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Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen, Professor & Chair, Philosophy, TUT
Fall 2011

Methodology and epistemology of Science:

What is scientific method? What counts as scientific knowledge?

Does science discover truths? Are its discoveries certain?
How to choose between competing theories?
What is the relationship between theories, hypotheses, evidence
and experiments?

Metaphysics of Science:

Are all events, scientific phenomena etc. determined by causes?

What is a scientific law? Is there a purpose in nature?
Can other theories be reduced to some others (e.g., to physics)?
Are some theories more fundamental than others?

What does technology mean (as related to science)?

Can technology be defined? (Knowledge + material +

organisation + product)
Can science be divided into pure and applied parts?

How did technologies emerge?

Do they necessarily grow out of scientific discoveries?
Do some characteristics typify Western technologies?

What were/are the impacts of technology to nature,

environment, society, culture, politics, our long-term

Science (scientia) natural philosophy until at least the

modern period; natural sciences emerged only later
The Scientific Revolution (~1500-1700)
Scientific method articulated only in late 19th century but
inseparable from the entire history of science
The term scientist relatively new (Whewell, 1833)
For Aristotle, science was the study
of drawing inferences, given the
premises that are known
(deduction, syllogism)
Reason, argument and experiment
have always been important...

Suppose (as Aristotle believed) that the heavier a body is, the
faster it falls to the ground and suppose we have two bodies, a
heavy one called M and a light one called m. Under our initial
assumption M will fall faster than m. Now suppose that M and
m are joined together thus M+m. Now what happens? Well
M+m is heavier than M so by our initial assumption it should
fall faster than M alone. But in the joined body M+m, m and M
will each tend to fall just as fast as before they were joined, so
m will act as a brake on M and M+m will fall slower than M
alone. Hence it follows from our initial assumption that M+m
will fall both faster and slower than M alone. Since this is
absurd our initial assumption must be false.

All philosophers are strange

John is strange
Therefore, John is a philosopher
6000 people died as a result of drinking last year.
4000 people died as a result of driving last year.
500 people died as a result of drink driving last year.
Therefore, Drink driving is safer than either drinking or driving alone.
Nothing is better than freedom.
On the other hand, Prison life is better than nothing.
Therefore, Prison life is better than freedom.
To build a large thing, you need a plan.
To make a plan, you need a written language.
Neolithic British had no written language.
Therefore, Aliens from outer space built Stonehenge.


On the concept of technology

1. Definitions of technology
2. Some history

3. The issue of technological determinism


On the method & logic of science

1. The Fixation of Beliefs (Peirce)

2. Scientific reasoning

Means quite a different bag of issues to a scientist, engineer,

business executive, politician, attorney, reporter, artist,...
Not just hardware or inventions
Technology is knowledge, expertise, soft tech, solutions & services

Some attempted definitions (Misa 2009, p.8-, in Companion):

1. Things that fulfill our needs and desires or perform certain
2. Application of understanding of natural laws to the solution of
practical problems
3. Information concerning processes and design
4. Information needed to achieve a certain production outcome

Not merely a neutral production factor

knowledge technique organisation product

Knowledge transfer crucial to meaningful

Knowledge is explicit and implicit/tacit; depends on
truths, beliefs, desires, goals,...)
Technology is contextual


Name of

Invention to

Name of Product Invention to
























Vacuum tube



Integrated circuit


Electric Vehicle



Laser Machine




The term technology quite young

Bigelow, Elements of Technology, 1829:
Under this title it is attempted to include . . . an account . . . of the
principles, processes, and nomenclatures of the more conspicuous arts,
particularly those which involve applications of science, and which may be
considered useful, by promoting the benefit of society, together with the
emolument of those who pursue them.

(Before this the word was rather the techniques)

Technology, in the present century and almost under our eyes . . . has
advanced with greater strides than any other agent of civilization, and has
done more than any science to enlarge the boundaries of profitable
knowledge, to extend the dominion of mankind over nature, to economize
and utilize both labor and time, and thus to add indefinitely to the effective
and available length of human existence.

