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Science and the Quest for Meaning

Alfred I. Tauber

Publication Year: 2009

In this deeply thoughtful exploration, Alfred Tauber, a practicing scientist and highly regarded philosopher, eloquently traces the history of the philosophy of science, seeking in the end to place science within the humanistic context from which it originated. Avoiding the dogmatism that has defined both extremes in the recent “Science Wars” and presenting a conception of reason that lifts the discussion out of the interminable debates about objectivity and neutrality, Tauber offers a way of understanding science as an evolving relationship between facts and the values that govern their discovery and applications. This timely philosophy of science presents a centrist but highly consequently view, wherein “truth” and “objectivity” can function as working ideals and serve as pragmatic tools within the sociological context in which they reside. For if the humanization of science is to reach completion, it must reveal not only the meaning it receives from its social and cultural settings but also that which it lends to them.

Packed with well-chosen case studies, Science and the Quest for Meaning is a trust-worthy and engaging introduction to the history of, and the current debate surrounding, the philosophy of science.

Published by: Baylor University Press

front cover

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pp. 1



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pp. 8

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pp. 10-12

This book joins the two sides of the divide between science and the humanities. I have arrived at my own perspective from two vocations. As a research physician, I spent twenty years of my career engaged in investigations of the biochemistry of the inflammatory response. That work spanned the fields of free-radical chemistry, protein chemistry, cell...

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pp. 14-32

Growing up in the Sputnik era during the 1950s, I enjoyed what appears now to have been a unique education. Science assumed an importance hitherto unimagined prior to the Soviet challenge, and to prepare the country for possible assault, beside air raid simulations, I studied “new math” and was enrolled in advanced...

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1-What Is Science?

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pp. 34-61

How are we to understand science? I mean, what is science? Dictionaries offer succinct answers. For instance, my unabridged tome offers five definitions, each of which refers to knowledge: knowledge as opposed to ignorance, knowledge as a systematic account of nature, knowledge directed toward a specific object or phenomenon, knowledge obtained ...

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2-Nineteenth-century Positivism

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pp. 62-88

Beyond the appalling scientific illiteracy of the American public resides a profound ignorance about the nature of scientific institutions and the political infrastructure of research, not to speak of a lack of understanding of what constitutes contemporary scientific method, theory construction, and all the rest that goes into...

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3-The Fall of Positivism

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pp. 90-121

During the last century, global characterizations of science fell into three general groupings. The first cluster concerned itself with the placement of science within a general philosophical context, which meant interpreting the methods, products, and intellectual structure of science as part of a comprehensive epistemology....

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4-The Science Wars

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pp. 122-145

If knowledge is social, if language is delimiting, if historical and social factors mold the scientific enterprise, what in the meeting of the “mind” and “nature” defines the real? Or more modestly, what are the epistemological boundaries of science in the...

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5-Science in Its Socio-political Contexts

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pp. 146-176

Scientific knowledge is neither value-free nor as “neutral” as Weber had hoped (see chapter 2), for the choice of investigation, the resources allocated to the endeavor, and the uses to which the knowledge is put, represents a goal-directed venture. Saturated with social purpose, the application of scientific findings informs decision-making affecting social ...

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pp. 178-199

We began this essay characterizing science as an epistemology and outlining its place in contemporary American culture. In the clash of metaphysical views accentuated by the Dover case about intelligent design, a courtroom battle waged over an argument concerning reason, which was settled by law, not compromise...


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pp. 200-235


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pp. 236-259


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pp. 260-268

back cover

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pp. 269

E-ISBN-13: 9781602585089
E-ISBN-10: 1602585083
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602582101
Print-ISBN-10: 1602582106

Page Count: 267
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1