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Idealization and the Aims of Science


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About the Author

Angela Potochnik is associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati.


"In sum, this is a rich, well-argued book that articulates a coherent view of science and explicates the essential role of idealization in a world of cognitively limited people."--Notre Dame Philosophical Review
"In her exceptional book, Idealization and the Aims of Science, Angela Potochnik explores the nature of idealizations while accounting for why they are so ubiquitous.
The picture of science that emerges from Potochnik's work is that of a thoroughly human endeavor. Science is a tool that helps us navigate an extremely complex world. Potochnik's picture of science is compelling and helps to ground an appreciation of how truly impressive the success of science is."--Science & Education

"Why do scientists deliberately maintain falsehoods in their theories and models? Given the complexity of natural phenomena, scientists must simplify and generalize to isolate details from which causal patterns may be identified. Consequently, researchers must make choices about what to study and how; in doing so, the author argues, social values become entrenched in science. Potochnik contends that science doesn't pursue truth directly but aims to support "human cognitive and practical ends." Following several case studies of recent research in such diverse topics as behavioral ecology and human aggression, and--to a lesser extent--fluid dynamics, quantum physics, and climate change, the author offers a detailed exploration of how social values are linked to science. Arguing that science should be regarded as a tool to facilitate human action, Potochnik concludes that scientists should pursue research that advances both action and understanding. She defines the most valuable subjects as those of ethical concern--for example global climate change or studies involving human physiological and psychological health. Written primarily for philosophers of science, this text has practical implications for science practice. It will be of greatest benefit to advanced academics and active research scientists. Recommended."

"Idealization and the Aims of Science is a fantastic book. In it, Potochnik argues for a compelling, global picture of how science works - one that seeks to clarify how the practice of science relates both to human cognitive capacities and to the world we seek to understand. The book is ecumenical yet concise. It is broad but focuses on the details. It seeks to make generalizations about science, but it does so through diverse analyses of particular scientific practices. If one wanted a single book that summed up both the challenges and opportunities in current philosophy of science, one could hardly do better. . . . I expect that I will return to it frequently as I pursue my own projects for useful ideas, contrasting viewpoints, and helpful articulations of general principles. I can't think of a better endorsement to give to a philosophical text."--Philosophy of Science

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