Understanding Scientific Progress: Aim-Oriented Empiricism

St. Paul, USA: Paragon House (2017)
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"Understanding Scientific Progress constitutes a potentially enormous and revolutionary advancement in philosophy of science. It deserves to be read and studied by everyone with any interest in or connection with physics or the theory of science. Maxwell cites the work of Hume, Kant, J.S. Mill, Ludwig Bolzmann, Pierre Duhem, Einstein, Henri Poincaré, C.S. Peirce, Whitehead, Russell, Carnap, A.J. Ayer, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend, Nelson Goodman, Bas van Fraassen, and numerous others. He lauds Popper for advancing beyond verificationism and Hume’s problem of induction, but faults both Kuhn and Popper for being unable to show that and how their work could lead nearer to the truth." —Dr. LLOYD EBY teaches philosophy at The George Washington University and The Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC "Maxwell's aim-oriented empiricism is in my opinion a very significant contribution to the philosophy of science. I hope that it will be widely discussed and debated." – ALAN SOKAL, Professor of Physics, New York University "Maxwell takes up the philosophical challenge of how natural science makes progress and provides a superb treatment of the problem in terms of the contrast between traditional conceptions and his own scientifically-informed theory—aim-oriented empiricism. This clear and rigorously-argued work deserves the attention of scientists and philosophers alike, especially those who believe that it is the accumulation of knowledge and technology that answers the question."—LEEMON McHENRY, California State University, Northridge "Maxwell has distilled the finest essence of the scientific enterprise. Science is about making the world a better place. Sometimes science loses its way. The future depends on scientists doing the right things for the right reasons. Maxwell's Aim-Oriented Empiricism is a map to put science back on the right track."—TIMOTHY McGETTIGAN, Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University - Pueblo "Maxwell has a great deal to offer with these important ideas, and deserves to be much more widely recognised than he is. Readers with a background in philosophy of science will appreciate the rigour and thoroughness of his argument, while more general readers will find his aim-oriented rationality a promising way forward in terms of a future sustainable and wise social order."—David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer, 2017/2 "This is a book about the very core problems of the philosophy of science. The idea of replacing Standard Empiricism with Aim-Oriented Empiricism is understood by Maxwell as the key to the solution of these central problems. Maxwell handles his main tool masterfully, producing a fascinating and important reading to his colleagues in the field. However, Nicholas Maxwell is much more than just a philosopher of science. In the closing part of the book he lets the reader know about his deep concern and possible solutions of the biggest problems humanity is facing."—Professor PEETER MŰŰREPP, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia “For many years, Maxwell has been arguing that fundamental philosophical problems about scientific progress, especially the problem of induction, cannot be solved granted standard empiricism (SE), a doctrine which, he thinks, most scientists and philosophers of science take for granted. A key tenet of SE is that no permanent thesis about the world can be accepted as a part of scientific knowledge independent of evidence. For a number of reasons, Maxwell argues, we need to adopt a rather different conception of science which he calls aim-oriented empiricism (AOE). This holds that we need to construe physics as accepting, as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, a hierarchy of metaphysical theses about the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, which become increasingly insubstantial as we go up the hierarchy. In his book “Understanding Scientific Progress: Aim-Oriented Empiricism”, Maxwell gives a concise and excellent illustration of this view and the arguments supporting it… Maxwell’s book is a potentially important contribution to our understanding of scientific progress and philosophy of science more generally. Maybe it is the time for scientists and philosophers to acknowledge that science has to make metaphysical assumptions concerning the knowability and comprehensibility of the universe. Fundamental philosophical problems about scientific progress, which cannot be solved granted SE, may be solved granted AOE.” Professor SHAN GAO, Shanxi University, China

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Nicholas Maxwell
University College London


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