100 books like Scientific Realism

By Stathis Psillos,

Here are 100 books that Scientific Realism fans have personally recommended if you like Scientific Realism. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Scientific Revolution

K. Brad Wray Author Of Kuhn's Intellectual Path: Charting The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

From my list on science studies.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Denmark, I teach at the Center for Videnskabsstudier. “Videnskabsstudier” is often translated as Science Studies. It thus connotes a rather broad field, which includes philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of science. And the notion of “videnskab”, which is frequently translated as science is interpreted rather broadly, to include, in addition to the natural science, the social sciences, and the humanities, indeed, basically any field one might study at a university. In fact, my own research intersects with and is influenced by research in all these fields.

K.'s book list on science studies

K. Brad Wray Why did K. love this book?

Shapin makes the audacious claim that there never really was a scientific revolution in Early Modern Europe, despite the fact that “the scientific revolution” has been a central organizing idea in the history of science and the history of Western culture more generally.

His provocative book provides a useful and engaging assessment of the utility of the concept of “the scientific revolution” for making sense of developments in the history of science.  He challenges us to think about the place of radical changes in the history of science, and whether the claims scientists make about such changes are merely rhetorical constructions.

Despite Shapin’s arguments, I am inclined to think something very significant happened in the sciences in the 16th and 17th Centuries, something that deserves to be called “revolutionary”. But Shapin’s book will certainly make readers reflect on what they mean by scientific revolution.

By Steven Shapin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scientific Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it." With this provocative and apparently paradoxical claim, Steven Shapin begins his bold vibrant exploration of early modern science. In this classic of science history, Shapin takes into account the culture - the variety of beliefs, practices, and influences - that in the 1600s shaped the origins of the modern scientific worldview.


Book cover of The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970-1993, with an Autobiographical Interview

K. Brad Wray Author Of Kuhn's Intellectual Path: Charting The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

From my list on science studies.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Denmark, I teach at the Center for Videnskabsstudier. “Videnskabsstudier” is often translated as Science Studies. It thus connotes a rather broad field, which includes philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of science. And the notion of “videnskab”, which is frequently translated as science is interpreted rather broadly, to include, in addition to the natural science, the social sciences, and the humanities, indeed, basically any field one might study at a university. In fact, my own research intersects with and is influenced by research in all these fields.

K.'s book list on science studies

K. Brad Wray Why did K. love this book?

This is a collection of essays by Kuhn, written later in his life, as he tried to clarify and develop the view he initially presented in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Kuhn reflects on developments in the sociology of science that were influenced by his work, as the Strong Programme sociologists of science identified as Kuhnians and relativists.  Kuhn tries to clarify what he meant by “paradigm change”, motivated by a concern to address his critics and to distance his own view from certain types of relativist views.

The autobiographical interview is very engaging, as Kuhn takes this opportunity to reflect on the impact of his book, as well as on the effects the book has had on his life and career. I think much of what Kuhn had to say in these later papers provides important insight into understanding science, especially his remarks on scientific specialization.

By Thomas S. Kuhn, James Conant (editor), John Haugeland (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road Since Structure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Kuhn will undoubtedly be remembered primarily for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a book that introduced one of the most influential conceptions of scientific progress to emerge during the twentieth century. The Road since Structure, assembled with Kuhn's input before his death in 1996, follows the development of his thought through the later years of his life: collected here are several essays extending and rethinking the perspectives of Structure as well as an extensive and remarkable autobiographical interview in which Kuhn discusses the course of his life and philosophy.


Book cover of Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States

K. Brad Wray Author Of Kuhn's Intellectual Path: Charting The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

From my list on science studies.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Denmark, I teach at the Center for Videnskabsstudier. “Videnskabsstudier” is often translated as Science Studies. It thus connotes a rather broad field, which includes philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of science. And the notion of “videnskab”, which is frequently translated as science is interpreted rather broadly, to include, in addition to the natural science, the social sciences, and the humanities, indeed, basically any field one might study at a university. In fact, my own research intersects with and is influenced by research in all these fields.

