What Is This Thing Called Philosophy of Science? A Computational Topic-Modeling Perspective, 1934–2015

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What is philosophy of science? Numerous manuals, anthologies, and essays provide carefully reconstructed vantage points on the discipline that have been gained through expert and piecemeal historical analyses. In this article, we address the question from a complementary perspective: we target the content of one major journal in the field—Philosophy of Science—and apply unsupervised text-mining methods to its complete corpus, from its start in 1934 until 2015. By running topic-modeling algorithms over the full-text corpus, we identified 126 key research topics that span 82 years. We also tracked those topics’ evolution and fluctuating significance over time in the journal articles. Our results concur with and document known and lesser-known episodes in the philosophy of science, including the rise and fall of logic and language-related topics, the relative stability of a metaphysical and ontological questioning (space and time, causation, natural kinds, realism), the significance of epistemological issues about the nature of scientific knowledge, and the rise of a recent philosophy of biology and other trends. These analyses exemplify how computational text-mining methods can be used to provide an empirical large-scale and data-driven perspective on the history of philosophy of science that is complementary to other current historical approaches.

This content has been updated on 24 October 2019 at 11 h 11 min.