Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of science emerged as a distinctive part of philosophy in the twentieth century. It set its own agenda, the systematic study of the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of science, and acquired its own professional structure, departments and journals. Its defining moment was the meeting (and the clash) of two courses of events: the breakdown of the Kantian philosophical tradition and the crisis in the sciences and mathematics in the beginning of the century. The emergence of the new Frege-Russell logic, the arithmetisation of geometry and the collapse of classical mechanics called into question the neat Kantian scheme of synthetic a priori principles. But the thought that some a priori (framework) principles should be in place in order for science to be possible had still had a strong grip on the thinkers of the European continent. A heated intellectual debate started concerning the status of these a priori principles. The view that dominated the scene after the dust had settled was that the required framework principles were conventions. The seed of this thought was found in Poincaré’s writings, but in the hands of the Logical Positivists, it was fertilised with Frege’s conception of analyticity and Hilbert’s conception of implicit definitions. The consolidation of modern physics lent credence to the view that a priori principles can be revised; hence, a new conception of relativised a priori emerged. The linguistic turn in philosophy re-oriented the subject-matter of philosophical thinking about science to the language of science. Formal-logical methods and conceptual analysis were taken to be the privileged philosophical tools. Not only, it was thought, do they clarify and perhaps solve (or dissolve) traditional philosophical problems; they also make philosophy rigorous and set it apart from empirical science. In the 1930s, philosophy of science became the logic of science; it became synonymous to anti-psychologism, anti-historicism and anti-naturalism..
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