Two Types of Science

Colin McGinn

in Basic Structures of Reality

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199841103
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919529 | DOI:
Two Types of Science

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The natural taxonomy of the empirical sciences would break the sciences down into three basic groups: the physical sciences (physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, metallurgy), the biological sciences (zoology, botany, genetics, paleontology, molecular biology, physiology), and the psychological sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, maybe economics). Physics is interested in, for instance, electrical and magnetic force; biology will inquire into the function (and functioning) of, for exdample, as the heart; and psychology will deal with such things as visual perception. These more specific concepts—electromagnetic force, the heart, and vision—illustrate the region of empirical reality the science in question is concerned to understand. They are the kinds of concept that the relevant science is organized around. This chapter focuses on the nature of these concepts as cognitive entities, and what their cognitive nature tells us about the sciences that employ them. Specifically, it is interested in what kind of knowledge is possessed when these concepts are deployed. The chapter proposes that two very different kinds of knowledge are possessed—one kind in the physical sciences (remote knowledge), another in the biological and psychological sciences (intimate knowledge).

Keywords: physical sciences; biological sciences; remote knowledge; intimate knowledge

Chapter.  13330 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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