Article

Scientific Progress

Ilkka Niiniluoto

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0055
Scientific Progress

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Science is the systematic pursuit of new knowledge by using critical methods of inquiry. Scientists constitute a community of investigators jointly engaged in research to produce knowledge about nature, humanity, culture, and society. The notion of science may thus refer to a social institution, the researchers, the research process, the methods of inquiry, and scientific knowledge. Developments and changes in all of these aspects of science are studied by the history of science. Sociologists of science are especially interested in the professional status of the scientists and their academic institutions, the internal norms of the scientific community, forms of scientific communication, and the economics and funding systems of scientific research. Multidisciplinary science studies illuminate the interaction between science and society, especially the ways scientific advances have brought about social progress by improved technologies, economic prosperity, quality of life, and justice in society. Science education is concerned with the increased skill and expertise of the scientists. Methodology looks at the development of new methods and tools of research, such as the refinement of scientific instruments, techniques of experimentation, and statistical and computational methods. Philosophy of science analyzes science from a cognitive perspective as an attempt to improve and increase scientific knowledge. In particular, axiological studies discuss the aims of scientific inquiry. Logic and epistemology study the proper ways of scientific thinking, argumentation, and inference. The language of science and its relations to reality, observation, and theory; explanation and prediction; and patterns of scientific change belong to the main themes of general philosophy of science. Philosophical studies may also focus on key issues about special scientific disciplines, such as physics, biology, psychology, and economics. While the notion of scientific progress in the broad sense could cover improvements in all of these aspects of science, it is customary to restrict this title to advances of science in terms of its success in knowledge seeking. In this sense, scientific progress is a fundamental issue that has been actively debated within the philosophy of science since the 1960s. The task of philosophical analysis is to consider alternative answers to the conceptual or normative question: What is meant by improvement or progress in science? The definition of progress leads to the methodological question about indicators of progress: How can we recognize progressive developments in science? With these tools one can then study the factual question: To what extent and in which respects has science been progressive?

Article.  10588 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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