Philosophy of science

BUNGE Mario Augusto, Philosophy of science, 2 Vol., Transaction Publishers, 1998

1a) Bunge, Mario, Philosophy of science: from problem to theory,

Revised edition, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998, pp. 624. ISBN 13: 978-0-7658-0413-6 (paperback). [Scientific research I: The search for system, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1967].

1b) Bunge, Mario, Philosophy of science: from explanation to justification,

Revised edition: New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998, pp. 455. ISBN 13: 978-0-7658-0414-3 (paperback). [Scientific research II: The search of truth, Berlin: Springer-Verlag 1967].

Existe versión española: BUNGE, Mario, La investigación científica. Su estrategia y su filosofía, 2da. Ed., México: Editorial Siglo XXI Editores, 2002, pp. 800.


Originally published as “Scientific Research”, this pair of volumes constitutes a fundamental treatise on the strategy of science.

Mario Bunge, one of the major figures of the century in the development of a scientific epistemology, describes and analyzes scientific philosophy, as well as discloses its philosophical presuppositions. This work may be used as a map to identify the various stages in the road to scientific knowledge.

Philosophy of Science is divided into two volumes, each with two parts. Part 1 offers a preview of the scheme of science and the logical and semantical took that will be used throughout the work. The account of scientific research begins with part 2, where Bunge discusses formulating the problem to be solved, hypothesis, scientific law, and theory.

The second volume opens with part 3, which deals with the application of theories to explanation, prediction, and action. This section is graced by an outstanding discussion of the philosophy of technology. Part 4 begins with measurement and experiment. It then examines risks in jumping to conclusions from data to hypotheses as well as the converse procedure.

Bunge begins this mammoth work with a section entitled “How to Use This Book”. He writes that it is intended for both independent reading and reference as well as for use in courses on scientific method and the philosophy of science. It suits a variety of purposes from introductory to advanced levels. Philosophy of Science is a versatile, informative, and useful text that will benefit professors, researchers, and students in a variety of disciplines, ranging from the behavioral and biological sciences to the physical sciences.

BUNGE, Mario, Philosophy of Science. From Problem to Theory, Volume one.


Part I  Approach and Tools

1.            The Scientific Approach     3
                1.1. Knowledge: Ordinary and Scientific     3
                1.2. Scientific Method     8
1.3. Scientific Tactics   16
1.4. Branches of Science   24
1.5. Goal and Scope of Science   29
1.6. Pseudoscience   40
                Bibliography   50
2.            Concept   51
2.1. Scientific Languages   52
2.2. Term and Concept   63
2.3. Reference, Extension and Intension   73
2.4. Partition, Ordering and Systematics   82
2.5. From Pretheoretical to Theoretical Systematics   91
2.6. Systematics of Concepts   99
Bibliography 106
3.            Elucidation 109
3.1. Vagueness and Borderline Cases 109
3.2. Sharpening 121
3.3. Definition 132
3.4. *Problems of Definition 145
3.5. Interpretation 156
3.6. Interpretation Procedures 164
3.7. Concept «Validity» 174
Bibliography 182
Part II   Scientific Ideas
4.            Problem 187
4.1. The Spring of Science 187
4.2. *Logic of Problems 193
4.3. Scientific Problems 208
4.4. A Paradigm, a Framework and a Simile 218
4.5. Heuristics 225
4.6. The End of Scientific Problems 232
4.7. Philosophical Problems 242
Bibliography 250
5.            Hypothesis 253
5.1. Meanings 253
5.2. Formulation 260
5.3. *Kinds: Form and Content 270
5.4. Kinds: Epistemological Viewpoint 277
5.5. Ground 287
5.6. Testability 296
5.7. *Requirements 309
5.8. Functions 317
5.9. Philosophical Hypotheses in Science 329
Bibliography 344
6.            Law 347
6.1. Variables and Invariants 347
6.2. Searching for Law 358
6.3. Kinds 370
6.4. Form and Content 380
6.5. Law Formula and Pattern 391
6.6. Requirements 403
6.7. *Laws of Laws 413
6.8. The Rule of Law 421
Bibliography 431
7.            Theory: Statics 433
7.1. The Nervous System of Science 434
7.2. Conceptual Unity 446
7.3. Deducibility 457
7.4. Abstract Theory and Interpretation 470
7.5. *Probability: Calculus, Models, Misinterpretations 482
7.6. Formal Desiderata 496
Bibliography 508
8.            Theory: Dynamics 511
8.1. Theory Construction 511
8.2. Mathematization 531
8.3. *Reconstruction (Formalization) 548
8.4. Reference and Evidence 561
8.5. Depth 575
Bibliography 589
Author Index 591
Subject Index 595

BUNGE, Mario, Philosophy of Science. From Explanation to Justification, Volume two.


