what is science?

i was rooting around in my computer the other day trying to find something i had written about the german philosopher max scheler (see my comment about knowledge in my last post about ann mortifee’s new book).  in this sojourn i stumbled across a philosophy journal i was writing on and off and which contained a nice little assortment of quotes on the question of “what is science?”.   maybe you’ll enjoy it.

antony flew, a dictionary of philosophy:
(no entry under “science” – the following is taken from the entry of”philosophy of science”)
organized empirical science provides the most impressive result of human rationality and is one of the best accredited candidates for knowledge …science does not consist merely in making timid generalizations from wide collections of data, for the scientist’s selection of data is dictated by some theoretical interest, and his results are not simply inductive extrapolations, but rather explanations, models, and theories … another part [of science],emphasized by popper, is the creation of bold, predictive theory … the cumulative character of scientific theory … is characteristic of successful sciences …

georgi schischkoff (philosophical dictionary, in german – quick translation):

science (gr. episteme, lat. scientia) – a cultural endeavour which has not been and is not now practised by all cultures and at all times … science is the epitomy of human knowledge; the body of knowledge and insight, ordered by principles (kant); the ordered cohesion of true judgments, hypotheses and possible questions about the body of reality or certain parts of it … as opposed to unordered empirical knowledge, science not only deals with descriptions but also with reasons … scientific progress consists in evermore systematic penetration into the depth and breadth of reality, into the elements of existence and of events and the connections between them – into the intercoherence of that reality which we call “the world” … science at its loftiest is universal science [as opposed to ‘particular sciences’ such as physics, mathematics, etc.]

microsoft encarta

science (latin scientia, from scire, “to know”), term used in its broadest meaning to denote systematized knowledge in any field, but applied usually to the organization of objectively verifiable sense experience. the pursuit of knowledge in this context is known as pure science, to distinguish it from applied science, which is the search for practical uses of scientific knowledge, and from technology, through which applications are realized.

… and a few quotes:

science is organized knowledge. (herbert spencer)

science is the systematic classification of experience. (george henry lewes)

science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but trained and organized common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated. (george santayana)

science is the desire to know causes. (william hazlitt)

in essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in. (c. b. van neil)

i venture to define science as a series of interconnected concepts and conceptual schemes arising from experiment and observation and fruitful of further experiments and observations. the test of a scientific theory is, i suggest, its fruitfulness. (james bryant conant)

the aim of science is to seek the simplest explanation of complex facts. we are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. the guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be “seek simplicity and distrust it.” (alfred north whitehead)

2 thoughts on “what is science?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *