The New Theory of Flight offers material for reflections on the philosophy of science, as sketched in the previous posts Kuhn on New Theory of Flight and Popper on New Theory of Flight.
More generally, let us reflect on the relation between philosophy of science and science. It is natural to expect that the philosophy of science lags science, and then physics as the basic area of science, with a delay of a couple of decades:
1. Logical empiricism or positivism, developed by the Vienna Circle in the beginning of the 20th century and manifested by Rudolph Carnap and the early Wittgenstein in the 1920s, can be seen as the philosophy of classical rational science of the Enlightenment based on logic, mathematics and reduction to elementary laws of physics, perfected in Newton’s equations of motion and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetics.
The corner stone was Carnarp’s distinction between synthetic statements about physical facts, which can be true or false depending on the actual nature of reality, and analytic statements expressing logic of mathematics and language which are independent of physical reality.
2. Logical empiricism collapsed in the 1930s as a reaction to the collapse of classical rational physics with the emergence of modern physics of relativity theory and quantum mechanics during the first decades of the 20th century. The collapse destroyed Carnap’s distinction between synthetic and analytic statements with the speed of light in Einstein’s special relativity serving both as synthetic fact and analytic definition, and also classical determinism by the introduction of the atomic roulettes of quantum mechanics.
3. The new philosophy serving modern physics carried Quine’s criticism of Carnap’s synthetic/analytic distinction, Popper’s weakening from justification to falsification of scientific truth, and Kuhn’s further retreat into “normal science” simply based on agreements within a leading group of scientists.
We can thus identify a process from the rational determinism of classical physics towards the irrational indeterminism of modern physics which is reflected in the development of the philosophy of science during the 20th century.
The computational digital revolution of the late 20th century is now waiting for its proper philosophy to be developed.