Specialization and collaboration
Over the past few decades, philosophy -- and philosophy of science in particular -- has become increasingly specialized: we have philosophy of quantum field theory, philosophy of developmental biology, etc. It seems that even the so-called "generalists" in philosophy of science are becoming a more and more self-contained group. (For example, I went to a session entitled "Confirmation" at the last Philosophy of Science Association meeting, and I had a very difficult time understanding what was being discussed, at least in part because there was a lot of specialized jargon and assumptions shared by the experts used without explanation -- though my limited brainpower certainly played its part in my incomprehension.)
In general, I think this trend of specialization is a Good Thing, primarily because it has led to specific results that we might not have found otherwise. (Thus I disagree with Karl Popper's claim: "For the scientist, specialization is a great temptation, but for the philosopher, it is a mortal sin.") But I think specialization also has its costs -- in particular, we tend to bypass answers to bigger questions. The question "What is a scientific explanation?" is replaced by "What is explanation in quantum information theory?" or "What is an evolutionary explanation?" and so on. (I think both of those questions are very interesting and philosophically important ones!) The philosopher of biology is uncomfortable talking about explanation in the physical sciences, and the philosopher of physics feels likewise about explanations of biological phenomena -- and the generalist is busy worrying about 'grue'some predicates, the barometer and the thunderstorm, or the irrelevant conjunction problem to deal with explanations in particular sciences. (I think this may in part explain why philosophy of science survey classes often begin with writings of logical empiricists: they tried to give genuinely general accounts of notions central to science.)
In keeping with the generally naturalist spirit of philosophy of science and this blog, we can ask ourselves: What Would Scientists Do? Scientists these days are hyperspecialized, and publish their hyperspecialized research in increasingly specialized journals. However, they also answer bigger, broader questions as well, via collaboration with scientists outside their specialty. So I wonder whether the time is ripe now for philosophers of science, armed with the insights about their particular sub-disciplines amassed over the last few decades, to begin collaborating to answer some of the bigger questions again. And the collaborations need not end there -- philosophers of science could also collaborate more with folks working within epistemology and metaphysics proper, or other fields.
I imagine many will say that we have overthrown the logical empiricist myth that there is a single thing, explanation, or confirmation, or even science. I am open to the idea that these might be myths. But I think we should check whether this is the case -- and if they are mythical, we can at least gain clarity and specificity about what the differences are between e.g. the explanatory patterns of physics and biology.