Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What Is This Thing Called Science?” as Want to Read:
What Is This Thing Called Science?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

What Is This Thing Called Science?

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,341 ratings  ·  107 reviews
This indispensable new edition brings Chalmers' popular text up to date with contemporary trends and confirms its status as the best introductory textbook on the philosophy of science.

Over the last 25 years this account to dethrone empiricist thought has become both a bestseller and a standard university text with translations into fifteen languages.

Paperback, Third edition, 266 pages
Published July 1st 1999 by Open University Press (first published January 1976)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What Is This Thing Called Science?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What Is This Thing Called Science?

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,341 ratings  ·  107 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of What Is This Thing Called Science?
Chris Fellows
You may be familiar with the quote from Richard Feynman, ‘philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds’. This is entirely correct if understood sufficiently pedantically. Ornithology is of no use to birds, as birds; but birds are part of a larger world in which they are subject to forces outside their control. The actions of humans, an important part of the world birds live in, are informed to an extent by ornithology. Good ornithology will suggest, inter alia, th ...more
Duygu Öksünlü Beytur
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
(Except the chapter on Kuhn, I read the book. I will turn back the chapter but now, I consider as I have read. Anyway.)

I am not a person who is interested in philosophy of science. I am already not interested in science; albeit all of that, Chalmer's introduction book is definetely piquant for me. Vocabulary is clear and connections between basic concepts and scholars on philosophy of science are well-advised and well-organized. This book is not guide and not a kind of 90 minutes for
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I highly doubt this man wrote something we didn't already know. Boring, obvious,and his examples are pretty much for children =(
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
I read it to get an idea of Science's history. It is really interesting, and has made me realise that Psychology really has to buck its ideas up if it wants to be considered a science.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Alan F. Chalmers introduces his 1982 book What Is This Thing Called Science? with the smilingly discouraging words: “we start off confused and end up confused on a higher level”.
In the end does Chalmers have us more confused on the topic of modern science, than we were in prior to reading his book? Definitely! Readers most probably start to question whether science has the ultimate authority in explaining the world around us. How exactly do scientists obtain their authoritative results that see
Mathew Walls
Jun 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edutainment
The core message of this book is "Everyone else is wrong, only I am smart." Anything else you get from it is just the disguise that that message is wearing to get you to pay attention.

The one thing I will give it is that Chalmers is pretty good at giving simple summaries of other people's ideas. Unfortunately he only does so in order to argue against them, and having defeated his own oversimplified versions of those ideas, claim victory over the original, more complex idea. His stand
Frank Jude
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
So, you think you know what science is? And how it works? And what it tells us about reality? Chalmers' now classic text that serves as a stellar introduction to the philosophy of science while offering a comprehensive history of the philosophy of science and critical response to the various schools of thought. Chalmers covers all the main approaches of philosophy of science, from induction and falsification to Kuhn's paradigms, Feyerabend's anarchistic theory, and on through Bayesian analysis a ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
i was thinking of two stars until the very last few pages when he says why he even bothered writing this book, when he accepts the fact that philosophy of science is useless to scientists.

he is concerned with the scientific ideology that is catching on. people turning to biologists and astrophysicists to tell them about mysteries of the universe and meaning of life. thinking modern science is the ultimate standard for credibility.

if you wanna read something interesting on philosophy
Krocht Ehlundovič
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very useful book for these times when everybody thinks that "the one can see a hidden truth", that "the one confidently and radically know"... what a joke! This book portrays how difficult and never-ending is the way for truth and how relative is truth.

I must admit that it is not an easy reading, for me, it means that I have to come back to its pages and read them again, not only to enlighten some parts but also for my teaching issues and needs - there are lot of things I can surely use, and
Chalmers endeavoured to write an introduction to the philosophy of science that could be read by anyone: you don't need any command of philosophy, and you don't need to know much about science (although some knowledge of its history would probably make the book more valuable, but then again I can't tell you that, as I myself have none!) - 'naive' inductivism, falsificationism, incommensurability, epistemological anarchism, new experimentalism, general laws and in potentia, it's all there, and it ...more
Laura Hartness
Thorough Examination of the Philosophy of Science

This was required reading for my Philosophy of Science course at Southern Evangelical Seminary. I was initially put off by the superficial factors of the poor cover art (Is the weird cat drawing a reference to a Gestalt image?) and seemingly juvenile choice of title. However, this work has endured for decades and multiple reprints for a reason. It is a thorough examination of the philosophy of science. Charmers examines many schools of thought,
Lulu Kestner
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: newbies in philosophic texts who aren't afraid of 'big words'
Being a complete tyro in the realm of philosophy, as I am, I thought this book quite interesting and well-arranged; I was very thankful for the overly simplistic examples presented on almost every page. That being said, I had a hard time understanding some of the words and paragraphs and towards the end I got a bit confused by the many different concepts.
Most of all though, what stood out to me was Alan Chalmers’ quite unique voice and humor which is too much of a rarity in academic non-fi
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked it as summary of some extreme positions on science. I do not know if it is complete or not.
First chapters until the one about Kuhn included are quite clear.
The author keeps mostly it simple and direct in his language, albeit there are some hints of cockiness which I don't like.
Then it becomes a little more vague and smoky, with the exception of the very last chapter which I liked.
Not a thick book, can be read smoothly.
I like that the author warns about the use of
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book takes up interesting aspects of what science is and gets one to think of how people "misuse" the word science and that you can not really determine anything by science.

