Here is an idea that just might save the world. It is that science, properly understood, provides us with the methodological key to the salvation of humanity. A version of this idea can be found in the works of Karl Popper. Famously, Popper argued that science cannot verify theories but can only refute them, and this is how science makes progress. Scientists are forced to think up something better, and it is this, according to Popper, that drives science forward.
But Nicholas Maxwell finds a flaw in this line of argument. Physicists only ever accept theories that are unified – theories that depict the same laws applying to the range of phenomena to which the theory applies – even though many other empirically more successful disunified theories are always available. This means that science makes a questionable assumption about the universe, namely that all disunified theories are false. Without some such presupposition as this, the whole empirical method of science breaks down.
By proposing a new conception of scientific methodology, which can be applied to all worthwhile human endeavours with problematic aims, Maxwell argues for a revolution in academic inquiry to help humanity make progress towards a better, more civilized and enlightened world.Praise for Karl Popper, Science and Enightenment
‘Maxwell has provided general philosophy of science with a book that is notably clear, earnestly written, passionate, and stunningly stimulating… a book with a panoply of exciting ideas and some relevance for almost anyone working in academia.'
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Nicholas Maxwell has devoted much of his working life to arguing that we need to bring about a revolution in academia so that it seeks and promotes wisdom and does not just acquire knowledge. He has published eight books on this theme, including How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World (2014) and In Praise of Natural Philosophy (2017). For 30 years he taught philosophy of science at University College London, where he is now Emeritus Reader. For more about his work, see www.ucl.ac.uk/from-knowledge-to-wisdom.
Prologue: An idea to help save the world
1. Karl Raimund Popper
2. Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and aim-oriented empiricism
3. Einstein, aim-oriented empiricism, and the discovery of special and general relativity
4. Non-empirical requirements scientific theories must satisfy: simplicity, unity, explanation, beauty
5. Scientific metaphysics
6. Comprehensibility rather than beauty
7. A mug’s game? Solving the problem of induction with metaphysical presuppositions
8. Does probabilism solve the great quantum mystery?
9. Science, reason, knowledge and wisdom: a critique of specialism
10. Karl Popper and the Enlightenment Programme
‘Maxwell has provided
general philosophy of science with a book that is notably clear, earnestly
written, passionate, and stunningly stimulating… a book with a panoply of
exciting ideas and some relevance for almost anyone working in academia.'
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Format: Open Access PDF
Publication: September 26, 2017