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What is this Thing Called Science?: An Assessment of the Nature and Status of Science and its Methods

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What is This Thing Called Science?

A brand new edition of an internationally renowned science bestseller Now...

NHBS Price: £27.99 $37/€31 approx

By: Alan F Chalmers(Author)

266 pages, no illustrations

Open University Press

Paperback | Dec 1999 | Edition: 3 | #90716 | ISBN: 0335201091
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About this book

What is the characteristic that serves to distinguish scientific knowledge from other kinds of knowledge? What is the role of experiment in science? What is the role of theory in science? In clear, jargon-free language, the third edition of this highly successful introduction to the philosophy of science surveys the answers of the past hundred years to these central questions. The previous edition of What is this Thing Called Science?, translated into fifteen foreign languages, has been thoroughly revised in the light of two decades of teaching experience on the part of the author, and has been brought right up to date. The text has been enriched by many new historical examples and the early chapters have been reorganised, re-ordered and amplified to facilitate the introduction of beginners to the field. The new edition includes new chapters on the following topics: the new experimentalism; the Bayesian approach to science, currently in vogue; the nature of scientific laws; and, recent developments in the realism/anti-realism debate. These changes will enhance the value of What is this Thing Called Science? as a standard university text in the philosophy of science, not just on science and philosophy courses but also in the social and human sciences such as sociology and psychology, where the need is felt for an introduction to scientific method.

"Crisp, lucid and studded with telling examples [...] As a handy guide to recent alarums and excursions (in the philosophy of science) I find this book vigorous, gallant and useful."
– New Scientist

"Any teacher of history, from primary school to university, can learn much from this articulate book."
Teaching History


Science as knowledge derived from the facts of experience
Observation as practical intervention
Deriving theories from the facts
Introducing falsificationism
Sophisticated falsificationism
Novel predictions and the growth of science
The limitations of falsificationism
Theories as structures I Kuhn's paradigms
Theories as structures II Research programmes
Feyerabend's anarchistic theory of science
Methodical changes in method
The Bayesian approach
The new experimentalism
Why should the world obey laws?
Realism and anti-realism


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Alan Chalmers was born in Bristol, England and has a BSc in physics from the University of Bristol, an MSc in physics from the University of Manchester and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of London. He has taught history and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney since 1971 and is now an Associate Professor there. He is the author of Science and its Fabrication (Open University Press, 1990), as well as the previous two editions of What is this Thing Called Science? and many articles on history and philosophy of science.

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