Black Boxes: How Science Turns Ignorance Into Knowledge

ISBN : 9780190095482

Marco J. Nathan
320 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2021
Send mail

Textbooks and other popular venues commonly present science as a progressive "brick-by-brick" accumulation of knowledge and facts. Despite its hallowed history and familiar ring, this depiction is nowadays rejected by most specialists. There currently are two competing models of the scientific enterprise: reductionism and antireductionism. Neither provides an accurate depiction of the productive interaction between knowledge and ignorance, supplanting the old metaphor of the "wall" of knowledge. This book explores an original conception of the nature and advancement of science. Marco J. Nathan's proposed shift brings attention to a prominent, albeit often neglected, construct-the black box-which underlies a well-oiled technique for incorporating a productive role of ignorance and failure into the acquisition of empirical knowledge. The black box is a metaphorical term used by scientists for the isolation of a complex phenomenon that they have deliberately set aside or may not yet fully understand. What is a black box? How does it work? How do we construct one? How do we determine what to include and what to leave out? What role do boxes play in contemporary scientific practice? Nathan's monograph develops an overarching framework for thinking about black boxes and discusses prominent historical cases that used it, including Darwin's view of inheritance in his theory of evolution and the "stimulus-response model" in psychology, among others. By detailing some fascinating episodes in the history of biology, psychology, and economics, Nathan revisits foundational questions about causation, explanation, emergence, and progress, showing how the insights of both reductionism and antireductionism can be reconciled into a fresh and exciting approach to science.


Chapter 1: Bricks and Boxes
1.1 The Wall
1.2 A Theory of Everything?
1.3 Pandora's Gift to Science: The Black Box
1.4 Structure and Synopsis
1.5 Aim and Scope
Chapter 2: Between Scylla and Charybdis
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Rock Shoal and the Whirlpool
2.3 The Rise and Fall of Classical Reductionism
2.4 Antireductionism Strikes Back
2.5 The Reductionists Return
2.6 Scylla or Charybdis?
2.7 Why Not Have the Cake and Eat It Too?
Chapter 3: Lessons from the History of Science
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Darwin's Quest for Inheritance and Variation
3.3 Mendel's Missing Mechanisms: A Tale of Two Syntheses
3.4 Absent Minded: Psychological Behaviors
3.5 The Nature and Significance of Economics
3.6 The Many Faces of Black Boxes
Chapter 4: Placeholders
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Two Theses About Fitness
4.3 Are Dispositions Explanatory?
4.4 Placeholders in Scientific Theory and Practice
4.5 Two Types of Placeholders
Chapter 5: Black-Boxing 101
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Step One: The Framing Stage
5.3 Step Two: The Difference-Making Stage
5.4 Step Three: The Representation Stage
5.5 What is a Black Box? A Three-Part Recipe
Chapter 6: History of Science 'Black-Boxing Style'
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Darwin's Black Boxes
6.3 Mendel's Black Boxes
6.4 Skinner's Black Boxes
6.5 Friedman's Black Boxes
6.6 Black Boxes in Science: Concluding Remarks
Chapter 7: Diet Mechanistic Philosophy
7.1 Introduction
7.2 The New Mechanistic Philosophy
7.3 Three Steps: A Neo-Mechanistic Perspective
7.4 Mechanisms, Models, and Metaphysics
7.5 Mechanisms and Black Boxes
7.6 What's in a Mechanism?
7.7 The Diet Recipe: Concluding Remarks
Chapter 8: Emergence Reframed
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Emergence: Metaphysical or Epistemic?
8.3 Emergence in Action: Systems Neuroscience
8.4 Emergents and Black Boxes
8.5 Refinements and Implications
8.6 Adequacy Conditions and Advantages
8.7 Concluding Remarks
Chapter 9: The Fuel of Scientific Progress
9.1 Introduction
9.2 The Roots of Incommensurability
9.3 Referential Models and Incommensurability
9.4 Black Boxes and Reference Potential, Part I
9.5 Black Boxes and Reference Potential, Part II
9.6 Incommensurability, Progress, and Black Boxes: Concluding Remarks
Chapter 10: Sailing Through the Strait
10.1 Back to Bricks and Boxes
10.2 The Quagmire
10.3 Rocking the Rock, Weathering the Whirlpool
10.4 A History of Black Boxes
10.5 The Devil in the Details?
References $ https://global.oup.com/academic/product/9780190095482 $ PDA
HPK $ Philosophy of science
Philosophy: epistemology & theory of knowledge

About the author: 

Marco J. Nathan is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Denver. His research focuses on the philosophy of science, with particular emphasis on biology, neuroscience, cognitive neuropsychology, and economics. He has published numerous articles and chapters in philosophical and scientific venues.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.