Manual Formation of the Scientific Mind

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The Formation of the Scientific Mind is the work in which Gaston Bachelard first elaborated a theory of knowledge and its development which was to become a.
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His demonstration draws extensively from the pre-history of science and alchemy, identifying and illuminating instance after instance of preconceptions which led to aberrant world-views. He systematically codifies the nature and causes of these errors as a framework to encapsulate the psychology of the scientific enterprise, and underlines an unavoidable conclusion; we cannot assume that these obstacles, even in the age of enlightened science, will ever be completely overcome. This classic work is essential reading for both undergraduates and teachers of science and the philosophy of science.

Gaston Bachelard is one of the indespensable figures in the history of 20th-century ideas.

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The broad scope of his work has had a lasting impact in several fields - notable philosophy, architecture and literature. For Bachelard, the key to proper development of sicence and indeed any field was a sensitivity to the fact that knowledge advances against these "epistemological obstacles" - his demonstration draws extensively from the pre-history of science, alchemy, identifying instance after instance of preconceptions overcome at crucial junctures of development, and underlines an unavoidable conclusion: we cannot assume that these obstacles, even in the age of enlightened science, will ever be completely overcome.

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Gaston Bachelard was one of the most famous philosophers of the French 20th century. His work has and retains a profound influence in the French-speaking world. He held the chair of history of philosophy of science at La Sorbonne.

Quotes about science

If you know the book but cannot find it on AbeBooks, we can automatically search for it on your behalf as new inventory is added. With the disappearance of the scientific concept of body material, physical, etc. A plausible answer was suggested by John Locke, also within the reigning theological framework. That path was pursued extensively in the years that followed, leading to the conclusion that mental processes are properties of certain kinds of organized matter.


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It is of some interest that all of this has been forgotten, and is now being rediscovered. Soon after Russell wrote, it was discovered that his observation, though correct, was understated.

Cognitive Science

Chemical laws never would be reducible to physical laws, as physics was then understood. After physics underwent radical changes, with the quantum-theoretic revolution, the new physics was unified with a virtually unchanged chemistry, but there was never reduction in the anticipated sense. There may be some lessons here for neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Contemporary neuroscience is hardly as well-established as physics was a century ago. There are what seem to me to be cogent critiques of its foundational assumptions, notably recent work by cognitive neuroscientists C.

Gallistel and Adam Philip King. The common slogan that study of mind is neuroscience at an abstract level might turn out to be just as misleading as comparable statements about chemistry and physics ninety years ago. Unification may take place, but that might require radical rethinking of the neurosciences, perhaps guided by computational theories of cognitive processes, as Gallistel and King suggest.

The development of chemistry after Newton also has lessons for neuroscience and cognitive science. Hence they have enjoyed the homage of history, unlike the philosophically more coherent, if less successful, reductionist schemes of the Newtonians. I think they would be well-advised to take seriously the history of chemistry. There were actually two different kinds of reasons for this. For Locke and Hume, the reasons were primarily epistemological. In particular, and of crucial significance, that is true of identity through time, problems that trace back to the pre-Socratics: the identity of a river or a tree or most importantly a person as they change through time.

These are mental constructions; we cannot know whether they are properties of the world, a metaphysical reality. For these quite different kinds of reasons, the great figures of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment believed that there are phenomena that fall beyond human understanding. Their reasoning seems to me substantial, and not easily dismissed. But contemporary doctrine is quite different. The conclusions are regarded as a dangerous heresy. To repeat, Cartesian dualism was a perfectly respectable scientific doctrine, disproven by Newton, who exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact, contrary to what is commonly believed.

If so, then they will be like all other organisms in having a genetic endowment that enables them to grow and develop to their mature form. By simple logic, the endowment that makes this possible also excludes other paths of development. The endowment that yields scope also establishes limits. What enables us to grow legs and arms, and a mammalian visual system, prevents us from growing wings and having an insect visual system. All of this is indeed truism, and for non-mystics, the same should be expected to hold for cognitive capacities.

Formation of the Scientific Mind (Philosophy of Science S.) -- Hardback [Hardcover]

We understand this well for other organisms. Thus we are not surprised to discover that rats are unable to run prime number mazes no matter how much training they receive; they simply lack the relevant concept in their cognitive repertoire. By the same token, we are not surprised that humans are incapable of the remarkable navigational feats of ants and bees; we simply lack the cognitive capacities, though we can sometimes duplicate their feats with sophisticated instruments.

The truisms extend to higher mental faculties.


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For such reasons, we should, I think, be prepared to join the distinguished company of Newton, Locke, Hume and other dedicated mysterians. Thus what is a mystery for rats might not be a mystery for humans, and what is a mystery for humans is instinctive for ants and bees. Dismissal of mysterianism seems to me one illustration of a widespread form of dualism, a kind of epistemological and methodological dualism, which tacitly adopts the principle that study of mental aspects of the world should proceed in some fundamentally different way from study of what are considered physical aspects of the world, rejecting what are regarded as truisms outside the domain of mental processes.

This new dualism seems to me truly pernicious, unlike Cartesian dualism, which was respectable science. The new methodological dualism, in contrast, seems to me to have nothing to recommend it. Far from bewailing the existence of mysteries-for-humans, we should be extremely grateful for it. With no limits to growth and development, our cognitive capacities would also have no scope. Similarly, if the genetic endowment imposed no constraints on growth and development of an organism it could become only a shapeless amoeboid creature, reflecting accidents of an unanalyzed environment, each quite unlike the next.

Classical aesthetic theory recognized the same relation between scope and limits. Without rules, there can be no genuinely creative activity, even when creative work challenges and revises prevailing rules.