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x Introduction

these things are, how they fit and function together, and how (or if) it all adds up to
a way, perhaps the best way or the only way, of understanding nature. That’s the
goal of philosophy of science.
Science and philosophy have some important things in common. Different
sciences, like chemistry, geology, and biology, share a basic method. They differ in
what sort of thing, what aspect of nature, they study. And then, details in applying
the method will differ according to the demands of the topic. The sciences have
distinctive names, but they could be known as the science of this and the science of
that. Similarly, different aspects of philosophy have a basic method in common, a
shared form of analysis. They differ in what they study. There is philosophy of
science, philosophy of ethics (simply called ethics), philosophy of art, of mind, of
this and of that. In this way, philosophy is not all that different than science.
One significant difference between science and philosophy is that science is
often rewarding while philosophy often frustrates. This is because science
generally starts with what we don’t understand and explains it in terms of what we
do understand. Why do astronauts appear weightless? Well, you know about
centripetal forces and what holds the spaceship and its contents in orbit, so …
Philosophy, by contrast, often starts with what we do understand, or at least think
we understand, and reveals that it’s not as simple or as clear as we thought.
Everyone knows what knowledge is. That’s almost a self-fulfilling statement. And
yet one of the central concerns of philosophy is epistemology, the study of
knowledge itself.
Sometimes, though, science starts with what’s obvious and shows it to be
complicated. Ask a beginning physics student what they are studying and they are
likely to tell you they’ve spent a long time studying motion. As it should be,
according to Aristotle, the Fourth Century B.C. Greek philosopher and scientist
who claimed in the Physics that ‘‘Without understanding motion we could not
understand nature’’ (Leonardo da Vinci went even further, claiming that an
understanding of motion is not only necessary to understanding nature, as is
implied by Aristotle, but also sufficient. He said that, ‘‘To understand motion is to
understand nature.’’). But who doesn’t understand motion? A close look at the
concept and the evidence, though, shows details and fundamental properties that
are not at all obvious. It is exactly that sort of close look at a phenomenon that may
initially seem clear, in this case the phenomenon of science itself, that we will use
to understand the scientific method.
Our focus will be on just one of the many topics addressed by philosophy of
science. It is worth explicitly mentioning one of the topics to be skipped, scientific
realism. The question of realism asks whether the best scientific results show
theories to be true or, no less respectably, simply the most practical guides for
dealing with nature. A clear account of scientific method leads right up to this
question and prepares it for a clear debate. The difference between the
methodological work to be done here and the challenging issue of realism is a
difference between describing and evaluating science. Our job is to build the
model of how science works. Hopefully, that model can then serve as a starting
point for discussions about realism.