Since the times of the Vienna Circle in the early twentieth century, most philosophers have defined science’s epistemic aims in the interlinked concepts of explanation and understanding, laws, unity of science, and causes (IIT). Most theories relating to the above four concepts emphasize generality’s importance in science’s epistemic significance (Nov 2nd handout). This notion of generalization is linked to the underlying belief that science is reducible, and the collective body of sciences aim to be unified and to discover the broad laws of nature (Neurath 306). This unity-of-science view is sustained by the reducible nature of physics— an old science admired because of its logical and mathematical structure. However, the unity-of-science view clashes with the messier and newer sciences, such as biology. Using Philip Kitcher’s chapter “Scientific Significance,” this essay argues that the universalization of the unity-of-science approach to all sciences is problematic and confines our comprehension of science’s significance.
Unity-of-science is a law-centered approach that focuses on a concept’s ability to connect with and be reduced to other fundamental concepts or laws in the same or different branches of sciences (Cat). Laws in science are defined as “true non-analytic universal statements that have a sort of natural or nomic necessity, which is marked by their ability to support counterfactuals; and function essentially in scientific explanation” (Brandon S445). In other words, the unity-of-science being a law-centered approach means it applies universal generalizations to fit occurrences in nature under a larger framework— which better enables the user to explain and predict more about the world. In the manifesto Der Wiene...
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...all the sciences is problematic because its basis for systematic generality is not found in crucial sciences such as biology. Because sciences such as biology and psychology do not confine to the established definition of science, some considered them to be inferior to sciences such as physics (Nelson). Getting rid of the unity-of-science viewpoint and adapting a more inclusive approach would lead to less hierarchy among the sciences. The unity-of-science notion also confines the comprehension of scientific significance through limiting scientific explanation with their traditional objective explanation definition. Adopting a pragmatic approach, such as Kitcher’s method, to generality instills the notions that not all sciences are stagnant and that the sciences, practiced by social beings, reflect the interests and issues of a population’s location and time period.
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