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 I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, 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 - Relativism and its Critics

A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science Koertge (ed.) See my review.
Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction and Critical Theory Norris Norris has to be about the only person in the world who claims that people have misunderstood Derrida. Unfortunately also, he writes in the same turgid style - though with less gobbledigook. If one can plow through that, there are sensible, patient (but critical) views on the postmodern claptrap that passes for scholarship in many fields.
Beyond the Hoax Sokal This is a collection of papers by the physicist who (IMO successfully) experimented with cultural studies of science, to the latter's partial discredit. Included are papers discussing the philosophy of science, the relationship between science and religion, and much more. Also funny, in a sad sort of way, is an annotated copy of his famous parody, explaining all the jokes and discussing more what Sokal actually holds in certain cases. A bit repetitive, but the chapter on postmodernism and pseudoscience is worth passing along to all practictioners of "alternative medicine", for example.
Critical Scientific Realism Niiniluoto A sustained defense of scientific realism against its many critics. Along the way a taxonomy of various critics is developed, which in itself is a very useful contribution to the literature. I agree with the position; however, I am not sure using probability theory in the way Niiniluoto does is helpful. Nevertheless, he has picked up on Bunge's point about using partial (or approximate) truth to bolster realism. Also, for the sake of accuracy a quibble about what is otherwise a good book. At one point he says that Bunge believes theories have truth values: he doesn't, except as a fashion de parler. Rather, their individual propositions do. (I do not know whether he would take a stand on the infinitary conjunction necessary to express any factual theory as a single hypothesis.) This does not affect Niiniluoto's point, but it does distinguish Bunge's views from the camp he's placed in here. Over all, however, a good book, but not one which would be easy or appeal to most non-philosophers (and even then ...).
Defending science--within reason : between scientism and cynicism Haack Haack's takedown of the postmodernists is, as usual, right on the money. Her analysis of the state of rhetoric of science is particularly illuminating. However, her positive account of science suffers from two flaws. First, those of us who are trained in the scientific way of thinking do not often see how differently we think than others, and thus are inclined to think that science is refined common sense. This, I believe, is a serious error. Secondly, Haack thinks there is no scientific method, when she does not (like many others who agree with her) consider the possibility of what might be called a metamethod. I am not attached to any one particular presentation of such, but a good starting point is that presented in Bunge's Finding Philosophy in Social Science. (He calls it simply method - I think it is useful to conceptualize it at one level above specific methods.)
Flight from Science and Reason Gross, Levitt and Lewis (eds.) A edited collection of papers from the "science wars". As is to be expected, these range in quality and interest. Since many were delivered orally at a conference, they read that way. Of particular note is Stephen Cole's demolishing of Bruno Latour and Robin Lane Fox explaining why a minimum of falsifiability is necessary for all inquiry.
Intellectual Impostures Sokal and Bricmont Sokal explains his famous hoax and writes two books in one about the two theses involved in its motivation.
No Easy Answers: Science and the Pursuit of Knowledge Franklin Paul Bartha once asked me what I thought the relationship between philosophy of science and history of science should be. I told him I didn't really know, except in vague generalities. This book illustrates, to some extent, one possible answer to Paul's question. Franklin's little book consists of several historical case studies from, mainly from physics, to illustrate in each case how a part of "the epistemology of science" operates. Central to the picture is the role of experiment, though as Franklin correctly points out, experiments are really no more a concession to an empiricist than theory is to a rationalist - both go together. Along the way, implicit (and semi-explicit) criticism of nonrealist, etc. attitudes towards science (e.g. H. Collins, B. van Fraassen) are criticized. While one can, in my view, tease out more criticism of these views from the cases presented, Franklin does not do so. A shame. Also a shame is (although different cases would be needed) a neglect of the nonepistemological attributes of science. here matters would be more controversial but potentially also interesting. Nevertheless, the book is a good reference (as far as it goes) and is clear and a quite easy read for those who have a passing familiarity with physics. (For those who don't, the glossary will help, but I do not think it will be sufficient.)
Prometheus Bedevilled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture Levitt See my review.
Science in a Democratic Society Kitcher A sequel to Science, Truth and Democracy (STaD - see below). While there is a lot that is sensible in this book, joining Kitcher's own "well ordered science" with the notion of a deliberative poll, some key points center around an idealized agent. I agree that such an agent will choose the scientifically correct way in various politically controversial areas, but I'm not sure that Kitcher can claim that in the framework presented without begging the question. Moreover, the deliberative poll idea is great when it comes to decide which way (if any) to apply Bunge's "rule based on law" principle, but the problem of STaD about who will be affected by basic research is still open. Once again, however, Kitcher is pretty close to pioneering a field, so the objections I have, while crucial, are also in a way forgivable. May someone else (a future me?) advance the state of the art.
Science, Truth, and Democracy Kitcher See my review.
Scientific Ethos Richardson and Segal (eds)   Course pack for the course that led to my own contributions to the "science wars."
The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions Kitcher

(See also my review, written 11+ years before this comment.)

This is a careful historical-philosophical study of the progressiveness of science, including analysis of many key case studies (like the discovery of oxygen and rejection of phlogiston; the Galilean debates, etc.) Kitcher's volume, although almost now 20 years old, is still worth reading. I have not changed my over all opinion since I first read it at Brad Wray's recommendation, but I would add that the social modelling material (while somewhat dubious because of game theory's limitations) has more insight than I remembered, but I also remember the book as being more critical of the "antiscience" sociologists and historians of science. This is both a good point and a bad point. For the good, the tone is less in danger of poisoning the well; for the worse I think now Kitcher lets some of them off too easily. But, like I thought over a decade ago, this book is a masterpiece, and recommended to anyone who has any interest at all in the history or philosophy of science.

The Sokal Hoax Lingua Franca A funny (and sad) academic spoof and its consequences. Includes Sokal's original paper and commentary, round table discussions, replies from Sokal to his critics and more.

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