Research and Essay Topics
Here are some possible topics for further research and some questions worth exploring. They are by no means all the interesting problems and ideally you should find your own interesting research topic. They are also very general and you need to specify them AND to find the appropriate case-study to develop them. Below is a list of suggestions for case studies. However, you don’t have to feel constrained by it. You can choose other case studies, bearing on the history of 20th century physics, biology, psychology, social sciences etc.
The form of the essay
The form of your essay would be the following: you will address a philosophical problem (one of the important questions in the current philosophy of science) and you will discuss it on a case-study. You can choose your case studies from any period of the history of science. However, you should only choose case-studies that you can follow and understand yourself – including the more ‘technical’ details and questions. Don’t take second-hand reports of famous experiments for granted! For each essay, the reading of the appropriate primary bibliography is compulsory.
1. Theory-ladenness and experimentation
- Newton’s rejection of the mechanical aether: empirical difficulties or metaphysics?
- Why was Galileo a Copernican?
- The case of Michelson-Morley experiment
2. Tests and refutations: are there Popperians among the scientists?
- Francis Bacon’s Popperian methodology
- Kepler’s Popperian’s methodology
3. The problem of “crucial experiments”
- Newton’s optical experiments and the debate surrounding the nature of light. In what ways are Newton’s prisms experiments ‘crucial experiments’
- Robert Hooke’s crucial experiments
- Francis Bacon’s crucial instances and their domain of application (plus epistemological considerations)
- Eddington’s expedition and the crucial ‘test’ for general relativity: philosophical problems
4. Epistemological and metaphysical problems of experimentation
5. Scientific instruments and the construction of ‘scientific facts’
- Instrumental realism
- The construction of scientific facts
7. Creativity and discovery in scientific thought
- Kepler’s ‘discoveries’
- The role of analogy in Newton’s natural philosophy
This is a general bibliography where you can find interesting articles and books relating to your subject. It is orientative and you have to be selective and critical in picking your sources. In order to construct a good paper you will need to read one or two relevant books/chapters/articles of a more general character (ideally an essay review of the field), and a couple of more focused articles/books bearing on the philosophical problem, plus at least two chapters/papers relating to the precise historical case study you are focusing on. So you should start working on your research topic/essay right away J.
Bibliographical research is one of the most important – indeed, a key factor in the establishment of a successful research topic and the plan of a good research paper. You need to see many books/paper, select the relevant one and read the few that really matters. You need to spend some time (some days) in the library.
Useful points: Use the on-line research instrument of BCU (baze de date stiintifice); a wonderful instrument for the researcher where you can find a lot, on very many topics. The Sciverse and Ebsco contain up-to-date research, until 2011. Springerlink contains not only journals but also all the books published by Springer. All resources are available from BCU and from the terminals in our library.
General bibliography and collections of articles:
Duhem, Pierre (1906): La Théorie Physique, son Objet et sa Structure. 1st ed. Paris 1906. Engl. trans. by Philip P. Wiener: The aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Princeton: Princeton UP 1954.
Cassidy, David, Holton, Gerald, Rutherford, James, Understanding physics, Springer 2005
Dear, Peter, Discipline and experience: the mathematical way in the Scientific Revolution, 1995
Franklin, The Neglect of Experiment, 1986
Ian Hacking (1983): Representing and Intervening. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Ian Hacking, Experimentation and Scientific Realism, in Curd and Cover eds. Philosophy of Science. The Central Issues, 1998, 1153-1169
Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What?, Harvard University Press, 1999
Larry Laudan, Progress and its problems.Towards a theory of scientific growth, 1978.
Lakatos, Imre (1970): ‘Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes’, in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (eds.): Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, pp. 91-196.
Laudan, Larry, Progress and its problems. Towards a theory of scientific growth, 1977
Maxwell, Grover, The Ontological Status of Theoretical Entities, in Curd and Cover eds. Philosophy of Science. The Central Issues, 1998, 1052-1064
Meheus, Nickes, eds. Models of discovery and creativity, Springer, 2009
Nickles, Thomas, ed. Scientific discovery, logic and rationality, D. Reidel, 1980
Nickles, Thomas, ed. Scientific discovery: case studies, D. Reidel, 1980
Radder, Hans, ed. Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation, Pittsburg 2003
Friedrich Steinle, Jutta Schickore, Revisting discovery and justification: historical and philosophical perspectives on the context distinction, Springer, 2006
— Scientific method as problem solving and question answering techniques, special issue of Synthese, 47 (1981)
Van Fraasen, Bas C. (2007), Scientific Representations. Paradoxes of perspective, Oxford, 2008
More focused bibliography and case studies
Daniel Adler, Is Naturalism the Unsurpassable Philosophy for the Sicneces of Man in the 21st Century ?, in , in Friedrich Stadler, ed. The Present Situation in the Philosophy of Science, Springer 2010, 283-305
Earman, J., Glymour, C. Rynasiewicz, On writing the history of special relativity, PSA 1982, 403-416
McLaughlin, Invention and Induction : Laudan, Simon and Scientific Discovery, Philosophy of Science 49 (1982) 198-211
Chalmers, Allan, The Theory Dependence of the Use of Instruments in Science, Philosophy of Science, 70 (2003) 493-509
Holland et all., Induction. Processes of Inference, Learning and Discovery, MIT, 1986
B.J.T. Dobbs, Newton’s Rejection of the Mechanical Aether: Empirical difficulties and Guiding Assumptions, in Laudan et. all, Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, 69-85
M. Finocchiaro, Galileo’s Copernicanism and the Acceptability of Guiding Assumptions, in Laudan et. all, Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, 49-69
Wenceslao J. Gozalez, Trends and Problems in Philosophy of Social and Cultural Sciences: A European Perspective, in Friedrich Stadler, ed. The Present Situation in the Philosophy of Science, Springer 2010, 221-243
Ronald Laymon, The Michelson-Morley Experiment and the Appraisal of Theories, in in Laudan et. all, Scrutinizing Science: Empirical Studies of Scientific Change, John Hopkins University Press, 1998, 245-267
Richard W. Miller, Fact and Method in the Social Sciences, in Richard Boyd et. all The Philosophy of Science, MIT 1991, 743-763
For primary bibliography we can talk during my office hours. I can also help you pick useful and relevant case studies from a list of your own choice.