Faculty Books

Evidence, Explanation, and Realism: Essays in Philosophy of Science by Peter Achinstein

The essays in this volume address three fundamental questions in the philosophy of science: What is required for some fact to be evidence for a scientific hypothesis? What does it mean to say that a scientist or a theory explains a phenomenon? Should scientific theories that postulate “unobservable” entities such as electrons be construed realistically as aiming to correctly describe a world underlying what is directly observable, or should such theories be understood as aiming to correctly describe only the observable world?

Distinguished philosopher of science Peter Achinstein provides answers to each of these questions in essays written over a period of more than 40 years. The present volume brings together his important previously published essays, allowing the reader to confront some of the most basic and challenging issues in the philosophy of science, and to consider Achinstein’s many influential contributions to the solution of these issues.

He presents a theory of evidence that relates this concept to probability and explanation; a theory of explanation that relates this concept to an explaining act as well as to the different ways in which explanations are to be evaluated; and an empirical defense of scientific realism that invokes both the concept of evidence and that of explanation.

The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy

The 19th century is a period of stunning philosophical originality, characterized by radical engagement with the emerging human sciences. Often overshadowed by 20th-century philosophy, which sought to reject some of its central tenets, the philosophers of the 19th century have re-emerged as profoundly important figures.

The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy is an outstanding survey and assessment of the century as a whole. Divided into seven parts and including 30 chapters written by leading international scholars, the Companion examines and assesses the central topics, themes, and philosophers of the 19th century, presenting the first comprehensive picture of the period in a single volume:

  • German Idealism
  • philosophy as political action, including young Hegelians, Marx and Tocqueville
  • philosophy and subjectivity, including Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
  • scientific naturalism, including Darwinism, philosophy of race, experimental psychology and Neo-Kantianism
  • utilitarianism and British Idealism
  • American Idealism and Pragmatism
  • new directions in Mind and Logic, including Brentano, Frege and Husserl.

The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy is essential reading for students of philosophy, and for anyone interested in this period in related disciplines such as politics, history, literature and religion.

The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism, edited by Richard Bett

This volume offers a comprehensive survey of the main periods, schools, and individual proponents of scepticism in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The contributors examine the major developments chronologically and historically, ranging from the early antecedents of scepticism to the Pyrrhonist tradition. They address the central philosophical and interpretive problems surrounding the sceptics’ ideas on subjects including belief, action, and ethics. Finally, they explore the effects which these forms of scepticism had beyond the ancient period, and the ways in which ancient scepticism differs from scepticism as it has been understood since Descartes. The volume will serve as an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the subject for non-specialists, while also offering considerable depth and detail for more advanced readers.

Blind Obedience

There is considerable debate amongst philosophers as to the basic philosophical problem Wittgenstein is attempting to solve in Philosophical Investigations. In this bold and original work, Meredith Williams argues that it is the problem of “normative similarity.”

In Blind Obedience Williams demonstrates how Wittgenstein criticizes traditional, representationalist theories of language by employing the ‘master/novice’ distinction of the learner, arguing that this distinction is often overlooked but fundamental to understanding philosophical problems about mind and language.

The book not only provides revealing discussions of Wittgenstein’s corpus but also intricate analyses of the work of Brandom, Dummett, Frege, Sellars, Davidson, Cavell and others. These are usefully compared in a bid to better situate Wittgenstein’s non-intellectualist, non-theoretical approach and to highlight is unique features.

Sextus Empiricus: Against the Logicians, edited by Richard Bett

By far the most detailed surviving examination by any ancient Greek sceptic of epistemology and logic, this work critically reviews the pretensions of non-sceptical philosophers, to have discovered methods for determining the truth, either through direct observation or by inference from the observed to the unobserved. A fine example of the Pyrrhonist sceptical method at work, it also provides extensive information about the ideas of other Greek thinkers, which in many instances, are poorly preserved in other sources.

Scientific Evidence: Philosophical Theories and Applications

Physicists think they have discovered the top quark. Biologists believe in evolution. But what precisely constitutes evidence for such claims, and why? Scientists often disagree with one another over whether or to what extent some evidence counts in favor of a theory because they are operating with different concepts of scientific evidence. These concepts need to be critically explored. Peter Achinstein has gathered some prominent philosophers and historians of science for critical and lively discussions of both general questions about the meaning of evidence and specific ones about evidence for particular scientific theories.

