PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Learning outcomes of the course unit
1-knowing and comprehension capability
Analytical reading of texts and capability to orient oneself in reading
2 -knowing and applied comprehension capabilities
Learn to orient yourself in reading and to form your own opinion on the topics covered
3-4-5 independent judgment, communicative skills, learning capabilities
Ability to follow and learn. Capability to intervene in the discussion.
Some elementary notions of physics that can be found on the first pages of any manual.
Course contents summary
The subject matter of the course is Bridgman's operational thesis. We will discuss it starting from the main works dedicated by the author to philosophical / methodological problems, focusing attention on the following issues: a) the general definition of operation; b) special definitions; c) the meaning from the operational point of view; d) the problem of error; e) the relationship between mathematics / logic and physical theory; f) the concept of property.
The subject of the course is Bridgman's operational thesis. We will discuss it starting from the main works dedicated by the author to philosophical / methodological problems, focusing attention on the following issues: a) the general definition of operation; b) special definitions; c) the meaning from the operational point of view; d) the problem of error; e) the relationship between mathematics / logic and physical theory; f) the concept of property. We will also follow some of the many criticisms of operationism. An interesting aspect of Bridgman's philosophical position is represented by the contrast between a prima facie plausible, if not trivial, theory (the meaning of many physical terms lies in their instrumental definition) and the number of criticisms received on different fronts.
In other respects Bridgman's writings are not without elegance and attractiveness: to name only one aspect, in the same work that introduces the concept of operational definition, there is a sort of prediction about the future reception of operationism: “Operational thinking will at first prove to be an unsocial virtue; one will find oneself perpetually unable to understand the simplest conversation of one's friends, and will make oneself universally unpopular by demanding the meaning of apparently the simplest terms of every argument. Possibly after every one has schooled himself to this better way, there will remain a permanent unsocial tendency, because doubtless much of our present conversation will then become unnecessary. The socially optimistic may venture to hope, however, that the ultimate effect will be to release one's energies for more stimulating and interesting interchange of ideas”.
Maria Luisa Dalla Chiara, Giuliano Toraldo di Francia, Introduzione alla filosofia della scienza, Laterza, 1999
E. Agazzi, Temi e problemi di filosofia della fisica, ed. Abete, Roma 1974
Stathis Psillos, Martin Curd (edd), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, Routledge, Abingdom - New York 2008
Alex Rosenberg, Philosophy of Science, A contemporary introduction, Second Edition, Routledge, Second edition first published New York, 2005. web:
Tal, Eran, "Measurement in Science", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
Mario De Vincenzi, Appunti di ESPERIMENTAZIONI DI FISICA 1: http://webusers.fis.uniroma3.it/~devincenzi/materiale_didattico/dispense...
The Present State of Operationalism, The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 79, No. 4, Oct., 1954 (atti del symposium on “The Present State of Operationalism” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston in December 1953)
Albert E. Moyer, “P.W. Bridgman's operational perspective on physics Part I: Origins and development”, in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp. 237-258.
Albert E. Moyer, “P.WW. Bridgman's operational perspective on physics Part II: Refinements, publication, and reception”, in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp. 373-397
Chang, Hasok, "Operationalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
The Logic of Modern Physics. New York: Macmillan, 1927
The Nature of Physical Theory. Dover, 1936
La Critica Operazionale Della Scienza, Boringhieri, Torino 1969 (collection of writings from the period 1934-1959)
Assessment methods and criteria
Final written test: It consists in a set of questions aimed to verify the comprehension of the issues dealt with and the student's exposition skills
Final oral exam: the central issue is the discussion of the written text. Particular attention will be paid to: 1) the comprehension of texts; 2) the capacities to use a technical-philosophical language; 3) the clarity in circumscribing and exposing the various arguments considered in the course.