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23. History, Role in the Philosophy of Science


Subject History, Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00026.x


The leading philosophers of science of the first half of the twentieth century had little use for the history of science. There are several possible explanations for this. One is that philosophers of science sometimes (knowingly or not) mimic the methodological habits and values of scientists. Many philosophers of science are motivated by admiration for the perceived rigor and intellectual hygiene of the exact sciences. Historical sense is not normally a cardinal virtue among physicists. Hence, those philosophers who take their methodological cues from their scientific heroes are unlikely to think of philosophy as a historical discipline. Indeed, the idea of a close relationship between history and philosophy may have fallen into disrepute as a consequence of its association with idealist philosophers, of whom Hegel is the most notorious. Then there is Feyerabend's explanation, which is that the philosophy of science was transformed by the spectacular advances in formal logic which took place in the late nineteenth century. The development of modern formal logic made possible a range of hitherto inconceivable projects in the philosophy of science. The most radical of these was the positivist attempt to replace philosophy with the logical analysis of scientific language. Equally dependent on the new logic was Popper's attempt to explain the workings of empirical science using only ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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