Philosophic Foundations of the Scientific Method

This course is intended for independent-minded students who wish to acquire an understanding of the scientific method's philosophical, i.e. epistemological and moral, foundation in the classical Greek world view based on the power of reason. It will answer, among others, the question, "how come the genome can now be deciphered and new codes inscribed in time's sand?"

Step one is to grasp firmly the Socratic method of ontological investigation in its four parts: conjecture, collection, division, and cathartic refutation. Passages from four of Plato's dialogues, namely the Protagoras, Meno, Theaetetus, and Sophist, will show in great detail the dialectical interplay of the Socratic method's rules that have remained in place as the mainstay of investigation in the humanities and in the sciences.

Step two is to study Aristotle's extension of the Socratic to the Scientific Method, by taking into account his empirical approach and by exploring the systematic distinction he draws between the human faculties of practical and theoretical reason. Readings include On the Generation of Animals and chapter six from the Nikomachian Ethics which deals with the human intellectual capabilities.

Step three is to become familiar and conversant with the scientific method in its pragmatic current edition as it is set forth magisterially by Charles Sanders Peirce and Ernest Nagel. The continuity and validity of the scientific method depends now as ever on abiding by an ethical imperative, an imperative the Open Society's champion philosopher Karl Popper expressed with concern when he issued the urgent warning to the scholarly world of learning: "I hold it to be morally wrong not to believe in Reality."