Please recommend me a light reading scientific philosophy book
February 11, 2012 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend me a light reading scientific philosophy book.

I studied scientific philosophy as part of a module in my degree and really enjoyed it. I don't have an extensive knowledge on science, but I feel I have a fairly good knowledge of it. With this in mind, could someone recommend a book I could get. (I would most oftenly be reading it in half an hour chunks on my lunch break at work.)

So far I'm a little bit familiar with Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn, but am keen to learn more about scientific philosophy.
posted by sockpim to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
If you've never actually read Kuhn's Structure, I recommend it. It is light reading, and very enjoyable. Also, Lakatos reads well. Hume's classic "Treatise of Human Nature" is also quite readable, once you get into the swing of 18th century English (and it's free!).

If you'd like something for "introductory", there's also this, which I've browsed through and thought was a decent undergraduate introduction. If your interest ranges toward the mathematical, there's "The unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural sciences", which is short and light reading.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:48 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bruno Latour's Science in Action is an easy read, somewhat deceptively so since his arguments can wrap you up in knots and leave you wondering if you're on the verge of something revelatory or if he's just stating the obvious. He is not in the mainstream of philosophy of science, as I understand it, but he's been very influential in more empirical corners of science and technology studies. (Latour was a pioneer of ethnographic studies of lab science.) His style is also quite distinctive, either amusing and witty or extremely irritating depending on your temperament. As I think you can tell, I'm ambivalent about him myself but certainly think he's worth getting to know.

Ian Hacking's The Social Construction of What? is a book about the social constructionism debates of the 90s written for the general reader. I've only read bits of it, but Hacking is a very respected philosopher and a very clear writer.

Finally, Shapin and Schaffer's Leviathan and the Air-Pump does a wonderful job of merging historical work on Boyle with Hobbes' political and natural philosophy. Sounds esoteric, but it's a foundational text in many science and technology studies courses for a reason, and it's quite readable.
posted by col_pogo at 2:00 AM on February 11, 2012

I second the Ian Hacking recommendation - Representing and Intervening is very readable.

I also find Alexander Rosenberg to be very clear. He has a new book out, and it seems to be aimed at a more general audience. (Although I haven't had a chance to read it yet.) Or you might try this introductory text he's written.
posted by mellifluous at 2:54 AM on February 11, 2012

Paul Feyerabend's Against Method is well-argued, I think, and written in mildly aggressive language suitable for public transport.
posted by kengraham at 7:58 AM on February 11, 2012

Michael Polanyi's The Tacit Dimension is about both science and philosophy, and is short.

If you like applied examples of the philosophy of science and technology, browse the book series from MIT Press. For instance, MIT has philosophy of science, and also science technology society. Many of the books in these series will have intros and theoretical frameworks drawn from various philosophical positions on science and technology (e.g. Latour, mentioned above).
posted by carter at 2:50 PM on February 11, 2012

Following up on Shapin, Never Pure, is an interesting book, a tad verbiose, but nuts and bolds into the origin of "the scientific method" as it is practiced, not how it was conceived in abstract.
posted by lalochezia at 9:10 AM on February 12, 2012

Thanks for your answers, I'll look into all of the books suggested.

posted by sockpim at 12:39 PM on February 16, 2012

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