is 'Philosophy of Science'?
Science is an age-old tradition, though Philosophy of Science, as a
discipline, is a new area of study.
is a model
for one kind of human thought. Its speciality is its link with
truth, or rational thinking. But Science is more complex - more
than just compilations of truth and rationales. What is Science,
then? This is the question that Philosophy of Science tries to
address and understand.
can use the
example of Language and Linguistics to explain the relationship between
Science and the Philosophy of Science.
of letters, words, etc. A language helps a user make sentences to
communicate a meaning. But Linguistics is the Science of
Language. It concerns itself with the complexities of language, its
structure and development - its etymology, morphology, phonology,
syntax and semantics!
of Science by Dr. Sundar Sarukkai,
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore tries to analyse the basis of
Science, its conceptual ideas,
and tries to open up and explicate the nature of Science using the
tools of Philosophy.
The goal of
Science is to obtain
knowledge of the natural world. The goal of Philosophy of Science is to
examine Science’s structure, components, techniques, assumptions,
limitations, and so forth.
importance of Logic
Our senses are
our windows to the
world. But, there is something that appears to the mind, which is
not experienced by the senses. The mind allows you to step out of
the limitation of the senses. It allows you to come to conclusions
based on generalisations that are beyond the limitation of the
senses. For example, when you drop a ball, it falls down;
whenever you drop a ball, it falls down; so you conclude that all
balls, when dropped, fall down. Obviously, your conclusion cannot
be arrived at after dropping each and every ball in the world and
seeing them fall down one by one. So, what allows you to say
something more than what is perceived by the senses - it is reasoning,
philosophical ideas that are useful to understand Science
system of logic
concerned with deductive structures or empirical statements..
Logic is a very important component of Philosophy. However, Western
logicians differ from their Indian counterparts in that they do not
insist on giving an example for inferential statements. For
example, in Western Logic, "If smoke, then fire" is a universal and
complete truth. In Indian Logic, the statement has to be further
qualified with an example of an actual case and also a dissimilar
example such as: If smoke, then fire, such as seen in the kitchen, and
such as is not seen on a lake, (where there cannot be fire).
Western logic is not a valid argument for Indian logicians who follow
the five-step Nyaya school. Western logicians argue that giving
an example fails to confer universality on the statements made.
But, on the basis of the Indian logicians' work, Science can always be
right, whereas Science can be wrong if Western logic is the basis.
Method of arriving
at the Truth
coming to the truth is a question of taking a belief and analysing
it. To Indian thought, Truth is a kind of cognition, an
awareness, a psychological, physical event happening in the mind.
Whereas Western Philosophy is rational, Indian philosophy is
rational and transcendental.
Much of the
evidence for how
India's ancient logicians and scientists developed their theories lies
buried in polemical texts that are not normally thought of as
scientific texts. These texts attempt to debate the value of the
real-world as against the spiritual-world. But in their attempts to
prove the primacy of a mystical soul, or Atman, they often go
to great lengths in describing competing rationalist and worldly
philosophies rooted in a more realistic and more scientific perception
of the world. Their extensive commentaries illustrate
· the popular
methods of debate
· of developing a
· of extending and
elaborating a theory
· of furnishing
proofs and counter-proofs.
That so many
scholars from each of
India's philosophical schools felt the imperative to prove their
extra-worldly theories using rationalist tools of deductive and
inductive logic suggests that faith in a super-natural being was not
just taken for granted.
Religion at cross-purposes?
Contrary to the
that Indian civilization has been largely concerned with the affairs of
the spirit and "after-life", India's historical record suggests that
some of the greatest Indian minds were much more concerned with
developing philosophical paradigms that were grounded in reality.
If some of
characterizations required later revisions or refinement, or even
corrections, it didn't take away from their fundamentally scientific
approach. Their inadequacies were a consequence of incomplete knowledge
and the understandable inability to see all the complexities of Nature
that we are now able to (through advanced scientific instruments and
centuries of accumulated knowledge). Their errors did not, however,
stem from stubborn faith or deliberate rejection of reality and
to the scientific method and to developing the principles of deductive
and inductive logic even though Indian philosophers concerned
themselves with the nature of the soul, after life and other
metaphysical ideas that are considered far removed from rational
B.C to the 4th C
A.D (also described as India's rationalistic period) treatises in
astronomy, mathematics, logic, medicine and linguistics were produced.
The philosophers of the Sankhya school, the Nyaya-Vaisesika schools and
early Jain and Buddhist scholars made substantial contributions to the
growth of science and learning. Advances in the applied sciences like
metallurgy, textile production and dyeing were also made.
the rational period
produced some of the most fascinating series of debates on what
constitutes the "scientific method":
· How does one
separate our sensory perceptions
from dreams and hallucinations?
· When does an
observation of reality become
accepted as fact, and as scientific truth?
· How should the
principles of inductive and
deductive logic be developed and applied?
· How does one
evaluate a hypothesis for it's
scientific merit? What is a valid inference?
· What constitutes a
These and other
attacked with an unexpected intellectual vigour.
observers of Nature and
the human body, India's early philosopher-scientists studied human
sensory organs, analyzed dreams, memory and consciousness. The best of
them understood dialectics, or the logic, in Nature; they understood
change, both in quantitative and qualitative terms; they even posited a
proto-type of the modern atomic theory. It was this rational foundation
that led to the flowering of Indian civilization.
philosophical age was thus
a period of tremendous intellectual ferment and vitality. It was a
period of scientific discovery and technological innovation as
well. This is an interesting paradox, similar to what existed in
the life of Isaac Newton, whose position as a scientist was not negated
by his immense work in theology.
Dr. Sundar Sarukkai's talk, delivered at the invitation of Sri
Tirunarayana Trust, at the Indian Institute of World Culture, on Sep.
19, 2004, and extracts from websites on the Nature of Philosophy and