This paper is an attempt to clarify why Ludwig Boltzmann from about 1895 to 1905 seemed to adopt a series of extreme epistemological positions, ranging from phenomenalism to pragmatism, while emphatically rejecting what he called ‘metaphysics’ (by which he meant all traditional philosophy). He concluded that all philosophical differences were merely linguistic and most were ultimately meaningless. But at about the time that young Ludwig Wittgenstein began absorbing these desperate ideas (1905), Boltzmann himself under the influence of Franz Brentano seemed (...) to assume a type of representationalism about the external physical world, while in his own mind adopting it for pragmatic reasons. Why? Because “it worked”. He seems to have defended his non-representationalist Bildtheorie on similar grounds, but his suicide followed shortly (1906). (shrink)
A study of the published and unpublished parts of Ernst Mach's last notebook (1910–14) suggests that Max Planck's attack (1908–11) provoked Mach into opposing ‘The Church of Physics’ more strongly than previously realized. Shortly after Mach threatened to leave the discipline if belief in atoms were required. Albert Einstein tried to persuade him to accept atomism (September 1910). Mach declined to mention Einstein again in his publications and increasingly criticized ‘The Church of Physics’. Evidence that Mach opposed relativity theory and (...) the absence of evidence that he favored it is pointed out. It is suggested that Mach's alleged ‘friendly interest’ in Einstein's work in early 1914 may have been stimulated by the hope that the young genius might develop a continuum or field theory to refute Planck's discontinuity physics. The paper concludes with suggestions on how philosophers who defend Mach's non-realism such as Gereon Wolters and Paul Feyerabend might be better off switching to a realist epistemology more compatible with rationally-held science, religion, and common sense. (shrink)
The primary purpose of the paper is to try to prove that it is impossible to write or understand history without making epistemological and ontological assumptions, In particular assumptions about whether physical objects and processes are within or beyond the limits of what can be made empirical or conscious.
The distinction between science and metaphysics tends to be invidious and is often used to set up a prejudice against foundation theory in general and indirect realism in particular. It should probably be replaced by distinctions between idealized and non-Idealized science on the one side and direct and indirect foundation theory on the other.