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Wesley C. Salmon (1925-2001)

One of Reichenbach's students; Wesley Salmon has been working on various topics in the philosophy of science: the problem of space and time, probability and confirmation, and more recently the problem of causality and scientific explanation. After teaching at various places, such as Indiana and Arizona, he taught at Pittsburgh as University Professor, from 1983 to1999; aside from many important professional activities, he served as the President of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science, Division of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science.

In the 50s, Salmon criticized (and eventually expelled) the "ordinary language solution" of the problem of induction (P. F. Strawson's view), which claims that there is no problem once we become clear about the meanings of such key words as "probable" or "rational"; and he tried to refine Reichenbach's pragmatic vindication of the straight rule of induction, together with the defence of the frequency view of probability. His research in this field culminated in his book, The Foundations of Scientific Inference (1967).

During the 70s, he began to work on the problem of scientific explanation: what is the correct form of statistical explanation, what is the basis of "relevance" which seems essential for explanation? He recalls, in a book, an incident which attracted his attention to such problems:

I recall with amusement a personal experience that occurred in the early 1960s. J. J. C. Smart, a distinguished Australian philosopher, visited Indiana University where I was teaching at that time. Somehow we got into a conversation about the major unsolved problems in philosophy of science, and he mentioned the problem of scientific explanation. I was utterly astonished--literally, too astonished for words. At the time I considered that problem essentially solved by the deductive-nomological (D-N) account ... (Salmon 1990, 4)

And he gradually came to the view that causality is essential for scientific explanation. This view is systematically expounded in his Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World (1984). Its sequel is another book, Four Decades of Scientific Explanation (1990). His view continued to develop, as is shown in his Causality and Explanation (1998) .

Aside from these, he also worked on Zeno's paradoxes, the philosophy of space and time, and many other topics. Though retired, he was still active. But all of a sudden, his life was terminated by an automobile accident, April 22, 2001. Since he taught (together with Merrilee) in Kyoto University, we all remember his warm personality as well as his sincerity as regards philosophy.

See also: Wes Salmon's Causality; Newsletter 33 and 35; see also Obituary by Adolf Gruenbaum.

Merrilee H. Salmon (1935-)

She was one of A.W. Burks's students at the University of Michigan. She has published an original book Philosophy and Archaeology (1982), and another on the analysis of critical thinking in ordinary discourse, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking (1st ed., 1984, and 4th new edition, 2002). The latter book, aside from its unique stance for emphasizing the importance of inductive reasoning, is a wealth of real-life examples of good and tricky reasonings, extracted from various sources; few books can enjoy such longevity and improvements. Let me quote just one example from her exercise sets (from p. 156).

There is no overestimating the importance of pets to people it seems. Katcher reported that in one questionnaire, on which people were given the opportunity to indicate whether they thought their pet was an animal or a human member of the family, 48 percent responded that the animal was a human family member. ("Human-Animal relationship under Scrutiny", Science 241 (1981): 418)

All right, what sort of argument is involved in this, and is it an acceptable inductive generalization? How do you analyze?

She was the former Editor-in-chief of Philosophy of Science, and then served as the Chair of HPS of the University of Pittsburgh. She became one of the experts of the philosophy of social sciences; and her seminar on this subject, here in Kyoto, updated and revived our interest in this field, and stimulated a number of students and scholars.

See also:`hpsdept/fac/fac.html; Philosophy of Social Science; Newsletter 33 and 34.


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Last modified Dec. 14, 2008. (c) Soshichi Uchii