3.1.3 History of the Philosophy of Science

Newton’s reflecting telescope. From David Brewster (1855) Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, Vol. 1, Thomas Constable and Co., Edinburgh, p. 46, fig. 4.

Until the 18th and 19th centuries, there was no real distinction between scientist and philosopher, and many of the great scientist-philosophers of antiquity were also theologians (Explorable).
The ways in which scientific communities have understood the activity of science has changed over time. “The history of the philosophy of science shows the development of the underlying methodology and foundations of the scientific process, and shaped science, as we know it today.” This article is a broad survey beginning from ancient Greece going through the Arabic-Islamic world into contemporary times. This survey article introduces us to some of the biggest names in the philosophy of science through history including Aristotle, Ibn al-Haytham, Francis Bacon, Pierre Duhem, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and others.

Read: Philosophy of Science History // Explorable 


Guiding Questions:

  1. How did Plato and Aristotle conceptualize knowledge differently?
  2. In what forms of science can Plato’s influence continue to be seen?
  3. What contribution did Ibn-Sina make to the history of philosophy of science?
  4. Why does Francis Bacon hold so much importance in the history of philosophy of science?
  5. What is the hypothetico-deductive method? 
  6. During the twentieth century what sorts of divisions arose amongst the sciences? What led to these divisions?
  7. Do you think Professor Barseghyan would criticize the focus of the author of this article on the contributions of individual scientists? Why or why not?


Photo Credit: “Newton’s Reflecting Telescope.” Photo Credit: David Brewster, 1855, uploaded by Wikimedia Commons user Chetvorno. “The first reflecting telescope, built by British scientist Isaac Newton in 1668. It had a 6 in. aperture and magnified 40 times.” Public domain.