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As birds need ornithologists: science and philosophy of science

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Scientists produce the technologies that characterise modern life and their theories help us to understand how the world works – they are transparently useful. But why do we need philosophers of science?

 

In this short film Dr Roman Frigg, a former theoretical physicist who is now senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, argues that all science is the result of a particular philosophical attitude. One of the tasks of philosophers of science is to analyse science in light of these attitudes.

 

Philosophers can also feed back into science and Dr Frigg points to a project at LSE which looks at climate models as a good example of this. Climate scientists and philosophers are working together to tackle difficult conceptual problems – such as the use of probability and the kind of forecasts you make – to come up with more informed climate models.

Length: 7 minutes 39 seconds.
Released: 16 October 2009.

 

Audio extras

Want to learn more? Roman Frigg sketches out the three main projects of philosophy of science in the following extra material.

 

In the first clip, Dr Frigg explains the role philosophy of science plays in analysing and clarifying concepts and terms used by scientists. Do all scientists use a term like “reductionism” in the same sense? If not, what difference does it make?

 

Audio clip one: concept analysis

 

In the second clip, he explains ways in which philosophers of science help to evaluate the epistemic status of a theory or claim – that is, what is the value of a particular knowledge claim, what sort of evidence is there and is that good evidence?

 

Audio clip two: epistemic status

 

In the third clip, Dr Frigg explains the role philosophy plays in helping scientists choose between different versions of the same theory by asking: what would the world look like if this interpretation of the theory is true? The example he uses here is quantum theory.

 

Audio clip three: foundational projects

Experts link

For full details of Roman Frigg’s research and publications, see their profiles in the LSE Experts Directory: Roman Frigg .

Department link

For more details on the LSE Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, see their website.

 

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