the philosophy of science

Here's a really interesting section in Edward Feser's book on Aquinas! He's talking about how science has putatively rejected the Aristotelian notion of final causation, but in practice acts otherwise. Final causation, or the end, goal, or purpose of a thing, has been rejected by scientists as irrelevant and possibly anti-scientific, as purpose is an immaterial thing. Part of the project of modern science is to prove the philosophy of materialism, (look at neuroscience, for example) so they avoid talk of anything that even resembles such antiquated ideas as "purpose". But it seems that scientists have been unable to avoid using the concept, as Feser explains on page 49 of his book
Moreover, physicists do not in fact embrace a regularity as a law of nature only after many trials, after the fashion of popular presentations of inductive reasoning. Rather, they draw their conclusions from a few highly specialized experiments conducted under artificial conditions. None of this is consistent with the idea that science is concerned with cataloguing observed regularities. But it is consistent with the Aristotelian picture of science as in the business of uncovering the hidden natures or powers of things. Actual experimental practice indicates that what physicists are really looking for are the inherent powers a thing will naturally manifest when interfering conditions are removed, and the fact that a few experiments, or even a single controlled experiment, are taken to establish the results in question indicates that these powers are taken to reflect a nature that is universal to things of that type.
In my experience, as something of a scientist myself, this is absolutely true. No one would ever want to admit that what scientists are really doing is uncovering universal truths about a things nature and end, but it is probably the case.

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