Styles of Knowing
A New History of Science from Ancient Times to the Present
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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This book has its origin in the former Department of Science Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam. In 1993, a fairly small group of enthusiastic instructors developed a new degree program. When we decided who would teach what subjects, I was very pleased to get the history of science. Soon afterward, Alistair Crombie published his three-volume work called Styles of Scientific Thinking. ...
1. Introduction: The SIx Styles of Knowing
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A style of scientific knowing is more than a method of scientific practice. This book differentiates between six styles: the deductive (in which science is built on first principles), the experimental, the hypothetical-analogical, the taxonomic, the statistical, and the evolutionary. Each of these styles has its own criterion for good science, the proper way of arriving at “the truth.” ...
2. The Deductive Style of Science
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The ancient Greeks established the concept that scientific explanation, in the ideal case, means inferring or deducing a natural phenomenon from a higher-order principle. Even today, deduction is the most important form of scientific explanation and is central to our image of good, fundamental science. In the twentieth century, some philosophers of science declared that the one true scientific method was a variant of this Greek form of deductive reasoning: the so-called hypothetico-deductive (or hypothetical-deductive) model. ...
3. The Deductive Style in a Christian Context
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For a very long time, deductive explanation of natural phenomena remained the gold standard in scientific inquiry. This standard was tied up with the very definition of science. Thomas Aquinas said that scientia was the knowledge of eternal and necessary truths (from which knowledge of more specific natural phenomena could be deduced). Whatever could not be proved was opinio, a very broad category (ever broader, in fact, as time went on). ...
4. From Scholar to Virtuoso: The Renaissance Origins of the Experimental Style
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Aristotle made observations, but did not perform experiments. Archimedes performed experiments, but kept quiet about them, at least in his formal arguments. In Greek and Roman antiquity, experiment was not regarded as a valid path to knowledge. Experimentation, generally in the form of trial and error, was the province of the arts and crafts, and of engineering. Science studied nature, which was understood to exclude human intervention. ...
5. The Experimental Style II: The Skeptics and Their Opponents
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The final Greek philosopher that Renaissance humanists reclaimed for the Western tradition was Sextus Empiricus. We do not know much about him; he lived around AD 180 and was a disciple of Pyrrhon, the great Skeptic of the ancient world. Sextus probably did not attract a great deal of notice during his life, since there were other philosophers with similar views. Coincidentally, however, he is the only radical Skeptic whose writings have survived. ...
6. The Experimental Style III: Alchemy and the New Sciences
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Surveying the whole range of seventeenth-century sciences, we can identify two broad categories. Thomas Kuhn called the first group—mathematics, astronomy, harmonics, optics, and statics—the classical sciences because of their roots in classical antiquity. A new group of sciences had joined them, including metallurgy, magnetism, chemistry (“chymistry”), and the study of heat. Kuhn called these Baconian, after the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon.1
7. The Hypothetical Style: Analogies between Nature and Technology
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In the Middle Ages, there was a well-known theological argument that man will never be able to understand nature, because nature was created by God, and man cannot fathom God’s purposes. But in the domain of technology, Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus) wrote in 1450, man is a “second god.”1 In other words, what man makes himself, he can understand completely. ...
8. The Taxonomic Style
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Of all the styles of science, the taxonomic is the least respected. A taxonomy is an arrangement of facts, things, or entities on the basis of a comparative method. It brings order, but only a provisional order, because it lacks a prior theoretical basis—or at least, this has been the dominant belief for the past hundred years. If any foundation is available for a taxonomic system, then according to the usual line of argument, it is not a product of the taxonomy itself...
9. Statistical Analysis as a Style of Science
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Rather than defining exactly what statistics is, it is easier to say what statistics is about: namely, groups of entities (“populations” in modern statistical parlance). Those entities can be voters, or recruits, or observations. Statistics does not deal in individual cases, but in multitudes of individuals, preferably all more or less of the same kind. ...
10. The Evolutionary Style
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Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859—a very late date, in at least two respects. He had arrived back in England in 1836 from a five-year voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle. Upon his return, he immediately began to flesh out the ideas in his notebooks, and he wrote up his theory of evolution the following year. But it took Darwin more than twenty years to go through his notes and write his book. ...
11. Science in the Twentieth Century
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One might not expect a hierarchy to exist for the six styles of knowing, since it is not as if any one style forms the foundation for any of the others. Yet through much of the twentieth century, there was, in fact, a hierarchy of styles, with the deductive style at the apex. This bolstered the status of physics as standing at the apex of the disciplines.1 ...
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Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2011