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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Philosophers on Science (3 of 4): John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill is certainly an important name when it comes to philosophers of science. Mill did not work directly with science as Kant did, but he was more concerned with the logic behind science.

One of Mill’s ideas was that everything can be explained by a law. In fact, he thought that putting a fact under a law is how a fact is explained. He also thought that there are patterns to everything, even the discovery of patterns, and that the purpose of science is to discover the laws and patterns that govern our lives. All of the patterns and laws are interconnected and can be discovered if searched for diligently enough.

Mill also had ideas on how the scientific method should be approached and how it should work. He thought that a sort of elimination method was how laws should be discovered. If a scientist has a variety of hypotheses, observations should be made to disprove all but one hypothesis, or eliminate all the others. If no hypotheses work, then new hypotheses should be created and tested for elimination once again.

This may seem like it would be an endless way to discover laws, but if an observation is made and viewed as a generic event, then there are two types of hypotheses that can be formed, one based the assumption that the event was uncaused, and one based on the assumption that it was caused. For more specific cases, however, Mill argued that elimination would indeed be too difficult and that the way to discover the law would then be to gather all information possible and make an induction about what is happening. This is much more similar to our current scientific method.

By Nicholas Moore, Section 9 group 1
For more info on John Stuart Mill, please visit http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/#SciMet

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