but even those do not convince me that this book is better than any of the -- mostly excellent! -- introductions available, e.g. by Bird or Rosenberg. Also, the suggestions for "further reading" are of marginal usefulness, which after reading the book leaves one at a bit of a loss where to continue. Any serious reader would be better off investing into a good anthology, such as the Curd/Cover anthology "Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues", which also includes many good introductory chapters. Finally, there should be a ban on (supposedly funny or enlightening) dialogues with marginal relevance to the argument -- and more specifically a ban on calling the fictional discussants "Alice" and "Thomas" (for obvious reasons...)
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1.0 out of 5 stars Psuedo-philosophy Oct. 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This text is hardly a survey of the philosophy of science. There is much inconsistency and personal bias in the presentation of ideas in philosophy of science which leads me to think it was written by graduate students. In particular, Ladymans presentation of Kuhns philosophy is problematic.
I hope the second edition shows more open mindedness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging, thought-provoking read. Nov. 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is great introduction to the key issues that bother philosophers of science today - Ladyman has managed to really bring the subject alive.
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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Realism vs. Antirealism Nov. 5 2009
By Massimo Pigliucci - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
James Ladyman's book is an excellent introduction to philosophy of science, though at times (especially in the latter part of the book) it becomes too sophisticated for a lower division course. Still, Ladyman covers the basics and then some using a clear style that engages the reader, bringing her gradually closer to some deep questions about the nature of science. The book starts with the standard topics of induction (and the corresponding problem pointed out by David Hume), moving to Popper's falsificationism, originally proposed as a solution to the problem of justification of inductive inference. After having explained why falsificationism in turn didn't work very well, Ladyman proceeds to Kuhn and the idea of paradigm shifts in the history of science. The difficult part comes in the second section, which is entirely devoted to the still ongoing debate between realists and antirealists in science. The reader is slowly but surely walked through increasingly complex rebuttals and counter-rebuttals articulated by major players in this high-level intellectual dispute, encountering fundamental concepts in modern philosophy of science throughout the ride. We learn about the underdetermination of theories by data, inference to the best explanation, constructive empiricism, the Duhem-Quine thesis and theories of explanation. The reader never gets to a final answer, which of course is not the point, but with a bit of effort it should be possible to follow Ladyman all the way to the end. The last two short sections, on idealisation and structural realism, are a bit too short to be effective; they should be either cut out or expanded in future editions. Still, I'm planning to use this book next semester in a 300-level class on philosophy of science, and I'm looking forward to the puzzled reactions of my students when they'll begin to appreciate how little we understand about how science works.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent introduction Nov. 23 2007
By Pedro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an introductory book, and as to be evaluated as such. Thus it is nonsense to say "Don't read this; read Popper, Duhem, etc. instead". And as an introduction to the philosophy of science this book is great, because it does what it is supposed to do: it covers most of the main issues, and it discusses the main theories in a very clear and structured way.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction Nov. 1 2004
By Nick J. Talbot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a more than adequate introduction to the subject, clearly written, sensibly structured and highly enjoyable. Philosophers frequently underestimate the degree to which the subject can be daunting even to the bright and enthusiastic beginner, and any introductory text must find a balance between thoroughness and accessibility. Ladyman's book does just that.
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good intro to philosophy of science Nov. 2 2012
By Treovr Youngquist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not a book for leisure, but it makes an excellent textbook for an introduction course on philosophy of science. In a nutshell, Ladyman can be a bit wordy, but this book accomplishes its goal of making philosophy of science easier to understand without simplifying anything. If I were a professor teaching a course of philosophy of science, I would definitely make this a required text.
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear writing is worth the price Dec 27 2011
By A. Omelianchuk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I liked Ladyman's book. The clarity of its chapters are worth the price. Not many books written for the purpose of introducing the reader to a complex subject matter succeed in their task. This one does. Those that expect it to be a definitive treatment of whatever subject it touches on are reading it wrongly. Ladyman brings the reader through the foggy marshes of Bas van Fraasen's anti-realism, Putnam's 'no-miracles' argument, Hume's hang ups with induction, and Lipton's love for 'lovely' explanations being guides to likely explanations. The chapters come in at a reasonable length, and end with a helpful 'further reading' section anyone with a good library can use to their advantage. Much of the book is dedicated to the realist v. anti-realist problem, but that is a key problem in philosophy of science. Those who have their minds made up about this ought to look elsewhere, but that does not detract from the value of reading this clearly written book.
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