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Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine

Kenneth F. Schaffner compares the practice of biological and medical research and shows how traditional topics in philosophy of science—such as the nature of theories and of explanation—can illuminate the life sciences. While Schaffner pays some attention to the conceptual questions of evolutionary biology, his chief focus is on the examples that immunology, human genetics, neuroscience, and internal medicine provide for examinations of the way scientists develop, examine, test, and apply theories.

Although traditional philosophy of science has regarded scientific discovery—the questions of creativity in science—as a subject for psychological rather than philosophical study, Schaffner argues that recent work in cognitive science and artificial intelligence enables researchers to rationally analyze the nature of discovery. As a philosopher of science who holds an M.D., he has examined biomedical work from the inside and uses detailed examples from the entire range of the life sciences to support the semantic approach to scientific theories, addressing whether there are "laws" in the life sciences as there are in the physical sciences. Schaffner’s novel use of philosophical tools to deal with scientific research in all of its complexity provides a distinctive angle on basic questions of scientific evaluation and explanation.

528 pages | 33 line drawings, 13 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series


Philosophy of Science

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Introduction: The Scope and Aim of This Book
2. Discovery in the Biomedical Sciences: Logic or Intuitive Genius (or Both)?
3. Theories and "Laws" in Biology and Medicine
4. The Logic and Methodology of Empirical Testing in Biology and Medicine
5. Evaluation: Local and Global Approaches
6. Explanation and Causation in Biology and Medicine: General Considerations
7. Historicity, Historical Explanations, and Evolutionary Theory
8. Functional Analysis and Teleological Explanation
9. Reduction and Reductionism in Biology and Medicine
10. Conclusion and Research Issues for the Future

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