Are there any issues in contemporary science and engineering?

“Are theoretical researches based on oversimplified methods which return wrong predictions? Do empiric approaches lack rigour and scientific depth? Is there any gap between theory and practice, and why?”.

Through our academic work, me and my colleagues at the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Aalto University, have noticed that far too often, separation of research fields and approaches results in uncorrelated work with inconsistencies and delays. This is responsible for both loss of resources and stagnation of research, which do exist in several fields. The same seemingly happens in education, as very often the students either use “cook book recipes” blindly, with no formal understanding, or dwell into the theory, with no insight of the real phenomena.

We argue that the root cause for a major part of the problems in construction engineering and management lies at the level of inappropriate choices and interpretations related to philosophy of science. Tracking this back in time, we found clues starting from the Platonic and Aristotelian contrasting approaches.

In the talk here attached I am sharing some thoughts on philosophy of science, which we are going to include in a paper now in phase of completion. Although civil engineering is our main concern, the full analysis we perform is fairly general; our results apply indeed to many other fields of engineering, and to science and technology as well (from which the title of this blog entry).

I have given this short talk (7 slides) at an Aalto workshop which took place last June. I review very synthetically the central ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and their fundamental impacts on the philosophy of science. My seminar evolves around the very basic principles of their traditions, explaining how they influenced the fundamental work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz on one side, and Locke, Hume and Berkeley on the other. I also briefly mention Carnap, Popper and Feyerabend, due to their original contribution to epistemology (I deliberately avoided addressing Kant, as I will include him in a future entry on this topic).

I am not a philosopher, thus it doesn’t get too technical and everybody can understand it 🙂

Here it is: Philosophy of science: Plato vs Aristotle

P.S.: the title is set to “Plato vs Aristotle” as a necessary oversimplification: Aristotle was a disciple of Plato, and as such he maintained a deductive component in his induction-grounded science; so the opposition is not as radical and definitive as in Rationalism vs Empiricism.

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