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Between Abstraction and Idealization: Scientific Practice and Philosophical Awareness

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The aim of this essay is to emphasize a number of important points that will provide a better understanding of the history of philosophical thought concerning scientific knowledge. The main points made are: (a) that the principal way of viewing abstraction which has dominated the history of thought and epistemology up to the present is influenced by the original Aristotelian position; (b) that with the birth of modern science a new way of conceiving abstraction came into being which is better characterized by the term idealization, the name that was later, in fact, to be used by scientists to describe their scientific activity; (c) that, however, on account of the influence of empirical and inductive philosophy, scientists have often not had sufficient methodological awareness of this new way of viewing abstraction; (d) that this new concept of abstraction has frequently been expressed in the framework of philosophies that lie outside the mainstream of contemporary epistemology or even exhibit marked anti-scientific tendencies; (e) that the theme of idealization has been taken up again in the last few decades and a great contribution in this direction has been made by the so-called Poznań school of methodology.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004


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