K.'s book list on science studies

K. Brad Wray Why did K. love this book?

Zuckerman provides a comprehensive study of the American scientists who won Nobel prizes between 1907 and 1972.

The book provides a window into the personalities of the people doing Nobel prize-winning research, as well as the sort of environments in which they were socialized and educated. Nobel laureates have tended to study and work with other Laureates or future Laureates. She also discusses the impact that winning a Nobel prize has on scientists, and the effects of the prize are not wholly positive.

The book also demonstrates the potential power of sociological analyses. Zuckerman creatively combines interview data with quantitative analyses. I think Zuckerman’s books are a fantastic example of how to conduct empirical research in sociology and the social sciences more generally.

By Harriet Zuckerman (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scientific Elite as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Scientific Elite is about Nobel prize winners and the well-defined stratification system in twentieth-century science. It tracks the careers of all American laureates who won prizes from 1907 until 1972, examining the complex interplay of merit and privilege at each stage of their scientific lives and the creation of the ultra-elite in science.

The study draws on biographical and bibliographical data on laureates who did their prize-winning research in the United States, and on detailed interviews with forty-one of the fifty-six laureates living in the United States at the time the study was done. Zuckerman finds laureates being successively advantaged…


Book cover of The Book Nobody Read

K. Brad Wray Author Of Kuhn's Intellectual Path: Charting The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

From my list on science studies.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Denmark, I teach at the Center for Videnskabsstudier. “Videnskabsstudier” is often translated as Science Studies. It thus connotes a rather broad field, which includes philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of science. And the notion of “videnskab”, which is frequently translated as science is interpreted rather broadly, to include, in addition to the natural science, the social sciences, and the humanities, indeed, basically any field one might study at a university. In fact, my own research intersects with and is influenced by research in all these fields.

K.'s book list on science studies

K. Brad Wray Why did K. love this book?

Gingerich discusses both the reception of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, as well as his own extensive research on Copernicus’ book, De Revolutionibus.

Over the course of several decades, Gingerich studied hundreds of copies of the first and second editions of Copernicus’ famous book in an effort to constructive a comprehensive census of the existing copies. These books can now sell for millions of dollars.

Gingerich was motivated in part by earlier studies of the annotations in various copies of the first edition of De Revolutionibus. Some of these contain many detailed annotations, indicating that the book was often studied with great care, contrary to a popular view that the book was seldom read. Further, he was able to reconstruct social networks by noting which copies contained the exact same annotations as other copies.

Gingerich makes the reader feel the excitement of archival research, as his book reads like a…

By Owen Gingerich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book Nobody Read as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1543 saw the publication of one of the most significant scientific works ever written: De revolutionibus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), in which Nicolaus Copernicus presented a radically different structure of the cosmos by placing the sun, and not the earth, at the centre of the universe. But did anyone take notice? Harvard astrophysicist Owen Gingerich was intrigued by the bold claim made by Arthur Koestler in his bestselling The Sleepwalkers that sixteenth-century Europe paid little attention to the groundbreaking, but dense, masterpiece. Gingerich embarked on a thirty-year odyssey to examine every extant copy to prove Koestler wrong-Logging…


Book cover of Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress

Angela Potochnik Author Of Idealization and the Aims of Science

From my list on exploring strange features of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a philosopher before I knew what philosophers were: asking questions to challenge the starting points for conversations. My biggest pet peeve has always been people who were sure they entirely understood something. While scientists conduct science to help learn about the world, philosophers of science like me study science to try to figure out how it works, why (and when) it’s successful, and how it relates to human concerns and society. Humans ultimately invent science, and I think it’s fascinating to consider how its features relate to our interests and foibles and how it’s so successful at producing knowledge and practical abilities. 

Angela's book list on exploring strange features of science

Angela Potochnik Why did Angela love this book?

This book takes what seems to be an incredibly basic feature of the world—temperature—and shows how a tremendous amount of scientific ingenuity and choices made over two centuries contributed to defining and measuring temperatures.

Showing how concepts taken for granted today emerged over time and could have been different helps reveal how little of what we know comes from direct observation. 