The founding of the MIT (1861), the polytechnics etc.


How does technology bring about changes

in history?

Does technology develop autonomously?

Is it a key factor for
societal and cultural


How we form conceptions

To acquire information we need reasoning, which is a way to transfer

from what we know to something not yet known

The formation and fixation of beliefs (conceptions) is interaction
between to states of mind, doubt and belief
Mind responds to the irritation, caused by the actions of thought,
which gives rise to doubt. Doubt stimulates inquiry (research) until
cessation by a formation of a conception.

How we revise beliefs


Method of Tenacity (We dont! Just live a happy life...)

Method of Authority (Institutionalised revision)
A priori method (Revise according to what is reasonable)
The Scientific Method.

Fallibilism: Many good ideas are probably true, but we

cannot be absolutely sure of any one of them.
2. The Final Opinion: Science can reach a single opinion
agreed upon by all scientists.
3. In the Long Run: If inquiry were to be pursued indefinitely
long, the final opinion would be reached.
4. Scientific Attitude: No sham reasoning, fake reasoning.
5. Structure of Scientific Inquiry: Abduction, deduction,
6. The Economy of Research: Prefer simple, explanatory and
productive hypotheses.





M is P
S is M
S is (necessarily) P
S1, S2, S3,... are M
S1, S2, S3,... are P
Any M is (probably) P
M is P1, P2, P3,...
S is P1, P2, P3,...
S is (plausibly) M

All the beans in this bag are white

These beans in my hand are from this bag
These beans in my hand are white.
These beans in my hand are from this bag
These beans in my hand are white
All the beans in this bag are white.

All the beans in this bag are white

These beans in my hand are white
These beans in my hand are from this bag.



The surprising fact, C, is observed

But if A were true, C would be a matter of course
Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true.

Abduction seeks a hypothesis to account for facts by

Oftenest even a well-prepared mind guesses wrong. But the
modicum of success of our guesses far exceeds that of random
luck, and seems born of attunement to nature by instincts
developed or inherent, especially insofar as best guesses are
optimally plausible and simple in the sense of the facile and
natural, as by Galileos natural light of reason. (Peirce)

Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Science


Often expressed as the process by which scientists decide, based

on observations and experiments, that some theory, principle or
law is true (All As are Bs).

The Problem of Induction

How to generalise from finite information?
Is it a threat to scientific knowledge (scepticism)?

Possible reply: Falsificationism (Sir Karl Popper)

Science does not in fact rest on induction
First: come up with a hypothesis or a theory, and then see if it stands up to a

If tests prove negative, theory is falsified
If tests fit the theory, continue to uphold it as undefeated.

Scientific inference is refutation: Some A is not B not: All As are Bs.



Some questions about falsificationism:

If scientific theories are conjectural hypotheses that cannot be
proved by observation and evidence, what makes science better or
more trustworthy than, say, superstition or religious beliefs?
Popper: Theories are falsifiable:
They are formulated in precise terms, give definite predictions
In contrast, nothing can refute something like astrology or folk beliefs.

Falsifiability distinguishes science from non-science

(Poppers answer to the problem of demarcation):

In science you should be able to say beforehand, what observational
discoveries would make you to change your mind about your theory if
such evidence were to arise in the future (fallibilism: we might be
mistaken about out knowledge one by one, but no scepticism follows)
If no possible, conceivable observation can adjust our thinking, we are
not doing science but are dogmatists about our beliefs.

Falsificationism does not solve (it rather evades) the problem of



What shows that a scientific theory is right?

What is the rational basis for believing that the predictions that a theory
makes are right? What is the role of past evidence?
We dont believe in new theories immediately, they start out as

Do we need to try to solve it?

