Dear Philosophers, When philosophers write about scientific method, are they proposing a description of the actual practices of scientists or are they attempting to produce a normative theory of what science should be like? If it's the former, then shouldn't this be answered by historical study and not philosophy? If the latter, why do philosophers talking about scientific method bother to look at the history of science at all if one cannot gurantee an 'ought' from an 'is'? BMW

Philosophers often think of the philosophy of science as being less of a descriptive enterprise than is either the history or the sociology of science. The philosophy of science, it is often said, concerns itself in part with an evaluation of scientific practice. For instance, a philosopher of science does not just want to know what scientists have, as a matter of fact, accepted as good explanations; scientists might, after all, have jointly succumbed to some widespread error. Rather, the philosopher of science wants to know what would really constitute a good explanation—where it is assumed that scientists might on some occasions have taken something to be an explanation which was not. The philosophical project is thus in some sense a normative one, namely to determine what the scientist should take an explanation to be. Likewise, to consider another example, the philosopher of science is not particularly interested in whether scientists do believe ...

Do both the following phrases express a proposition? (1) "Jill is ill." (2) "Jill's being ill." What about these same phrases as part of the following sentences? (3) "I noticed that Jill is ill." (4) "I noticed Jill's being ill." Thanks, Velho

(1) does make a claim about the world. It could be true or false, depending on whether Jill is ill or not. (2) does not assert anything about the world: it does not tell us whether the state of Jill's being ill obtains, or whether it's a state the speaker hopes will not obtain, or believes obtained in the past, or is one the speaker is commanding that you stop from obtaining, etc. Both (3) and (4), like (1), express propositions. "To notice," like other perceptual verbs (e.g., "to observe"), can grammatically take either an embedded clause or a noun phrase. Thus one can observe that the puppet is on fire, but one can also observe the puppet's expression. To my ear, by the way, (4) sounds slightly infelicitous. I can notice Jill's sweating, as her sweating is something observable. But the state of her being ill isn't really observable (though manifestations of that state may be), so there's something odd, again to my ear, in claiming to notice such a state.

Is it possible to comprehend happiness if one never experiences unhappiness? In a life in which a person has no negative experiences, is it possible for a person to distinguish especially positive experiences? In other words, can happiness exist without something negative to compare it to?

I'm inclined to say No. Not because I think that happiness can only be experienced in contrast to unhappiness. But because I think that something that had never experienced unhappiness simply wouldn't be the kind of thing that could experience happiness (or perhaps even experience much of anything). We are happy when we feel comfortable, when our desires are satisfied, when things are going right. Where comfort is an option, discomfort is too; where satisfaction can be attained, frustration can too; where there's such a thing as a right way for things to go, there's a wrong way too. With the possibility of happiness comes the possibility of unhappiness. So, it's hard for me even to imagine a real being that had never been unhappy without thereby imagining a being that lacked the capacity for happiness (or even lacked any inner life).