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Early Readings in the Philosophy of Science


From one point of view, philosophy of science is a comparatively young field. Most of the work typically placed under this heading belongs to the last 100 years of scholarship. But from another perspective, philosophy and science have accompanied each other from the earliest periods of recorded history. While the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution are often cited as the starting points for modern science, science has its roots in far older philosophical questions of ontology—What is reality?—and epistemology—What is knowledge? For millenia, philosophers have been speculating about the nature of the world we live in and how we can know anything about it. Indeed, the line between scientist and philosopher is often quite blurry.

This anthology provides a selection of the works which have contributed to the development of the philosophy of science from the time before "Philosophy of Science" became an academic specialty. From the Classical Era, we have selections from Plato and Aristotle to illustrate the basic divide between idealist and observationist approaches to nature. The Renaissance provides the works of Francis Bacon and his turn to inductive reasoning and experimentation. The Enlightenment gives us the debate between Newton and Leibniz, great thinkers and scientists with fundamentally opposing interpretations of reality. Finally, we look to the Modern era and Einstein, whose complex theories on the nature of time and space have profoundly impacted scientists and philosophers alike.

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Albrecht Dürer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Note on the Text

The selections in this e-book are public domain texts. Where possible, links have been provided to the source materials in publicly accessible archives. Each text is also accompanied by links to selected online resources to enhance your understanding of the original work. The book is periodically updated to maintain the currency of these materials.

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