Yes: Bayesianism



Beliefs come in degrees in which we take something to be probable (these tend to

be subjective probabilities)
Pr( E / H)

Pr( H / E) Pr( H)

(Bayes Formula)

Pr( E)
No: Induction is a natural form of reasoning accept abduction and
induction as facts of mind.
Amounts to rational belief revision

Why do rational thinkers expect future to be like the past?


Theorem: Reductio ad absurdum (RAA) is not a good method of

Proof: by Reductio ad absurdum.
1. Suppose RAA were a good method of proof.
2. Then this argument would be good.
3. But this argument is no good.
Therefore, RAA is not a good method of proof.

10 Unsolved Mysteries, Scientific American 10/2011

1. How Did Life Begin?
2. How Do Molecules Form?
3. How Does the Environment Influence Our Genes?
4. How Does the Brain Think and Form Memories?
5. How Many Elements Exist?
6. Can Computers Be Made Out of Carbon?
7. How Do We Tap More Solar Energy?
8. What Is the Best Way to Make Biofuels?
9. Can We Devise New Ways to Create Drugs?
10. Can We Continuously Monitor Our Own Chemistry?

Technoscience: Scientific & technological progress no

longer due to separate enterprises
Is there any applied science at all?

Perhaps technology is older than science

Science has become instrumentally embodied, instruments are

not merely tools but parts of the the theories & necessary
conditions for the experiments & influencing the interpretations
Maybe science has no foundations but this need not imply
any recourse to the postmodern

Now: Sociology of Science (STS, social constructionism) vs.

practice-oriented Philosophy of Science
Hacking, Ian (1983). Representing and Intervening (Cambridge
UP); (2000)The Social Construction of What? (Harvard UP)


Anyone who believes that the laws

of physics are mere social
conventions is invited to try
transgressing those conventions
from the windows of my
apartment. I live on the 21st floor.

Alan Sokal, 1996: Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward the

Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, Social Text.
The point was not only to show problems with the journals peer review

practices, but to defend the standards of scientific & philosophical work from
the threats of postmodern literary intellectuals pontificating on science and
its philosophy and making a complete bungle of both.

Check out Sokals new book: Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy
and Culture, Oxford University Press, 2009.
Explains the original joke sentence by sentence

Contains an Afterword that was rejected by the Social Text on the grounds

that it did not meet their intellectual standards.


The philosophical basis of the interplay model:


External influences on a practice are results of the

interaction between practices. This interaction is
seldom a one-way influence; the practices involved
are changed in the interaction.


There are no hierarchically dominant practices in a

strict sense.


Innovation in practices does not derive from scientific

discovery, as it were in a linear sequence.

(Gremmen 2009, in Companion, p.76)


The world is full of wonderful products and services that

occasionally disappoint and even harm us. This book explores
the reasons these failures occur, examining them from
technological, human, and organizational perspectives. Using
more than 40 recent catastrophic events to illustrate its points,
the book discusses structural and machine failure, but also the
often-overlooked failure of people and of systems related to
information technology, healthcare, and security. Faulty
technology played a surprisingly small part in many of the
scrutinized disasters, but cognitive factors and
organizational dynamics, including ethics, are major
contributors to most unexpected and catastrophic failures.

Engineering science vs. ordinary science?

1. make things work vs. seek for the truth ?
Pragmatism: truth is what works; what has pragmatic,
practical, experiental effects (importance of modelling,
2. Study the nature and behaviour of human products

(artifacts) vs. study the natural phenomena?

Constructivism: also natural phenomena is a human


The nature of artifacts


Homo faber: Artifacts depend on human manipulation;

contrast with objects of nature
Abiotic or not?