Contributors: Peter Achinstein, The Johns Hopkins University; Steven Gimbel, Gettysburg College; Gary Hatfield, University of Pennsylvania; Frederick M. Kronz, University of Texas–Austin; Helen Longino, University of Minnesota; Deborah G. Mayo, Virginia Tech; Amy L. McLaughlin, Florida Atlantic University; John Norton, University of Pittsburgh; Lawrence M. Principe, The Johns Hopkins University; Richard Richards, University of Alabama; Alex Rosenberg, Duke University; Sherrilyn Roush, Rice University; Laura J. Snyder, St. Johns University; Kent Staley, St. Louis University.

Science Rules: A Historical Introduction to Scientific Methods

Is there a universal set of rules for discovering and testing scientific hypotheses? Since the birth of modern science, philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers have wrestled with this fundamental question of scientific practice. Efforts to devise rigorous methods for obtaining scientific knowledge include the twenty-one rules Descartes proposed in his Rules for the Direction of the Mind and the four rules of reasoning that begin the third book of Newton’s Principia, and continue today in debates over the very possibility of such rules. Bringing together key primary sources spanning almost four centuries, Science Rules introduces readers to scientific methods that have played a prominent role in the history of scientific practice.

Editor Peter Achinstein includes works by scientists and philosophers of science to offer a new perspective on the nature of scientific reasoning. For each of the methods discussed, he presents the original formulation of the method; selections written by a proponent of the method together with an application to a particular scientific example; and a critical analysis of the method that draws on historical and contemporary sources.

The methods included in this volume are Cartesian rationalism with an application to Descartes’ laws of motion; Newton’s inductivism and the law of gravity; two versions of hypothetico-deductivism—those of William Whewell and Karl Popper—and the nineteenth-century wave theory of light; Paul Feyerabend’s principle of proliferation and Thomas Kuhn’s views on scientific values, both of which deny that there are universal rules of method, with an application to Galileo’s tower argument. Included also is a famous nineteenth-century debate about scientific reasoning between the hypothetico-deductivist William Whewell and the inductivist John Stuart Mill; and an account of the realism-antirealism dispute about unobservables in science, with a consideration of Perrin’s argument for the existence of molecules in the early twentieth century.

The Book of Evidence

What is required for something to be evidence for a hypothesis?

In this fascinating, elegantly written work, distinguished philosopher of science Peter Achinstein explores this question, rejecting typical philosophical and statistical theories of evidence. He claims these theories are much too weak to give scientists what they want—a good reason to believe—and, in some cases, they furnish concepts that mistakenly make all evidential claims a priori.
Achinstein introduces four concepts of evidence, defines three of them by reference to “potential” evidence, and characterizes the latter using a novel epistemic interpretation of probability. The resulting theory is then applied to philosophical and historical issues. Solutions are provided to the “grue,” “ravens,” “lottery,” and “old-evidence” paradoxes, and to a series of questions. These include whether explanations or predictions furnish more evidential weight, whether individual hypotheses or entire theoretical systems can receive evidential support, what counts as a scientific discovery, and what sort of evidence is required for it. The historical questions include whether Jean Perrin had non-circular evidence for the existence of molecules, what type of evidence J. J. Thomson offered for the existence of the electron, and whether, as is usually supposed, he really discovered the electron. Achinstein proposes answers in terms of the concepts of evidence introduced.

As the premier book in the fabulous new series Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Science, this volume is essential for philosophers of science and historians of science, as well as for statisticians, scientists with philosophical interests, and anyone curious about scientific reasoning.

Pyrrho, His Antecedents, and His Legacy

Richard Bett presents a ground-breaking study of Pyrrho of Elis, who lived in the late fourth and early third centuries BC and is the supposed originator of Greek scepticism. In the absence of surviving works by Pyrrho, scholars have tended to treat his thought as essentially the same as the long subsequent sceptical tradition which styled itself “Pyrrhonism.” Bett argues, on the contrary, that Pyrrho’s philosophy was significantly different from this later tradition, and offers the first detailed account of that philosophy in this light. Bett considers why Pyrrho was adopted as the figurehead for that tradition. Bett also investigates the origins and antecedents of Pyrrho’s ideas; in particular, Plato is singled out as an important inspiration. The result is the first comprehensive picture of this key figure in the development of philosophy. The new claims that Bett puts forward have major implications for the history and interpretation of ancient Greek thought.

Wittgenstein, Mind and Meaning

Wittgenstein, Mind and Meaning offers a provocative re-reading of Wittgenstein’s later writings on language and mind, and explores the tensions between Wittgenstein’s ideas and contemporary cognitivist conceptions of the mental. This book addresses both Wittgenstein’s later works as well as contemporary issues in philosophy of mind. It provides fresh insight into the later Wittgenstein and raises vital questions about the foundations of cognitivism and its wider implications for psychology and cognitive science.