In Higher Superstition, published early in 1994, biologist Paul R. Gross and mathematician Norman Levitt denounced an `Academic Left' at once militant and ill-informed in its criticisms of science. Gross and Levitt showed sharp eyes for the pretentious and absurd in the works of American postmodernists, feminists, multiculturalists, radical environmentalists and, alas, exponents of science studies -- that is, historians, philosophers and sociologists of science. In the Autumn of 94, physicist Alan Sokal, inspired by Gross and Levitt's book, submitted (...) a spoof article portentously entitled `Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity' to Social Text, a leading journal in the expanding field of cultural studies. As he later told Janny Scott of the New York Times : I structured the article around the silliest quotations about mathematics and physics from the most prominent academics, and I invented an argument praising them and linking them together. All this was very easy to carry off, because my article wasn't obliged to respect any standards of evidence or logic. The editors of Social Text were hoodwinked. By an unhappy coincidence, shortly after receiving Sokal's article they decided to produce a special `Science Wars' collection, including the unrefereed article together with responses to Higher Superstition. `Transgressing the Boundaries' duly appeared in the Spring/Summer 96 double issue, accompanied by articles from a number of those denounced by Gross and Levitt and lampooned by Sokal -- the perfect setting! (shrink)
This article proposes that a general theory of assessment of historical testimony should do justice to the long tradition of adjudication in accordance with maxims of reliability and competence. I argue that an explanatory genealogical theory (along lines first adumbrated by Charles Seignobos) satisfies this condition, and that it has further notable virtues: respect for the strengths of rival theories, regard for the links between adjudication of testimony and other basic procedures of historical inquiry, and the promise of profitable lines (...) of investigation. (shrink)
Gadamer's Truth and Method emphasises the priority of engagement with questions in the process of interpretation; however, there are passages which appear dismissive of concerns with 'dead' scientific and philosophical questions. Here I argue that Gadamer's work is nevertheless an important resource for the historical study of the genesis and dissolution of questions. This type of study can overcome the divide between internal history of contents and external history of contexts. In both philosophy and the sciences, reflection on the genealogy (...) of questions is, I suggest, crucial for our critical awareness of current methods and agendas. (shrink)
Gerd Buchdahl's international reputation rests on his masterly writings on Kant. In them he showed how Kant transformed the philosophical problems of his predecessors and he minutely investigated the ways in which Kant related his critical philosophy to the contents and methods of natural science. Less well known, if only because in large part unpublished, are the writings in which Buchdahl elaborated his own views on the methods and status of the sciences. In this paper I examine the roles of (...) hermeneutics in Buchdahl's reconstruction of Kant's philosophical system and in his own 'transcendental methodological' approach to the philosophy of science. The first section looks at Buchdahl's views on the theory and practice of historical interpretation and at the Husserlian hermeneutic scheme of reduction and realisation that he used in his later accounts of the philosophies of science of Kant and himself. The second section concentrates on Buchdahl's treatment of the grounds of science in Kant; and the third on the hermeneutic strategies Buchdahl employed in articulating and justifying his own views. The paper closes with reflections on the impact and importance of Buchdahl's interpretation of Kant's critical philosophy in relation to the sciences and of his own hermeneutically based philosophy of science. (shrink)
This book advocates a radical shift of concern in philosophical, historical, and sociological studies of the sciences, and explores the consequences of such a shift. The historically-oriented first part of the work deals with the ways in which ranges of questions become real and cease to be real for communities of inquirers. The more philosophically-oriented second part of the work introduces the notion of absolute reality of questions, and addresses doubt about the claims of the sciences to have accumulated absolutely (...) real questions. It is argued that recent studies in the sociology and social history of the science pose strong challenges to the sciences by revealing how appeals to authority, vested interests, and rhetorical and aesthetic sensibilities play substantial roles in the practices of the sciences. The final chapter defends the pragmatic stance of the work, and of its companion, The Fortunes of Inquiry, and draws morals about the roles of criticism and reflection in the philosophy of science and in the sciences themselves. (shrink)
The belief that science shows an accumulation of a body of objective knowledge has been widely challenged by philosophers and historians in the latter half of this century. In this treatise, Dr. Jardine defends this belief with a careful appreciation of the complexities involved, drawing on many controversial issues concerning truth in science, interpretation of past theories, and grounds of scientific method.
An axiomatic treatment of the relation part of is shown to lead naturally to an account of the ways in which parts of things are matched. The determination of matchings by the properties of parts and by the relations between parts is discussed and shown to be relevant to certain classificatory problems in science. The connexions between matchings and symmetries of parts are explored, and a general account is given of the ways in which ambiguities in the matching of parts (...) may be resolved. (shrink)