The Comprehensibility of the Universe: A New Conception of Science

Paperback | January 9, 2003

byNicholas Maxwell

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The Comprehensibility of the Universe puts forward a radically new conception of science. According to the orthodox conception, scientific theories are accepted and rejected impartially with respect to evidence, no permanent assumption being made about the world independently of the evidence.Nicholas Maxwell argues that this orthodox view is untenable. He urges that in its place a new orthodoxy is needed, which sees science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions about the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these assumptions asserting less and less as oneascends the hierarchy.This view has significant implications: that it is part of scientific knowledge that the universe is physically comprehensible; that metaphysics and philosophy are central to scientific knowledge; that science possesses a rational, if fallible, method of discovery; that a new understanding ofscientific method and rationality is required. Maxwell argues that this new conception makes possible a natural resolution of long-standing philosophical problems about science, regarding simplicity, induction, and progress. His goal is the reform not just of the philosophy of science but of scienceitself, and the healing of the rift between the two.

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The Comprehensibility of the Universe puts forward a radically new conception of science. According to the orthodox conception, scientific theories are accepted and rejected impartially with respect to evidence, no permanent assumption being made about the world independently of the evidence.Nicholas Maxwell argues that this orthodox v...

Nicholas Maxwell is an Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science, University of London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:332 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.67 inPublished:January 9, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199261555

ISBN - 13:9780199261550

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Table of Contents

1. A New Conception of Science2. The Failings of Standard Empiricism3. Comprehensibility4. Simplicity5. Induction6. Evidence, Progress, and Discovery7. Quantum TheoryMathematical and Physical AppendixBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`Nicholas Maxwell ... offers a revamped empiricism, asserting that metaphysical theses feature centrally in the improvement of scientific methodologies and in the content of knowledge ... Maxwell performs a heroic feat in making the physics accessible to the non-physicist, including appendicesthat provide an introduction to the required mathematical and physical concepts ... Philosophically, there is much here to stimulate and provoke. In particular, there are rewarding comparisons to be made between the functional roles assigned to Maxwell's metaphysical 'blueprints' and Thomas Kuhn'sparadigms, as well as between Maxwell's description of theoretical development and Imre Lakatos's methodology of scientific research programmes.'Anjan Chakravartty, THES