In this book Professor Holton continues his analysis of how modem science works and what its influences are on our world, with particular emphasis on the role of the thematic elements - those often unconscious presuppositions that guide scientific work to success or failure. The foundation of the book is provided by the author's research on the work of Albert Einstein, which is then contrasted with other styles of research in the advancement of science. The author deals directly with the (...) often unforeseen consequences of the progress of contemporary science, detailing its fruits as well as its burdens. The many questions examined in this work range over a broad spectrum of areas that command the attention of all readers with an interest in understanding the development of modem science. (shrink)
Since the 1960s. thematic analysis has been introduced as a new tool for understanding the success or the failure of individual scientific research projects, particularly in their early stages. Specific examples are given, as well as indications of the prevalence of themata in areas beyond the natural sciences.
The physicist–philosopher Philipp Frank’s work and influence, especially during his last three decades, when he found a refuge and a position in America, deserve more discussion than has been the case so far. In what follows, I hope I may call him Philipp – having been first a graduate student in one of his courses at Harvard University, then his teaching assistant sharing his offices, then for many years his colleague and friend in the same Physics Department, and finally, doing (...) research on his archival holdings kept at Harvard. I also should not hide my large personal debt to him, for without his recommendation in the 1950s to the Albert Einstein Estate, I would not have received its warm welcome and its permission, as the first one to do historical research in the treasure trove of unpublished letters and manuscripts, thus starting me on a major part of my career in the history of science. (shrink)
This essay is a study of Polanyi’s career as scientist and philosopher from the point of view of the history of science, starting with the first step in his academic career helped by an intervention of Albert Einstein. Polanyi’s ideas are better understood if placed against the background of then-fashionable philosophical movements, including logical positivism, and his disagreement with Bukharin in 1935. The essay studies the sources and ambitions of Polanyi’s notion of the tacit dimension, his attitude to evolution and (...) “emergence,” and his contribution to the search for the origins of Einstein’s Relativity Theory. His success in the last of these is shown to be an exemplar of Polanyi’s own philosophy. (shrink)
In the pursuit of researches and in the reporting of their results, the individual scientist as well as the community of fellow professionals rely implicitly on the researcher embracing the habit of truthfulness, a main pillar of the ethos of science. Failure to adhere to the twin imperatives of candor and integrity will be adjudged intolerable and, by virtue of science’s self-policing mechanisms, rendered the exception to the rule. Yet both as philosophical concepts and in practice, candor and integrity are (...) complex, difficult to define clearly, and difficult to convey easily to those entering on scientific careers. Therefore it is useful to present operational examples of two major scientists who exemplified devotion to candor and integrity in scientific research. (shrink)
In the rise of modern scientific philosophy, one can distinguish four general periods. Its early phase is part of the intellectual history of 19th-century Austria-Hungary. Second, we find it reaching its self-confident form in the 1920s and early ‘30s, chiefly in the collaborative achievements of the Vienna Circle and its analogous groups in Prague, Berlin, Lwow and Warsaw. Third is the period of its further growth and accommodation during the period roughly from the late 1930s to about 1960, especially in (...) the U.S.A., as mediated largely by the European refugees from fascism. Lastly, the movement’s fate from the 1960s on may be understood as its integration with, or dissolution into, other related modern streams. (shrink)
During its most vigorous period, the Vienna Circle movement was, by and large, kept rather marginal by the political and academic forces in its European home; they tended to see it as a dangerous search, in the Enlightenment tradition, for a world conception that would be free from metaphysical illusions, free from the kind of clericalism that had a strangle-hold on state and university, and free from the romantic madness of the rising fascist ideology. The wonder, in fact, is that (...) in its day, against such opposition, the Vienna Circle commanded adherence by such an array of distinguished intellectuals, even if they were only a small fraction of the total intelligentsia. (shrink)
The psychologist-philosopher B.F. Skinner and the physicist-philosopher P.W. Bridgman, both dedicated empiricists, initially entered into an intellectual relationship that seemed destined to be warm and fruitful. Yet, it ended up unfulfilled. Since I am now perhaps one of the few who knew both men as colleagues for many years, I might be able to throw some unique light on their interaction, and on what I consider to be one of the missed opportunities in the history of ideas.
Based on texts and personal recollections, the paper discusses the origins and roots of Philipp Frank’s philosophy of science as it was developed in Eastern Europe and later institutionalized in the United States. It takes into account the influence of Abel Rey and V. I. Lenin, considering the idea of the “bankruptcy of science.”.
I feel honored to be asked to speak at this university where so many ground-breaking scientists and philosophers were students or teaching, spreading their message world wide and I am especially glad to have been asked to come by the Institut Wiener Kreis, of which I am proud to be a member, and whose splendid work for two decades and to this day is being carried out vigorously under Professor Stadler and his colleagues. Through that, a bright flame is being (...) kept shining. That has its own salience. But I firmly believe, as you will hear later, that at just this time such studies have additional purpose, force and inspiration, in academe and society, as well as in global policies that are now under our very eyes. All these contain an urge to bring about a new version of a unifying Weltauffassung. If that succeeds, historians of the future may well say that there was a certain pre-established harmony between the original Vienna Circle program, and what is now being done here, and a new, better world. Let me add two remarks about why being invited to speak here today is special for me. You have often seen the large, elegant building at the corner of Schottengasse 10 and Schottenring. One of its high balconies were part of a Kanzlei of an attorney, specializing in international law, who had got his degree in jurisprudence right at this university, nearly a century ago. When his older boy visited there and looked out from that balcony, he could see the university where he hoped to study one day. (shrink)