In modern continental thought, natural science is widely portrayed as an exclusively instrumental mode of reason. The breadth of this consensus has partly preempted the question of how it came to persuade. The process of persuasion, as it played out in Germany, can be explored by reconstructing the intellectual exchanges among three twentieth-century theorists of science, Heidegger, Habermas, and Werner Heisenberg. Taking an iconic Heisenberg as a kind of limiting case of “the scientist,” Heidegger and Habermas each found themselves driven (...) to place new constraints on their previously more capacious assessments of science, especially its capacity to reflect on its method. Tracing how that happened, through archival and historical contextualization and close readings of their texts, lets us make visible Heidegger and Habermas’s intellectual affinities and argumentative parallels, which derived not only from their shared grounding in earlier reactions against positivism, but also from confrontation with contemporary events. The latter included, for Heidegger, the rise of a technically powerful science exemplified by nuclear physics, and for Habermas, post-World War II controversies over science, technology, and their socially critical possibilities. (shrink)
The Deutscher Forschungsrat (GermanResearch Council) attempted to anchor scienceadvising and science policy in West Germanyafter the Second World War. Promoted by acircle of élite scientists, the councilaimed to establish institutions and mechanismscomparable to those in Great Britain, theUnited States, and other scientific powers.After a two-and-a-half year existence, iteventually failed. The reasons for its failure,some local, some global, display thedifficulties facing research policy in theearly years of the Federal Republic.
Beyond Weimar Culture – The Significance of the Forman Thesis for a Cultural Approach to the History of Science. The famous ‘Forman thesis’, published in 1971, argued for a historical linkage among the intellectual atmosphere of Weimar Germany, popular revolts against determinism and materialism, and the creation of the revolutionary new theory of quantum mechanics. Paul Forman's long essay on “Weimar Culture” has shaped research agendas in numerous fields, from the history and philosophy of physics to German history to the (...) sociology of scientific knowledge. Despite its status as a classic and its transformative effect, Weimar Culture has always inspired as much critique as assent. In particular in the history of science, cohorts of students and two generations of scholars have debated the Forman thesis as a conceptual tool for linking scientific change with cultural processes. The Forman thesis raises critical questions for both the ongoing debates over cultural approaches to the history of science and the burgeoning newer scholarship on physics in and beyond Weimar Germany. Exploring these implications has been the aim of a transnational project of the three authors of this article which sheds some light on these debates and briefly introduces the following papers of this special issue devoted to Paul Forman and his seminal works in the history of science. (shrink)