Konstantinos Chatzigeorgiou
University of Glasgow
This manuscript, divided into two parts, provides a contextual and historiographical analysis of Edwin Arthur Burtt's classic The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. My discussion corroborates the sparse technical literature on Burtt (Moriarty, 1994; Villemaire, 2002), positioning his work in the aftermath of American idealism and the rise of realist, pragmatist and naturalist alternatives. However, I depart from the existing interpretations both in content and focus. Disagreeing with Moriarty, I maintain that Burtt's Metaphysical Foundations is not an idealist work. Moreover, I provide an alternative to Villemaire's mainly Deweyite/pragmatist reading, emphasizing the import of new realism and naturalism. Burtt's historical thesis should not be viewed as outlining a systematic philosophical position, but rather as a (coherent) culmination of numerous philosophical problematics. To support my conclusion, I provide a substantial summary of Burtt's text alongside a contextual analysis of the philosophical issues that preoccupied his teachers and peers in Columbia's philosophy department. I conclude with a historiographical section, rendering explicit the connections between Burtt's understanding of the scientific revolution, and his distinctive early 20th century American intellectual context.
Keywords Edwin Arthur Burtt  History of Science  Scientific Revolution  John Dewey  Frederick Woodbridge  Pragmatism  Realism
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2020.05.002
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