What is this thing called Philosophy of Science? A computational topic-modeling perspective, 1934–2015

Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9 (2):215-249 (2019)
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What is philosophy of science? Numerous manuals, anthologies or essays provide carefully reconstructed vantage points on the discipline that have been gained through expert and piecemeal historical analyses. In this paper, we address the question from a complementary perspective: we target the content of one major journal of the field—Philosophy of Science—and apply unsupervised text-mining methods to its complete corpus, from its start in 1934 until 2015. By running topic-modeling algorithms over the full-text corpus, we identified 126 key research topics that span across 82 years. We also tracked their evolution and fluctuating significance over time in the journal articles. Our results concur with and document known and lesser-known episodes of the philosophy of science, including the rise and fall of logic and language-related topics, the relative stability of a metaphysical and ontological questioning (space and time, causation, natural kinds, realism), the significance of epistemological issues about the nature of scientific knowledge as well as the rise of a recent philosophy of biology and other trends. These analyses exemplify how computational text-mining methods can be used to provide an empirical large-scale and data-driven perspective on the history of philosophy of science that is complementary to other current historical approaches.

Author's Profile

Christophe Malaterre
Université Du Québec À Montréal (UQAM)


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