Top 2016 Philosophy of Science Books

These are my top twenty five philosophy of science books published in 2016. As usual with philosophy, I don’t recommend based on agreement, but on interest. Topics include causal inference, representation and visualisation, the limits of science, and many biology-specific philosophical issues. YMMV, and they are not ranked in any way. Included is the text blurb; personal review available on request!

Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Evolution; Ecology; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History.

  • Scientists have always attempted to explain the world in terms of a few unifying principles. In the fifth century B.C. Democritus boldly claimed that reality is simply a collection of indivisible and eternal parts or atoms. Over the centuries his doctrine has remained a landmark, and much progress in physics is due to its distinction between subjective perception and objective reality. This book discusses theory reduction in physics, which states that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts: the properties of things are directly determined by their constituent parts. Reductionism deals with the relation between different theories that address different levels of reality, and uses extrapolations to apply that relation in different sciences. Reality shows a complex structure of connections, and the dream of a unified interpretation of all phenomena in several simple laws continues to attract anyone with genuine philosophical and scientific interests. If the most radical reductionist point of view is correct, the relationship between disciplines is strictly inclusive: chemistry becomes physics, biology becomes chemistry, and so on. Eventually, only one science, indeed just a single theory, would survive, with all others merging in the Theory of Everything. Is the current coexistence of different sciences a mere historical venture which will end when the Theory of Everything has been established? Can there be a unified description of nature?

  • This work puts forth a new point of view which allows researchers to define in detail the concept of evolution. To create this conceptual definition, the text applies a stringent object-based focus. With this focus, the editor has been able to develop an object-based pattern of evolution at the smallest scale. Subsequently, this smallest scale pattern is used as an innovative basis for generalizations. These generalizations create links between biological Darwinism and generalized Darwinism. The object-based approach that was used to suggest innovations in the field of Darwinian evolution also allowed for contributions to other topics, such as major evolutionary transitions theory, the definition of life and the relationships between evolution, self-organization and thermodynamics.

  • This book analyzes Bas van Fraassen’s characterization of representation and models in science. In this regard, it presents the philosophical coordinates of his approach and pays attention to his structural empiricism as a framework for his views on scientific representations and models. These are developed here through two new contributions made by van Fraassen. In addition, there are analyses of the relation between models and reality in his approach, where the complexity of this conception is considered in detail. Furthermore, there is an examination of scientific explanation and epistemic values judgments. This volume includes a wealth of bibliographical information on his philosophy and relevant philosophical issues.

  • Many of the concepts and terminology surrounding modern causal inference can be quite intimidating to the novice. Judea Pearl presents a book ideal for beginners in statistics, providing a comprehensive introduction to the field of causality. Examples from classical statistics are presented throughout to demonstrate the need for causality in resolving decision-making dilemmas posed by data. Causal methods are also compared to traditional statistical methods, whilst questions are provided at the end of each section to aid student learning.

  • Grand debates over reduction and emergence are playing out across the sciences, but these debates have reached a stalemate, with both sides declaring victory on empirical grounds. In this book, Carl Gillett provides new theoretical frameworks with which to understand these debates, illuminating both the novel positions of scientific reductionists and emergentists and the recent empirical advances that drive these new views. Gillett also highlights the flaws in existing philosophical frameworks and reorients the discussion to reflect the new scientific advances and issues, including the nature of ‘parts’ and ‘wholes’, the character of aggregation, and thus the continuity of nature itself. Most importantly, Gillett shows how disputes about concrete scientific cases are empirically resolvable and hence how we can break the scientific stalemate. Including a detailed glossary of key terms, this volume will be valuable for researchers and advanced students of the philosophy of science and metaphysics, and scientific researchers working in the area.

  • The philosophy of chemistry has emerged in recent years as a new and autonomous field within the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. With the development of this new discipline, Eric Scerri and Grant Fisher’s The Philosophy of Chemistry is a timely and definitive guide to all current thought in this field. This edited volume will serve to map out the distinctive features of the field and its connections to the philosophies of the natural sciences and general philosophy of science more broadly. It will be a reference for students and professional alike.

  • This edition of Charles Coulston Gillispie’s landmark book introduces a new generation of readers to his provocative and enlightening account of the advancement of scientific thought over the course of four centuries. Since the original publication of The Edge of Objectivity, historians of science have focused increasingly on the social context of science rather than its internal dynamics, and they have frequently viewed science more as a threatening instance of power than as an accumulation of knowledge. Nevertheless, Gillispie’s book remains a sophisticated, fast-moving, idiosyncratic account of the development of scientific ideas over four hundred years, by one of the founding intellects in the history of science.

  • Patterns of explanation in biology have long been recognized as different from those deployed in other scientific disciplines, especially that of physics. Celebrating the diversity of interpretative models found in biology, this volume details their varying types as well as explaining their relationships to one another. It covers the key differentials with other sciences in the nature of explanation, such as the existence in biology of varieties unheard of in the physical sciences, such as teleological, evolutionary and even functional explanations.