Domestication; GM; Bioinformatics; Nanotechnology


Artifact only if its author accepts it as satisfying some sortal

description [for technological artifacts: material means y to
achieve practical end x] included in his productive intention
(Hilpinen 2004)

Artifacts Tools Instruments (Dipert 1993)




Knowledge of artifacts in technology

Descriptive knowledge of the science of the

behaviour of artifacts (e.g., laws of analytic

mechanics governing snooker balls)
Normative knowledge of the use and application
of artifacts (These tools are good for X) the
design aspect
The descriptive knowledge of science becomes
transformed into something inventional

Engineering design
is the process of devising a system, component, or
process to meet desired needs. It is a decision-making
process (often iterative), in which the basic science
and mathematics and engineering sciences are
applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective.
(Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, ABET)

Conversion from functions to structures but exactly how?

Use science & reasoning from means to ends; maybe like abduction?

Not only instrumental task but social, economic, political,...

How to bring in the environment (know-how transfer)?
How to measure the success of the design? The list of criteria
may change during the design process ,or be part of it.







An expert is a man who has

made all the mistakes which
can be made in a very narrow
field. Niels Bohr

Engineering knowledge involves:

Design concepts (basic components); criteria & specs;
theoretical tools (computation); data; practical/economic
considerations; design instruments (Vincenti 1990).
Faulkner (1994): knowledge of the world; of practices; of the
system of R&D; of end products; and of finding something new

And the major failures are typically caused by design failures...


How do we know about unobservable things?

(Electromagnetic waves, viruses, electrons, quarks,...)
Realists take observable facts sufficient to indirectly infer the
existence of unobservable things.


In addition to making predictions, theories explain phenomena

No miracles-argument: realism the only philosophy that doesnt make
progress of science a miracle.

Instrumentalists think theories about unobservables are

useful tools for calculations and predictions but not about
their truths.


Scientists postulate all kinds of things but need not believe in them.
Pessimistic meta-induction: most past theories turned out false, why
should I believe science?

Life: Information processes and neg-entropy

Self-sustainability, growth, replication, adaptation



What have been the major contributions to the rapid

socio-economic development in the West?


Institutions, the Rule of Law

Property Rights, Patents, Standardisations
Modern Medicine
Work Ethics (now obsolete?!)
Competition & Consumerism, mass-production & the
mass people (fading?)
The Scientific/Industrial Revolution

Compass, gunpowder, paper, printing were Chinese inventions,

but did they revolutionize the society as in the West?
What is characteristically Western in development of
Mechanisation: materials production consumers
Large-scale capitalisation & finance & banking
Trust in science; Investment in R&D
Destructive applications & testing
Were in conflict with non-imperialistic Confucian values?
Preconditions for full-fledged scientific/industrial revolution?
Innovations in methods of communication
16th century book printing with diagrams & illustrations
Spread of analytic geometry

What is information?
The evolution of ICT:
Recording technologies (prehistory 19th century)


Communicational functions (1837)


Cinema, radio, telephone, television (mass media)

Processual (elaborative) functions (1950)


Writing systems, written records, non-biological memory

Mechanical reproduction (printing)
Universal language projects(17th century)

Computation, the computer

the Internet
Mobile communication

Intelligent data, Information repositories,


What is computation?
Digital construction of the
real world
Transformation of all information into the global
infosphere (Floridi 2009, in Companion):

The whole system of media containing all the data, text,

multimedia, images, art, sounds, memories, etc. that have

ever been there, without any limitation
Future ICT not about controlling the extant mechanisms but
about the creation and generation of new virtual models
Imaging & simulation technologies

The problem of very long-term information preservation


The Two Cultures?

The Maastricht Treaty:

The absence of certainties, given the current state of
scientific and technological knowledge, must not delay the
adoption of effective and proportionate preventive
measures aimed at forestalling a risk of grave and
irreversible damage to the environment at an economically
acceptable cost.

Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration:

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage,
lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason
for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent
environmental degradation.

1. To understand it we need to understand the nature
of (i) potential for irreversible harm (risks) and (ii)
scientific uncertainties
2. Is a normative principle (favours environmental and
human health factors over others)
3. Refers to reasons for action, is not a guide or a recipe
for what action to take
4. Applies in all contexts (technology, policy making,
governance, international law, trade,)

Risk analysis and technological assessment

Basic problem: the lack of knowledge about the effects of

Too often treated separately

What is risk?



