Book Review: The Scientist’s Atom and the Philosopher’s Stone: How Science Succeeded and Philosophy Failed to Gain Knowledge of Atoms by Alan Chalmers
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Publisher: Springer
It’s reasonable to see philosophy and science as natural partners, complementary in their application and intimately related. However, there is some distrust between the disciplines. Massimo Pigliucci discussed the problems in his paper: The borderlands between science and philosophy: an introduction. The March 2008 special issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology has other papers dealing with these problems.
Scientists often feel that some philosophers can be hostile towards, or misrepresent, science. Some philosophers have an “armchair approach” which inhibits a proper understanding of the scientific process. But there are other philosophers who promote a respectful relationship with science.
Alan Chalmers textbook is an example of the healthy relationship that can, and often does, exist. It is therefore a welcome addition to the philosophy of science and should benefit students of philosophy and science alike.
In particular, it will help put the relationship between science and philosophy into the right perspective. And what better subject to do this than atomism with its clear roots in philosophical thought but is clear proof in experimental science. Chalmer’s epistemological history shows how “the philosophical atomists’ miniature stones were replaced by the scientist’s quantum-mechanical atom.” This serves to provide a comprehensive history of the relationship between philosophy and science.