By Hasok Chang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inventing Temperature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is temperature, and how can we measure it correctly? These may seem like simple questions, but the most renowned scientists struggled with them throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. In Inventing Temperature, Chang examines how scientists first created thermometers; how they measured temperature beyond the reach of standard thermometers; and how they managed to assess the reliability and accuracy of these instruments without a circular reliance on the instruments themselves.

In a discussion that brings together the history of science with the philosophy of science, Chang presents the simple yet challenging epistemic and technical questions about these instruments, and…


Book cover of Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy

Deirdre N. McCloskey Author Of The Rhetoric of Economics

From my list on the rhetoric of science (from a distinguished professor).

Why am I passionate about this?

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, adjunct in classics and philosophy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-four books and some four hundred academic and popular articles on economic history, rhetoric, philosophy, statistical theory, economic theory, feminism, queer studies, liberalism, ethics, and law.

Deirdre's book list on the rhetoric of science (from a distinguished professor)

Deirdre N. McCloskey Why did Deirdre love this book?

Polanyi, an eminent Hungarian Jewish chemist who spent his career at the University of Manchester, was the smarter brother of the more famous Karl Polanyi, the socialist economic historian. Michael (Mihály) shows in the book how science depends on ordinary, “personal” knowledge, as for example in riding a bicycle. He was a “liberal” in the European sense, unlike his brother, and saw the scientific community as analogous to a free market, and the free market as analogous to a scientific community.

By Michael Polanyi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal Knowledge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The publication of Personal Knowledge in 1958 shook the science world, as Michael Polanyi took aim at the long-standing ideals of rigid empiricism and rule-bound logic. Today, Personal Knowledge remains one of the most significant philosophy of science books of the twentieth century, bringing the crucial concepts of “tacit knowledge” and “personal knowledge” to the forefront of inquiry.

In this remarkable treatise, Polanyi attests that our personal experiences and ways of sharing knowledge have a profound effect on scientific discovery. He argues against the idea of the wholly dispassionate researcher, pointing out that even in the strictest of sciences, knowing…


Book cover of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Angela Potochnik Author Of Idealization and the Aims of Science

From my list on exploring strange features of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a philosopher before I knew what philosophers were: asking questions to challenge the starting points for conversations. My biggest pet peeve has always been people who were sure they entirely understood something. While scientists conduct science to help learn about the world, philosophers of science like me study science to try to figure out how it works, why (and when) it’s successful, and how it relates to human concerns and society. Humans ultimately invent science, and I think it’s fascinating to consider how its features relate to our interests and foibles and how it’s so successful at producing knowledge and practical abilities. 

Angela's book list on exploring strange features of science

Angela Potochnik Why did Angela love this book?

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn upended the idea of scientific progress by suggesting that scientific theories change basically like fads. I find this book riveting, with a mix of colorful descriptions of science’s history and bold claims.

The book has been so influential that “paradigm shift”—its central idea that basic features of how we see the world change when scientific theories change—has been adopted to refer to any time our ideas change radically. 

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were-and still are. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. And fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach. With "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Kuhn challenged long-standing…


Book cover of The End Of Science: Facing The Limits Of Knowledge In The Twilight Of The Scientific Age

Martín López Corredoira Author Of The Twilight of the Scientific Age

From my list on the decline of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Apart from my professional expertise as a philosopher, I have directly observed science by working as a professional researcher in Physics and Astronomy. In any field, either arts, science, humanities, literature,... I observe the same thing: decline, ugliness, lack of spirit, lack of great intellectual achievements, and stupidity. Of course, we have technology, medicine, engineering, the Internet, and material things… and they are better than ever, but our culture and spirit are dying. Science is part of this culture, which is also in decadence, and working as a scientist and reading Spengler is a good combination to realize it.

Martín's book list on the decline of science

Martín López Corredoira Why did Martín love this book?

In my opinion, Horgan’s book is of great value, and I find it an important reference in considering the subject of “the end of science.”

