Thirteen Philosophical Quotes on Science (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on science, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Without further ado, here are thirteen philosophical quotes on science:

With a true view all the data harmonize, but with a false one the facts soon clash.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1098b12, trans. W. D. Ross

It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve forever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.

– Francis Bacon, Novum Organon, I, 31

There is another great and powerful cause why the sciences have made but little progress, which is this. It is not possible to run a course aright when the goal itself has not been rightly placed. Now the true and lawful goal of the sciences is none other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers.

– Francis Bacon, Novum Organon, I, 81

Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested.

– Francis Bacon, Novum Organon, I, 95

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

– Isaac Newton, Remark, 1727

When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science.

– Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, VI

It can hardly be supposed that a false theory would explain, in so satisfactory a manner as does the theory of natural selection, the several large classes of facts above specified. It has recently been objected that this is an unsafe method of arguing; but it is a method used in judging of the common events of life, and has often been used by the greatest natural philosophers. The undulatory theory of light has thus been arrived at; and the belief in the revolution of the earth on its own axis was until lately supported by hardly any direct evidence. It is no valid objection that science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life. Who can explain what is the essence of the attraction of gravity? No one now objects to following out the results consequent on this unknown element of attraction; notwithstanding that Leibnitz formerly accused Newton of introducing “occult qualities and miracles into philosophy.”

– Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, XV

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness: and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.

– Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, III, 21

Nothing is vital for science; nothing can be. . . . The scientific man is not the least bit wedded to his conclusions. He risks nothing upon them. He stands ready to abandon one or all as soon as experience opposes them.

– C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, I, 635

. . . the rigorously impersonal view of science might one day appear as having been a temporarily useful eccentricity rather than the definitively triumphant position which the sectarian scientist at present so confidently announces it to be.

– William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, fn. 335

Experiment is the sole source of truth.

– Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, IV, 9, trans. W. J. Greenstreet

It is often said that experiments should be made without preconceived ideas. That is impossible.

– Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, IV, 9, trans. W. J. Greenstreet

Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

– Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, IV, 9, trans. W. J. Greenstreet

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