Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

 

Book Influences: Philosophy of Science - General

A Companion to the Philosophy of Science Newton-Smith (ed.) The Blackwell Companions are like a pretty good absolutely huge philosophy encyclopedia you can fortunately buy in parts. This volume has 81 articles of varying but generally high quality. From "axiomatization" to "Whewell", many fields, topics and individuals important to the philosophy of science are discussed. Some articles are surprisingly critical ("Berkeley"), some overlook key positions and problems ("Feminist accounts of science") but over-all, as brief referenced entries on each topic I have few major complaints. The only one I can think of is that there are few if any articles which pay attention to issues in philosophy of chemistry.
Emergence and Convergence: Qualitative Novelty and the Unity of Knowledge Bunge While some of the discussions of specific areas of purported emergence (or lack of same) or convergence (or lack of same) are hasty (computer science is a branch of applied math??? Sorry, my old teacher, that's not right.) the general theses and the over all "mission" are right on the money. Boundaries between intellectual fields (and hence, a fortiori, departments at universities and colleges) are often artificial at best and so our knowledge should reflect that. There is, after all, one world, which is not to say a "flat" world where everything is qualitatively identical. These principles are defended and their opponents skewered in this fine book. As usual, Bunge is not above a bit of humour: "the Prince of Darkness" makes a guest appearance as a villain. I was also astonished to see that Bunge had come across the work of Vic Stenger at last, after me mentioning him in passing many years ago. Convergence of ideas?
La Sémantique des théories physiques Leroux In this slim volume, the primary portions are a critical analysis of the positivist (logical empiricist) and structuralist (Sneed, etc.) view of the semantics of theories in physics. Along the way is a semi-articulated criticism of model theoretic-focused approaches and the Tarskian "orthodoxy". In the final chapter, Leroux begins to sketch out an alternative, suggesting that the problems with structuralism and positivism can be overcome with an intuitionistic basic logic. Next to no details are sketched and it is claimed that this will affect realistic interpretation, but only slightly. The first two chapters are thus clear and well presented; the third is disappointing.
Les Révolutions du Savoir: Théorie générale des ruptures épistémologiques Robert Freud, Piaget (!), Marx, Foucault, Bachelard, Carnap, Popper and Kuhn are some of the big players here in this rather unexplanatory history of the philosophy of science. Robert claims that he is not an economic determinist, yet a lot of work at the social level is done by Marx-type analysis. He must be given credit, however, by recognizing the ratioempiricist character of science and for suggesting the intelligible and novel thesis that the latest revolution in science (such as it is) has to do with the human sciences. (That this thesis is false is another story.) Alas, his adoption of Freud and Foucault is way too uncritical. Finally, from the back cover it sounded like the book would have Carnap and Popper thrown up against Foucault and Piaget directly (which sounded odd, but potentially interesting). Alas this is not really the case except sort of as almost an aside in the last chapter or two.
Logic of Scientific Discovery Popper See my amazon.com review of this classic.
Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy Polanyi Physical chemist and philosopher, Polanyi shows his Kantian roots right in the title of his book. He has a lot to say that is sensible and even groundbreaking (two examples: his discussion of tacit knowledge and the role of logic in inquiry). Unfortunately, the book is also marred by idealism and a co-commitment to a skepticism about evolutionary biology.
Philosopher Looks At Science Kemeny A fairly old work (though still 20th century!) book on the philosophy of science. The author's take on the question of determinism is very unusual. He claims to use the term the traditional way, but it seems that his view would be closer to Bunge's.
Philosophy of Science Danto and Morgenhesser (eds.) Another fairly old work in the philosophy of science, this time an edited collection of papers and exerpts by Newton, Boltzmann, Russell, Grünbaum and others.
Philosophy of Science, Volume 1: From Problem to Theory Bunge Vol. 1 of Bunge's two volume work on the general philosophy of science. Both are packed full of a comprehensive philosophy of science and exercises to further interest and research. Both are also unfortunately marred with what are probably the results of poor editing after an OCR job. (This is an updated edition of a work from 30 years earlier.)
Philosophy of Science, Volume 2: From Explanation to Justification Bunge Vol. 2 of Bunge's two volume work on the general philosophy of science. Both are packed full of a comprehensive philosophy of science and exercises to further interest and research. Both are also unfortunately marred with what are probably the results of poor editing after an OCR job. (This is an updated edition of a work from 30 years earlier.) This volume includes a chapter on the philosophy of technology.
Philosophy of Scientific Method Mill J. S. Mill is better known for his political philosophy and his ethics. He also wrote on the philosophy of science. This is an exerpt from that work.
Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings Wimsatt

This is a dense, long, and challenging book. But it is a good, provocative one, so it is well worth reading. The central thesis is that philosophy should be less concerned with what is "in principle" doable but instead focused on the practical. This is no narrow pragmatism; Wimsatt shows how this is compatible with realism and even recommended as a "realistic" realism. Lessons come from falsehoods and mistakes and yet we have a profound meliorism explored and explained. Wimsatt points out also that the focus on heuristics (which are not truth-guaranteeing) solves many problems. He does not mention it, but I am reminded of the remark of Turing's that there are theorems which almost show that something cannot be infallible and intelligent at once. The other work that this neat book reminds me of is the equally challenging Emergence and Convergence: Qualitative Novelty and the Unity of Knowledge. Wimsatt too is an emergentist - one I think Bunge would find largely congenial. Their metaphysics' seem superficially compatible (though, at least here, Wimsatt does not develop much beyond his own take on the "levels of reality" hypothesis). Bunge is, alas, nowhere mentioned. My only complaint is that because the book was created by stiching together essays, it is somewhat repetitive. (There is also an amusing error in the bibliography where Wimsatt does what I have wondered whether any philosopher would ever do: run the Churchlands together!)

Finally, potentially interested readers may also like to read Robert Richardson's review in NDPR.

Science and Technology Today MacKenzie (ed.) There is a lot of variability in these papers and exerpts, from the almost the worst of the "feminist critiques of science" to some Snow.
Sciences and the Humanities Jones Jones' proposal is a typical "romantic" one, and cuts off the sciences and the humanities from each other. In my view this is to the detriment of both. One of his concerns seems to be religion. But his antirealist attitude towards statements in the humanities seems to gut religions of their importance to believers: don't Christians hold that it is literally true that Jesus rose from the dead? This seems to be a strange way to "save religion" - by turning it into only poetry.
The Foundations of Science Poincaré This is a collection of: Science and Hypothesis, The Value of Science and Science and Method. For this collection I have to give two very different sorts of comments. The content is absolutely fascinating: Poincaré's very limited conventionalism includes a realist component, and his repudiation of platonism in mathematics is refreshing from a mathematician. It is also interesting to see a keen mind trying to make sense of many of the very many intellectual puzzles of the time. Alas, Poincaré was not to live to see these more or less resolved. However, this volume, in essence a bound collection of photocopies is horrible. It repeats a few pages in places and also, worse still, leaves some out. I cannot really recommend it at all for those reasons.
The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Explanation Nagel Nagel's time-honoured classic. Here he treats the relationship between common sense and science, the nature of explanation, the nature of theories and the nature of geometry. He also tackles questions in historiography and the social sciences and other topics.
The Unnatural Nature of Science: Why Science Does Not Make (Common) Sense Wolpert A short little book on the the general nature of science. A lot of the discussion proceeds by historical example and also illustrating what science is not, most notably craft and technology (in my terminology).

Finished with this section? Go back to the list of book subjects here.