This book is brave and lucid, with plenty of good ideas on topics related to the limits of knowledge in science. The intuition that the scientific age is declining is prophetic, I guess, but not so the causes Horgan gives. It is possible the limits of knowledge is one of the causes, but there is much more behind the twilight of science, and I think it is more related to being sated with knowledge rather than to the limits of knowledge.

It is more a sociological/anthropological question than a pure debate about whether there remain scientific problems to be solved. 

By John Horgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The End Of Science as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The End of Science, John Horgan makes the case that the era of truly profound scientific revelations about the universe and our place in it is over. Interviewing scientific luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, and Richard Dawkins, he demonstrates that all the big questions that can be answered have been answered, as science bumps up against fundamental limits. The world cannot give us a "theory of everything," and modern endeavors such as string theory are "ironic" and "theological" in nature, not scientific, because they are impossible to confirm. Horgan's argument was controversial in 1996, and it remains…


Book cover of The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

Bettina von Stamm Author Of The Other Side of Growth: An Innovator's Responsibilities in an Emerging World

From my list on today’s complex world and help our planet.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an innovation expert for over 30 years, I've been cautioning about the "dark side" of innovation and emphasized the importance of sustainability. Though in light of the urgency of our planet's situation, we need to shift our focus from sustainability to regeneration. The unprecedented complexity and connectedness of today’s world demand thinking in systems, and the kind of innovation that leads to the transformation of our current social and economic systems so we can live in harmony with nature. This requires us to question who we collaborate with, what we value, and how we create value. We need to work together differently, with different leadership, and to change our own ways of thinking.

Bettina's book list on today’s complex world and help our planet

Bettina von Stamm Why did Bettina love this book?

For too long we have considered everything in the world through the lens of linear relationships.

Slowly – too slowly in my view – are we realizing the systemic nature of most things.

What Fritjof and Luigi do in their book is enable the reader to truly internalize the systemic nature of the world that we are part of. The ‘being part of’ aspect is critical.

Too many of us humans seem to consider ourselves to be the pinnacle of evolution, tobe in control, to have the right to plunder our planet at our heart’s content.

It is high time everyone realizes that we are but part of a system, entirely dependent on it and its healthiness. While it might be a little heavy-going at times, the book takes the reader on a journey at the end of which any chance to still see the world through a linear lens…

By Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Systems View of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the past thirty years, a new systemic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. New emphasis has been given to complexity, networks, and patterns of organisation, leading to a novel kind of 'systemic' thinking. This volume integrates the ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, the authors examine the appearance of key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution. The implications of the systems view of life for health care, management,…


Book cover of What Is This Thing Called Science?

Bernard Beckett Author Of Genesis

From my list on get your head around consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an educator at heart and have been teaching in high schools for over thirty years now. I get a kick out of helping young people see the world anew and think about ideas in ways that at first seem strange and challenging to them, both in the classroom and through my novels. Of course, to be any good at that, I have to be inquisitive and open myself, and there’s nothing like the topic of consciousness to make you feel feeble-minded and ill-informed. It’s such a wondrous topic because it sits at the precise meeting point of so many of our scientific, cultural, artistic, religious, and philosophical traditions.

Bernard's book list on get your head around consciousness

Bernard Beckett Why did Bernard love this book?

Bookshelves groan under the weight of highly skilled science communicators, and through them those of us with no specialist knowledge can learn about evolution, quantum mechanics, neuroscience et al, and then bore people to death with our newfound knowledge. There is, however, a world of difference between the things science discovers and the stories we tell about these discoveries. I love this book because it makes the reader do the hard yards, thinking not just about the breathless new discoveries, but also the very nature of this knowledge, and hence its limits.

By Alan F. Chalmers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is This Thing Called Science? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Co-published with the University of Queensland Press. HPC holds rights in North America and U. S. Dependencies.

Since its first publication in 1976, Alan Chalmers's highly regarded and widely read work--translated into eighteen languages--has become a classic introduction to the scientific method, known for its accessibility to beginners and its value as a resource for advanced students and scholars.

In addition to overall improvements and updates inspired by Chalmers's experience as a teacher, comments from his readers, and recent developments in the field, this fourth edition features an extensive chapter-long postscript that draws on his research into the history of…


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