Woleński Jan
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47(2011)4 - Science versus Utopia. Limits of Scientific Cognition

Jan Woleński

The problem of philosophical assumptions and consequences of science

  • language: English


The view that science requires philosophical presuppositions or leads to philosophical consequences is advanced fairly often. For example, some people (philosophers and scientists alike) argue that science assumes the reality of objects investigated, the objectivity of knowledge, or determinism, etc. Similarly, it is frequently said that science, for instance physics, entails determinism or indeterminism. This paper goes against such views. If terms like ‘assumption’ or 'consequence' have their standard meaning, that is, they refer to premises of deductive or even inductive arguments then scientific reasoning is not based on philosophical presuppositions and scientific theorems do not imply philosophical consequences. This view can be justified by an analysis of historical examples. Such an example is, for instance, the fact that the same (or at least, very similar) interpretations of scientific theories are proposed by scientists having radically different philosophical views. The case of Einstein, Bohr and quantum mechanics is a good example in this respect. A similar argument concerns philosophical conclusions derived from scientific theorems.

All this does not suggest that science and philosophy are separated. On the contrary, both are interrelated, but their mutual influences are to be analyzed by more complicated tools than the premise/conclusion structure.