Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 41 (1):3 - 34 (1979)

Outside France the epistemology of G. Bachelard is unknown ; in France his influence is considerable, especially on philosophers like L. Althusser, M. Foucault, G. Canguilhem, J. Hyppolite, M. Serres, G. G. Granger, D. Lecourt and many others. Bachelard occupies a strategic point on the crossroads of all theoretical debates concerning science. The fact that he seems to give satisfactory answers on the problems which have risen after the breakdown of the logical-positivistic philosophy of science, justifies an exposition and evaluation of his original contribution to philosophy. The author distinguishes the following items. 1. The determination of Bachelards philosophy as a scientific philosophy which is wedded to a history of the sciences, especially the natural sciences. 2. The 'systematicity' as the criterium of science against other, traditional, criteria like empiricalness, logical deducibility, correspondence with reality and so on. 3. The rectification-principle : the formation of a scientific system cannot be conceived otherwise than as the restructuring or reorganisation of the ruling system or system-sets. 4. The transformation of scientific knowledge shows many discontinuities in all its phases and branches. Bachelard calls them ruptures. 5. The translation of a theory into another, more coherent and comprehensive one, is baptised as a 'dialectisation' of the concept. By a dialectisation a system is both generalised and specified. Formal logic, which is based on identity and the principle of the excluded middle, is not able to interprete this dynamic aspect of scientific thinking. 6. Central in Bachelards philosophy is also the concept of recurrence. Each new organisation of the scientific system (global or partial) sheds new light on their history and their logical foundations. History has to be rewritten after each progress. Recurrence, however, also has systematic implications. Science always desimplifies its own evidences. 7. The scientist has to demolish the obstacles which he made himself by surcharging the content of the concepts not in use and by not assimilating them in the system. 8. Bachelards philosophy of science is both idealistic and realistic ; the phenomenology becomes phenomenotechnique under the hands and in the brains of the scientist. 9. He always denies (negativity) the earlier theories and objects by incorporating them in new relationships. 10. This constructive aspect of theory formation is the same in natural science and mathematics. Bachelard opposes the logical-positivistic idea that these are methodically dissimilar. In a critical commentary the author discusses the question of 'dialectical logic' in the sciences, in relation to some recent research in this field by I. Lakatos en Errol E. Harris. In his opinion the epistemology of Bachelard affords a creative renewal of the understanding of science, although further research is needed in many aspects
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