Ideas of W.H. Newton-Smith, by Theme

[Canadian, fl. 1980, At Balliol College, Oxford University.]

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1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
For science to be rational, we must explain scientific change rationally
     Full Idea: We are only justified in regarding scientific practice as the very paradigm of rationality if we can justify the claim that scientific change is rationally explicable.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], I.2)
We do not wish merely to predict, we also want to explain
     Full Idea: We do not wish merely to predict, we also want to explain.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], II.3)
The real problem of science is how to choose between possible explanations
     Full Idea: Once we move beyond investigating correlations between observables the question of what does or should guide our choice between alternative explanatory accounts becomes problematic.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], IX.2)
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 2. Positivism
Critics attack positivist division between theory and observation
     Full Idea: The critics of positivism attacked the conception of a dichotomy between theory and observation.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], I.4)
Positivists hold that theoretical terms change, but observation terms don't
     Full Idea: For positivists it was taken that while theory change meant change in the meaning of theoretical terms, the meaning of observational terms was invariant under theory change.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], I.4)
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 6. Verisimilitude
More truthful theories have greater predictive power
     Full Idea: If a theory is a better approximation to the truth, then it is likely that it will have greater predictive power.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], VIII.8)
Theories generate infinite truths and falsehoods, so they cannot be used to assess probability
     Full Idea: We cannot explicate a useful notion of verisimilitude in terms of the number of truths and the number of falsehoods generated by a theory, because they are infinite.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], III.4)
10. Modality / C. Sources of Modality / 1. Sources of Necessity
De re necessity arises from the way the world is
     Full Idea: A necessary truth is 'de re' if its necessity arises from the way the world is.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], VII.6)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
We must assess the truth of beliefs in identifying them
     Full Idea: We cannot determine what someone's beliefs are independently of assessing to some extent the truth or falsity of the beliefs.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], X.4)
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 6. Relativism Critique
Defeat relativism by emphasising truth and reference, not meaning
     Full Idea: The challenge of incommensurability can be met once it is realised that in comparing theories the notions of truth and reference are more important than that of meaning.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], I.6)
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 1. Observation
A full understanding of 'yellow' involves some theory
     Full Idea: A full grasp of the concept '…is yellow' involves coming to accept as true bits of theory; that is, generalisations involving the term 'yellow'.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], II.2)
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 5. Anomalies
All theories contain anomalies, and so are falsified!
     Full Idea: According to Feyerabend all theories are born falsified, because no theory has ever been totally free of anomalies.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], III.9)
The anomaly of Uranus didn't destroy Newton's mechanics - it led to Neptune's discovery
     Full Idea: When scientists observed the motion of Uranus, they did not give up on Newtonian mechanics. Instead they posited the existence of Neptune.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], III.9)
Anomalies are judged against rival theories, and support for the current theory
     Full Idea: Whether to reject an anomaly has to be decided on the basis of the availability of a rival theory, and on the basis of the positive evidence for the theory in question.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], III.9)
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Why should it matter whether or not a theory is scientific?
     Full Idea: Why should it be so important to distinguish between theories that are scientific and those that are not?
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], IV.3)
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 5. Commensurability
If theories are really incommensurable, we could believe them all
     Full Idea: If theories are genuinely incommensurable why should I be faced with the problem of choosing between them? Why not believe them all?
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], VII.1)
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / c. Reasons as causes
Explaining an action is showing that it is rational
     Full Idea: To explain an action as an action is to show that it is rational.
     From: W.H. Newton-Smith (The Rationality of Science [1981], X.2)