ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION
Philosophy of Science and History of Science: A Productive Engagement
Doctor in Philosophy in Philosophy
University of California, San Diego, 1991
Philip S. Kitcher, Chair
Philosophy of science and history of science both have a significant relation to science itself; but what is their relation to each other? That question has been a focal point of philosophical and historical work throughout the second half of this century. An analysis and review of the progress made in dealing with this question, and especially that made in philosophy, is the focus of this thesis.
Chapter one concerns logical positivist and empiricist approaches to philosophy of science, and the significance of the criticisms levelled at them by analytic epistemologists such as Willard Quine and 'historicist' philosophers of science, especially Thomas Kuhn. Chapter two details the attempts by Kuhn and Lakatos to integrate these historicist criticism with historically oriented philosophy of science, in their separate attempts at providing rational explanations of historical developments. Kuhn's latest work seeks to mend fences with philosophy, but his efforts remain too closely tied to the epistemological approaches strongly criticized in his earlier work. Lakatos' treatment of history is much more subtle than most have understood it to be, but the conception of scientific rationality that arises out of it is transformed into an abstract cultural product, more reminiscent of Hegel's geist than of individual human rationality.
Chapters three and four discuss the recommendations of Lakatos and Laudan to historians with regard to historiography, and the actual historiographies and philosophy of history of practicing historians and historians of science. The philosophers' contributions indicate little concern for the historians' own methods, materials, and purposes; and the historians' writings present methodologies for history of science that are independent of the normative demarcations of philosophy of science, pace Lakatos and Laudan.
Chapter five develops a philosophical position that fosters a more productive engagement between philosophy and history of science, a ‘methodological historicism’ that embraces the possibility of an important role for social and political factors in a philosophical study of scientific development. The epistemological relativism that might accompany such a historicist position need not be the radical epistemological anarchism of Feyerabend, though it will allow for a significant underdetermination of scientific development by reason nonetheless.
Clearly philosophy of science and history of science both have a significant relation to science itself; but what is their relation to each other? That question has been a focal point of philosophical and historical work throughout the second half of this century, particularly noticeable in the writings of Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend and Larry Laudan. An analysis and review of the progress made in dealing with this question, and especially that made by these authors, is the focus of this thesis.
Many authors have written concerning both sides of the relation -- the impact that philosophy should have on history, and history on philosophy -- and they have also reflected on their views regarding the character of their own disciplines, as those views are relevant to determining the relation. Three areas of discussion, then, present themselves, for members of both disciplines. My field of study, acquaintance with materials, and abilities will lead me to focus particularly on the field of philosophy, and the adequacy of the philosophers’ development of the interdisciplinarity debate, but I will also take up the historians’ end as well, and the use and abuse of phi