Part III Applying Scientific Ideas

9.            Explanation     3
9.1. Answering Whys     3
9.2. Nonscientific Explanation   10
9.3. Scientific Subsumption   19
9.4. Mechanismic Explanation   28
9.5. Mechanismic Explanation and Reduction of Laws   37
9.6. Explanatory Power   49
9.7. Functions and Reach   59
Bibliography   71
10.          Prediction   73
10.1. Projection   73
10.2. Stochastic Projection   82
10.3. Hindcast   94
10.4. Projective Power 107
10.5. Riddles 119
Bibliography 133
11.          Action 135
11.1. Truth and Action 136
11.2. Technological Rule 147
11.3. Technological Forecast 156
Bibliography 167
Part IV Testing Scientific Ideas
12.          Observation 171
12.1. Fact 171
12.2. Observability 181
12.3. Indicator 192
12.4. Data and Evidence 198
12.5. Function 209
Bibliography 216
13.          Measurement 217
13.1. Quantitation 217
13.2. Measured Value 231
13.3. Counting 239
13.4. Scale and Unit 246
13.5. Techniques 260
13.6. Upshot 270
Bibliography 279
14.          Experiment 281
14.1. Planned Change 281
14.2. Control 291
14.3. Design 300
14.4. Significance 306
14.5. Testing the Test 313
14.6. Functions 318
Bibliography 324
15.          Concluding 325
15.1. Inferring 325
15.2. Testing Observational Propositions 334
15.3. Testing Hypotheses 342
15.4. Confirmation and Refutation 354
15.5. A Case History: Torricelli 368
15.6. Testing Theories 377
15.7. Theory Assaying 388
Bibliography 404
Afterword 405
Author Index 411
Subject Index 415


This is a treatise on the strategy and philosophy of science. It is an attempt to describe and analyze scientific research, as well as to disclose some of its philosophical presuppositions. This work may then be used as a map to identify the various stages in the road to scientific knowledge. It is an update of the author’s Scientific Research (Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer-Verlag, 1967, 1973).

This treatise is divided into two volumes of two parts each. Part I, the Introduction, offers a preview of the scheme of science (Ch. 1) and some logical and semantical tools (Chs. 2 and 3) that will be used in the sequel. The account of scientific research proper begins with Part II on Scientific Ideas. In the beginning was the problem a subject studied in Ch. 4. Then comes the tentative solution to a problem that is a hypothesis (Ch. 5). Next, the hypothesis assumed to reproduce an objective pattern, i.e. the scientific law (Ch. 6). Finally the building and readjustment of systems of hypotheses i.e., theories are examined in Chs. 7 (with emphasis on structure and content) and 8 (with emphasis on construction). This closes Vol. 1, From Problem to Theory. Vol. 2 opens with Part III, Applying Scientific Ideas. Ch. 9 deals with the application of theories to explanation and Ch. 10 with their application to prediction and retrodiction. Ch. 11, on rational action, belongs to the philosophy of technology. Finally Part IV, Testing Scientific Ideas, opens with observation (Ch. 12) and goes on to measurement (Ch. 13) and experiment (Ch. 14). The jumping to conclusions from data to hypotheses and conversely (Ch. 15) completes Vol. 2, From Explanation to Justification. Look at the structure:

A look at the logical relationships among the chapters as displayed in the previous diagram should help the reader to use the book and understand the philosophy of science it proposes.

*The paragraphs between asterisks may be skipped in a first reading*. What should not be omitted are some of the problems appended to every section. Their purpose is threefold: to test the reader’s understanding of the text, to shake his belief in it, and to invite him to advance the subject. There are more than a thousand such queries. Every problem set has been ordered roughly according to difficulty: the first few are usually exercises whereas some of the last are research problems. In assigning them the instructor should first appraise the background they require.

Quarrels with fellow metascientists have for the most part been avoided in the text and left to the problems. Bibliographical references, too, have been relegated to the problems and to lists at the end of every chapter. As a consequence every section resembles an uninterrupted lecture. With appropriate cuts each volume will cover one semester.

The book has been planned both for independent reading and reference, and for use in courses on Scientific Method and Philosophy of Science. Since the text oscillates between an introductory and an advanced level, it may suit a variety of purposes. For one thing, the book might be used as a substitute for formal lectures which anyhow would seem to have been rendered somewhat obsolete by Gutenberg. A lively discussion of the text and some of the problems, as well as of the results of exploring the suggested bibliography, should be more interesting and rewarding than a paraphrase. Warning: Any book on our subject is apt to make irritating demands on its reader: he will be asked to sail back and forth between the Scylla of science and the Charibdis of philosophy. The author sympathizes with the traveller but he cannot offer apologies; instead, he will state the truism that shipwrecking can be avoided either by abstaining from sailing or by training in the skill. May the present book be of help to those who feel seasick at the mere thought of having to learn some science, and a rough guide for those who wish to take a closer look at the beast. Let it be recalled however that no travel guide can make the journey for us.