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What is Logical Positivism?


Office Windows
Logical Positivism was one of the most important schools of philosophy of science in the beginning 20th century. The “Vienna Circle”, a group of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers, contributed greatly in promoting this philosophical view.

When I was younger, in my teens, I started to discover my love for the sciences. I was fascinated by Biology and Physics and I think I must have driven my teachers crazy with my constant request for “proofs” and evidence. I liked science so much that I even included chemical formulas in my literature essays. Instead of saying “The water waves are gently moving in the sunset.” I’d write “Waves made of H2O are gently moving in the solar spectrum.” My English teacher then responded, “Don’t forget about the H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) which is dissolved as well!”. An then I didn’t feel as bad about the bad mark on the test anymore… Now I am teacher myself and occasionally I meet some students who remind me very much of myself. They are constantly confronting me with the words “How do you know that?” – always eager for empirical, scientific evidence. They want to see things before they believe it. They want formulas. They want cause and effect relationships. Without having been aware of it, I myself as well as my students, were followers of a certain philosophical school. We were “Positivists”. Continue reading »

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What is Knowledge?


 

Old wooden wheel
Plato defined knowledge as “Justified true belief”. For a person to know something he/she has to believe it, has to be able to justify it and it has to be true. This is explained here.

The tree criteria needed for a person to know something are:

  • Lack of justification: “I know that aliens exist” – there is no way that you can provide a justification for this claim. Therefore you can not know it.
  • Lack of belief: “I know that the world is round but I don’t believe it.” – this is a contradictory statement. For you to know something you have to believe in it. But not every belief is knowledge!
  • Lack of truth: I know that a circle has 3 corners. – You can not know things that are evidently not true.

Four possible ways to justify one’s belief are:

  • Memory
  • Authority
  • Logics
  • Empirical evidence
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Why are Simpler Explanations Usually Better?


 

Old door and hinge
The purpose of science is to make things simpler and not more complicated. Scientists strive to discover theories and explanations that simplify the view of our world and not complicate them. According to Wiliam of Ockham (c. 1288 – c. 1347), if there are competing explanations for a phenomenon, the simpler explanation is to be preferred. The simpler explanation is often the correct one. It can be summarized as “With all other things being equal the simpler solution is the better one.” Simpler explanations rely on fewer assumptions which can not be proven or disproven.

In this edition of TOK-Talk I would like to explore the difference between a good and a bad explanation. Why are simpler explanations usually the better ones? Listen to find out! Continue reading »

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What is Falsification?


 

Firewood
In this edition of TOK-TALK we will talk about Karl Poppers contributions to the philosophy of science. Sir Reimund Karl Popper is considered to be one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, and of course it is difficult, if not impossible to summarize his contributions in a few minutes (or a few lines). Where should you draw the line between the sciences and the pseudosciences? What characterizes scientific theories? In this edition we will have a look at the falsification principle which offers an answer to these questions.

In this edition of TOKTalk I will talk about Karl Poppers contributions to the philosophy of science. What makes a theory scientific and what is the principle of falsification? Listen to find out! Continue reading »

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What are Ethical Dilemmas?


 

A bee on a flower
In this edition we will have a look at ethical dilemmas. What are they? What are some different opinions in making an ethical choice? There are several schools of thought in finding a solution to an ethical dilemma. The consequentialist school maintains that actions are either moral or immoral depending on the outcome (the consequence) of the action. An action is morally right, if it results in an increase in the overall happiness for the people. The deontological school states that the outcome of an action is irrelevant. It is the action itself that is moral or immoral. Lying, according to this school, is always wrong, regardless of the outcome. There are arguments for and against each one of these schools of thought.

In this edition we will have a look at ethical dilemmas. What are they? What are some different opinions in making an ethical choice? Listen to find out! Continue reading »

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Areas of Knowledge

Ways of Knowing

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All men by nature desire knowledge.

- Aristotle -
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