What I (try to) do, however, is not philosophy of science. I suppose what I do amounts to old-fashioned Oxford-style conceptual analysis, though again with a new historical emphasis. I should note that I think the word ‘analysis’ in this context is often given much too restrictive a sense (to analyze the concept F is to give necessary and sufficient conditions of the form ‘x is an F if and only if…’ – well, no). In fact I suspect that what I do amounts to the kind of thing that, according to Schliesser, philosophy of science since the time of Newton’s exegetes was deliberately conceived in order to rule out as invalid. On his story, philosophy of science emerged as the exclusive authority of empirical science was invoked by figures like Maclaurin, ‘s Gravesande, Musschenbroek, and Nieuwentyt against the notion that mere reflection on the meanings of concepts can reveal substantive truths about concrete reality.--Alex Douglas, responding, in part, to my post.
Alex's post (welcome to the blogosphere, Alex!) allows me to clarify something about my own position about the emergence of philosophy of science. By 'philosophy of science,' I mean a distinct, second order reflection on scientific practice and images of science (on images of science recall this).* Douglas is right to associate my story with now-obscure figures like Maclaurin, ‘s Gravesande, Musschenbroek, and Nieuwentyt. What these eighteenth century characters have in common is that they were willing to appeal to the authority of Newtonian natural philosophy to settle debate within philosophy/metaphysics proper. (I call such a move "Newton's Challenge!") Maclaurin, ‘s Gravesande, and Musschenbroek also made some contributions to Newtonian natural philosophy, but on the whole they are worth remembering (together with Nieuwentyt) for their reflections on the nature of Newton's achievement. To be clear: none of these four characters were slavish followers of Newton; they recast Newton's position in terms that served their own philosophical ends often in polemical context (often, but not exclusively, anti-Spinozistic). But on my account, their arguments did not go unchallenged. In particular, Diderot, Hume, Buffon, Mandeville (etc.) all offer arguments and considerations that are, in part, a response to "Newton's Challenge" as such and, in some part, directly addressing the detailed arguments offered in its favor. By my lights these arguments by Diderot, Hume, Buffon, Berkeley, Mandeville also contribute to the emergence of philosophy of science as a distinct, second order enterprise. So, the authority of science was debated in the emergence of philosophy science (see here, in part). As an aside, this was, in part, a debate within what is now known as 'empiricism.'