Philosophy of Science and Democracy. Some reflections on Philipp Frank"s "Relativity â€“ a richer truth"
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philipp Frank"s book Relativity â€“ a richer truth1 shows something we do not find very often after World War 2: a philosopher of science acting as a public intellectual. Taking part in the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion, Philipp Frank intervened in the public debate about the causes of Nazism and how to defend democracy and liberalism against totalitarian ideas and politics. Could philosophy of science contribute to such a struggle? Philipp Frank thought it could, he even thought that Philosophy of Science should play a crucial role in it. It"s obvious that this position should be of some interest for philosophers in Austria and Europe today. Of course, any serious analysis of Frank"s position would have to take the whole historical constellation into account. Between the beginning of the conference in 1940 and the publication of the book in 1951 the historical situation had dramatically changed. And therefore one has to distinguish several political dimensions in Frank"s arguments. Let me just make a short remark on the plurality of political perspectives Frank"s discourse opened up. Philipp Frank defined the role science should play in democracy not only in contrast to the role of science as it was conceived by totalitarian governments. Of course he criticised the Nazis" and Soviets" â€?philosophies of scienceâ€? several times (see for instance p. 73, 98, 103p.). But he also made very clear that in the 40ies and 50ies not even the majority of scholars and university teachers in the US supported the specific view of science which Frank thought was so important to the advancement of democracy (for instance 59pp.). His rather critical comments on the teaching of science in the post war / cold war period show what he thought the really important political impact of science was. As far as I can see, these comments did not loose their significance.
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