Chalmers has written the book so it is easy to read and understand the concepts. But I believe this is one book that you can not read from front to back, but have to think a lot and discuss the book with others to see their points of view. I rode the book in a class and we discussed every three chapters for about 3 hours
Adrienne Paynter
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a good introduction to the philosophy, history, and highly disputed definition of science. Chalmers describes key perspectives thoroughly and clearly, with relatively low bias. My only complaint is that his use of particular examples in the history of physics are unnecessarily tangential. He explains much more detail about the physics theories and experiments than actually needed to make his point. This breaks up the flow of his arguments / descriptions and makes the read more tedi ...more
Arun S
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Enjoyed reading this historical/argument review of the philosophy of science. The interesting, historical examples of physics discoveries helped me understand & contrast the fundamental conceptual differences of various philosophies: different ways of approaching knowledge discovery, the limitations of systematic approaches, etc. The discussion of the inherent subjectivity in the process of science is insightful.
Tim Mcleod
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
An overall good intro discussion of major concepts in philosophy of science, though I don't think it's sufficient as a survey text per se. The chapter on Bayesian methods in particular leaves much to be desired- no comparison to frequentist methodology, or even how statistics is used to evaluate findings as evidence. Despite that, I enjoyed the links Chalmers makes between schools of thought and how he pursues their various arguments.
Anupriya Karippadath
Likely the best book about the history of philosophy of science (yes) you can find. Especially if you're interested in knowing more but not ready to commit to heavy philosophical texts. Bonus: the author has an excellent sense of humour.
Ashley Mulcahy
Brought up some wonderful philosophical ideas. The first 7 chapters were excellent and very thought provoking, the latter half of the book dragged a little and didn’t really assist with my reason for reading it.
Kayson Fakhar
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
To be fair, I learned enough from this book. All those different schools in the epistemology of science and how each has its issues. What bothered me a bit was the examples. Sometimes they were harder to understand than the subject itself so I was simply skipping them hoping for the best.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting, made me want to delve into epistemology.
Shidiq Thoha
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Must be read again in english version, not translated!
Ay Tak
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's an easy read but it contains too many examples. These examples are mainly from the fields of physics and astronomy.
Nick Spencer
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
good but demanding, esp towards end
Eric Yang
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good overview overall, but not perfect! The author gets super verbose at times. Heavy emphasis on physics.
So, what is this thing called science exactly?

I really enjoyed learning about all these different ideas and theories regarding what knowledge and science are. Even if they left me really confused.
Dylan Groves
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Best overview of philosophy of science for non-experts I could find.

Mar 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
one psoriatic thumb down.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
What is This Thing Called Science An Assessment of the Nature and Status of Science and Its Methods is a somewhat famous, best-selling textbook on the philosophy of science. It details the history of science and the way it was perceived differently during certain points in time, and does a good job of giving a solid overview of the development of the science and the corresponding (philosophical) views of it.

It breaches the following topics, all interesting and valid subjects to be talking a
sheena d.
Do/should you care about anything this book has to say? I doubt it.

While this book is pretty much stupided down for people who know nothing, I still had a hard time following Chalmers' main points. What I mean is: it was too smart for me to understand.

That said, it offers a sorta accessible overview of the many (failed!) attempts to define what separates science from other forms of knowledge. The book looks into the rules science has, at various periods, been expected to play by, an
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction
  • توسعه و مبانی تمدن غرب
  • Against Method
  • The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
  • Fear and Trembling
  • Modernism
  • One Way Street And Other Writings
  • Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today
  • Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
  • خرد جامعه شناسی
  • One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
  • The Concept of Mind
  • Existential Psychotherapy
  • The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
  • Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge
  • Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training
  • Voyage of the Beagle
See similar books…
Dr. Alan Chalmers was born in Bristol, UK in 1939. Despite beginning his academic career in Physics, Chalmers is best known for his work on the subject of the Philosophy of Science. He is most noted for his best-selling book "What Is This Thing Called Science?"
“Imagine a skilled botanist accompanied by someone like myself who is largely ignorant of botany taking part in a field trip into the Australian bush, with the objective of collecting observable facts about the native flora. It is undoubtedly the case that the botanist will be capable of collecting facts that are far more numerous and discerning than those I am able to observe and formulate, and the reason is clear. The botanist has a more elaborate conceptual scheme to exploit than myself, and that is because he or she knows more botany than I do. A knowledge of botany is a prerequisite for the formulation of the observation statements that might constitute its factual basis.
Thus, the recording of observable facts requires more than the reception of the stimuli, in the form of light rays, that impinge on the eye. It requires the knowledge of the appropriate conceptual scheme and how to apply it.”
“The point is that if the knowledge that provides the categories we use to describe our observations is defective, the observation statements that presuppose those categories are similarly defective.” 1 likes
More quotes…