  • This book extends Leonardo da Vinci’s vision of painting to issues of mathematics and encourages the reader to see science as an art. It restores a visual dimension to mathematical sciences.

  • What makes a good experiment? Although experimental evidence plays an essential role in science, as Franklin argues, there is no algorithm or simple set of criteria for ranking or evaluating good experiments, and therefore no definitive answer to the question. Experiments can, in fact, be good in any number of ways: conceptually good, methodologically good, technically good, and pedagogically important. And perfection is not a requirement: even experiments with incorrect results can be good, though they must, he argues, be methodologically good, providing good reasons for belief in their results. Franklin revisits the same important question he posed in his 1981 article in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, when it was generally believed that the only significant role of experiment in science was to test theories. But experiments can actually play a lot of different roles in science—they can, for example, investigate a subject for which a theory does not exist, help to articulate an existing theory, call for a new theory, or correct incorrect or misinterpreted results. This book provides details of good experiments, with examples from physics and biology, illustrating the various ways they can be good and the different roles they can play.

  • Limits of Science?

    by John Beerbower [FastPencil Publishing, Paperback]
    Price: $48.49 £35.96 EUR 44,19 EUR 42,37 EUR 41,05 EUR 79,00 CDN$ 54.51

  • A deeply skeptical and incisively analytical examination of exceptional breadth, this book explores the range of what we call the sciences, revealing the important things that we do not know about nearly everything that matters.

  • losopher, physicist, and anarchist Paul Feyerabend was one of the most unconventional scholars of his time. His book Against Method has become a modern classic. Yet it is not well known that Feyerabend spent many years working on a philosophy of nature that was intended to comprise three volumes covering the period from the earliest traces of stone age cave paintings to the atomic physics of the 20th century Ð a project that, as he conveyed in a letter to Imre Lakatos, almost drove him nuts: “Damn the ,Naturphilosophie.”

  • Contrary to the widespread opinion, the book argues that scientific change is indeed a law-governed process and that there can be a general descriptive theory of scientific change. It does so by first presenting meta-theoretical issues, divided into chapters on the scope, possibility and assessment of theory of scientific change. It then builds a theory about the general laws that govern the process of scientific change, and goes into detail about the axioms and theorems of the theory.

  • This book traces the history of science and details two divergent futures: one in which science accelerates the downfall of Homo sapiens and another in which it helps our species engage in a new and positive adventure, whose outcome nobody can know.

  • Leonelli is the first scholar to use a study of contemporary data-intensive science to provide a philosophical analysis of the epistemology of data. In analyzing the rise, internal dynamics, and potential impact of data-centric biology, she draws on scholarship across diverse fields of science and the humanities—as well as her own original empirical material—to pinpoint the conditions under which digitally available data can further our understanding of life. Bridging the divide between historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science, Data-Centric Biology offers a nuanced account of an issue that is of fundamental importance to our understanding of contemporary scientific practices.

  • This book offers a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the epistemology of science. It not only introduces readers to the general epistemological discussion of the nature of knowledge, but also provides key insights into the particular nuances of scientific knowledge. No prior knowledge of philosophy or science is assumed by The Nature of Scientific Knowledge. Nevertheless, the reader is taken on a journey through several core concepts of epistemology and philosophy of science that not only explores the characteristics of the scientific knowledge of individuals but also the way that the development of scientific knowledge is a particularly social endeavor. The topics covered in this book are of keen interest to students of epistemology and philosophy of science as well as science educators interested in the nature of scientific knowledge. In fact, as a result of its clear and engaging approach to understanding scientific knowledge The Nature of Scientific Knowledge is a book that anyone interested in scientific knowledge, knowledge in general, and any of a myriad of related concepts would be well advised to study closely.

  • This book has two central aims: First, to make precise a distinction between the concepts of confirmation and evidence and to argue that failure to recognize this distinction is the source of certain otherwise intractable epistemological problems. The second goal is to demonstrate to philosophers the fundamental importance of statistical and probabilistic methods, at stake in the uncertain conditions in which for the most part we lead our lives, not simply to inferential practice in science, where they are now standard, but to epistemic inference in other contexts as well. Although the argument is rigorous, it is also accessible. No technical knowledge beyond the rudiments of probability theory, arithmetic, and algebra is presupposed, otherwise unfamiliar terms are always defined and a number of concrete examples are given. At the same time, fresh analyses are offered with a discussion of statistical and epistemic reasoning by philosophers. This book will also be of interest to scientists and statisticians looking for a larger view of their own inferential techniques.

  • Prompted by the ongoing debate among science educators over ‘nature of science’, and its importance in school and university curricula, this book is a clarion call for a broad re-conceptualizing of nature of science in science education. The authors draw on the ‘family resemblance’ approach popularized by Wittgenstein, defining science as a cognitive-epistemic and social-institutional system whose heterogeneous characteristics and influences should be more thoroughly reflected in science education. They seek wherever possible to clarify their developing thesis with visual tools that illustrate how their ideas can be practically applied in science education.