Something unwelcome may or may not occur:

Smoking is a big health risk
Probability of unwelcome event: (decision-making under
uncertainty or under risk, gambling):
How likely it is that an expensive treatment will fail
Severity measure (expectation value) obtained by multiplying the
probability of unwelcome event with a measure of its disvalue
(risk analysis):
Is nuclear energy better than fossil fuels

Risk: there is something we know about what we do not know


Either there is a Christian God or there isnt. Suppose

you believe in His existence and live a Christian life.
Then, if He does exist you will enjoy eternal bliss and
if He doesnt exist you will lose very little. But suppose
you dont believe in His existence and dont live a
Christian life. If He doesnt exist you will lose nothing,
but if He does exist you will suffer eternal damnation!
So it is rational and prudent to believe in Gods
existence and to live a Christian life.

Or is it?

Are our daily risks getting higher or lower?

Life expectancy is growing, but on the other hand

there are new possibilities of large-scale global risks

Is technology assessment an optimisation

In new and emerging technology assessment (such

as in NBIC-technologies), risk analysis happens

under fundamental uncertainty: we do not even
know the possible effects, let alone their
probabilities (the tuxedo fallacy)

We cannot predict future technologies

Fundamental uncertainty in the behaviour of
technologies; the list of device failures can never be
known to be completed
2. Behaviour of users unpredictable

The Volvo Effect


The emergence of new social, cultural and economic

patterns inherently unpredictable
Telephone, mobile comm., social networking

4. Technology part of complex systems that behave


Markets, societies, ecosystems,...


Safety engineering:



Primary prevention (hazard elimination)

Safety barriers
Safety factors
Copes with uncertainties and not only risks
May become a safety risk itself

Scenario and contingency planning

3. Participatory TA

Issues of the risks of technological future

inseparable from social, personal and cultural issues;
risk is one factor among many in decision making.


Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Achieve universal primary education.
Promote gender equality and empower women.
Reduce child mortality.
Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
Ensure environmental sustainability.
Develop a global partnership for development.

Static or evolving conception of human

Transhumanism, singleton world leader,

superintelligence (Bostrm 2009)

The simulation argument: either
1. nearly all human-level civilizations go extinct before
becoming posthuman, or
2. any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to
run a significant number of simulations of their
evolutionary history, or
3. we are almost certainly living in a computer
simulation (Bostrm 2009)

Hist. & Phil. Tech.:

History and Technology (Taylor & Francis)
Philosophy & Technology (Springer)
Information Sciences (Elsevier)
Science, Technology and Human Values (Sage)
Techne: Society for Philosphy and Technology (Virginia Tech UP)
Technology and Culture (Johns Hopkins UP)
Hist. & Phil. Science:
ISIS (U. Chicago Press)
History of Science
Science in Context (Cambridge UP)
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A,B,C (Elsevier)
Philosophy of Science (Phi.Science Association)
Int. Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Taylor & Francis)

Faulkner, W. (1994). Conceptualizing Knowledge Used in Innovation: A

Second Look at the ScienceTechnology Distinction and Industrial
Innovation, Science, Technology and Human Values, 19(4): 42558.
Hacking, Ian (1983). Representing and Intervening , Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Hacking, Ian (2000). The Social Construction of What? , Harvard: Harvard
University Press.
Hilpinen, R. (1993). Authors and Artifacts, Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society, 93: 155178.
Hilpinen, R. (2004). Artifact, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall
2004 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta, URL:
Olsen, J. K. B., Pedersen, S. A. and Hendriks, V. F. (eds.), (2009). A Companion
to the Philosophy of Technology, Blackwell Companions to Philosophy,
Singapore: Blackwell Publishing.
Vincenti, W. G. (1990). What Engineers Know and How They Know It,
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.