  • This volume follows the successful book, which has helped to introduce and spread the Philosophy of Chemistry to a wider audience of philosophers, historians, science educators as well as chemists, physicists and biologists. The introduction summarizes the way in which the field has developed in the ten years since the previous volume was conceived and introduces several new authors who did not contribute to the first edition. The editors are well placed to assemble this book, as they are the editor in chief and deputy editors of the leading academic journal in the field, Foundations of Chemistry. The philosophy of chemistry remains a somewhat neglected field, unlike the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of biology. Why there has been little philosophical attention to the central discipline of chemistry among the three natural sciences is a theme that is explored by several of the contributors. This volume will do a great deal to redress this imbalance. Among the themes covered is the question of reduction of chemistry to physics, the reduction of biology to chemistry, whether true chemical laws exist and causality in chemistry. In addition more general questions of the nature of organic chemistry, biochemistry and chemical synthesis are examined by specialist in these areas.

  • In his latest book, Eric Scerri presents a completely original account of the nature of scientific progress. It consists of a holistic and unified approach in which science is seen as a living and evolving single organism. Instead of scientific revolutions featuring exceptionally gifted individuals, Scerri argues that the “little people” contribute as much as the “heroes” of science. To do this he examines seven case studies of virtually unknown chemists and physicists in the early 20th century quest to discover the structure of the atom. They include the amateur scientist Anton van den Broek who pioneered the notion of atomic number as well as Edmund Stoner a then physics graduate student who provided the seed for Pauli’s Exclusion Principle. Another case is the physicist John Nicholson who is virtually unknown and yet was the first to propose the notion of quantization of angular momentum that was soon put to good use by Niels Bohr.

  • This book presents a radical new picture of natural order. The Newtonian idea of a cosmos ruled by universal and exceptionless laws has been superseded; replaced by a conception of nature as a realm of diverse powers, potencies, and dispositions, a ‘dappled world’. There is order in nature, but it is more local, diverse, piecemeal, open, and emergent than Newton imagined.

  • Not all scientific explanations work by describing causal connections between events or the world’s overall causal structure. Some mathematical proofs explain why the theorems being proved hold. In this book, Marc Lange proposes philosophical accounts of many kinds of non-causal explanations in science and mathematics. These topics have been unjustly neglected in the philosophy of science and mathematics.

  • A system can describe what we see (the solar system), operate a computer (Windows 10), or be made on a page (the fourteen engineered lines of a sonnet). In this book, Clifford Siskin shows that system is best understood as a genre — a form that works physically in the world to mediate our efforts to understand it. Indeed, many Enlightenment authors published works they called “system” to compete with the essay and the treatise. Drawing on the history of system from Galileo’s “message from the stars” and Newton’s “system of the world” to today’s “computational universe,” Siskin illuminates the role that the genre of system has played in the shaping and reshaping of modern knowledge.

  • This book addresses the logical aspects of the foundations of scientific theories. Even though the relevance of formal methods in the study of scientific theories is now widely recognized and regaining prominence, the issues covered here are still not generally discussed in philosophy of science. The authors focus mainly on the role played by the underlying formal apparatuses employed in the construction of the models of scientific theories, relating the discussion with the so-called semantic approach to scientific theories. The book describes the role played by this metamathematical framework in three main aspects: considerations of formal languages employed to axiomatize scientific theories, the role of the axiomatic method itself, and the way set-theoretical structures, which play the role of the models of theories, are developed. The authors also discuss the differences and philosophical relevance of the two basic ways of axiomatizing a scientific theory, namely Patrick Suppes’ set theoretical predicates and the “da Costa and Chuaqui” approach. This book engages with important discussions of the nature of scientific theories and will be a useful resource for researchers and upper-level students working in philosophy of science.

  • This book is the first all-encompassing exploration of the role of demons in philosophical and scientific thought experiments. In Part I, the author explains the importance of thought experiments in science and philosophy. Part II considers Laplace’s Demon, whose claim is that the world is completely deterministic. Part III introduces Maxwell’s Demon, who – by contrast – experiences a world that is probabilistic and indeterministic. Part IV explores Nietzsche’s thesis of the cyclic and eternal recurrence of events. In each case a number of philosophical consequences regarding determinism and indeterminism, the arrows of time, the nature of the mind and free will are said to follow from the Demons’s worldviews. The book investigates what these Demons – and others – can and cannot tell us about our world.

    Want more book recommendations? Check out the other top 2016 book lists: Zoology; Invertebrates; Arthropods; Vertebrates; Humans and Primates; Phylogenetics; Evolution; Ecology; Geology; Historical Geology; Palaeontology; Botany; Environmental; Climate Change; History.


    1. Ah, you should thank my librarian for recommending you in the first place when I asked for phil of chemistry books :) I also now give A Tale of Seven Scientists to anyone who wants a book about how science works.

      Looking forward to whatever other books you have planned in the future!

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