Ott (2009) identifies two kinds of philosophical theories about laws: top-down, and bottom-up. An influential top-down reading, exemplified by Ernst Cassirer, emphasized the ‘mere form of law’. Recent bottom-up accounts emphasize the mind-independent natures of objects as the basis of laws of nature. Stang and Pollok in turn focus on the transcendental idealist elements of Kant’s theory of matter, which leads to the question: is the essence of Kantian matter that it obeys the form of law? I argue that Kant (...) has an independent theory of matter in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, one that gives what Kant himself calls a ‘real definition’ of matter as a theory-independent (if not mind-independent) entity. I argue that this matter theory underpins physical arguments about inertia and impenetrability, which resemble Einstein’s arguments about the unification of fields in general relativity. (shrink)
German supporters of the Kantian philosophy in the late 19th century took one of two forks in the road: the fork leading to Baden, and the Southwest School of neo-Kantian philosophy, and the fork leading to Marburg, and the Marburg School, founded by Hermann Cohen. Between 1876, when Cohen came to Marburg, and 1918, the year of Cohen's death, Cohen, with his Marburg School, had a profound influence on German academia.
A volume dealing seriously with the influence of the major schools of Neo-Kantian thought on contemporary philosophy has been needed sorely for some time. But this volume of essays aims higher: it 'is published in the hopes that it will secure Neo-Kantianism a significant place in contemporary philosophical discussions' (Introduction, 1). The aim of the book, then, is partly to provide a history of major Neo-Kantian thinkers and their influence, and partly to argue for their importance in contemporary (continental) philosophy.
Psillos, Kitcher, and Leplin have defended convergent scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction by arguing for the divide et impera strategy. I argue that DEI faces a problem more serious than the pessimistic meta-induction: the problem of accretion. When empirically successful theories and principles are combined, they may no longer make successful predictions or allow for accurate calculations, or the combination otherwise may be an empirical failure. The shift from classical mechanics to the new quantum theory does not reflect the (...) discarding of “idle wheels.” Instead, scientists had to contend with new principles that made classical calculations difficult or impossible, and new results that were inconsistent with classical theorems, and that suggested a new way of conceiving of atomic dynamics. In this shift, reference to atoms and to electrons was preserved, but the underlying causal explanations and descriptions of atoms and electrons changed. I propose that the emphasis on accurate description of causal agents as a virtue of background theory be replaced with Ruetsche’s advocacy of pragmatic, modal resourcefulness. (shrink)
The Marburg neo-Kantians argue that Hermann von Helmholtz's empiricist account of the a priori does not account for certain knowledge, since it is based on a psychological phenomenon, trust in the regularities of nature. They argue that Helmholtz's account raises the 'problem of validity' (Gueltigkeitsproblem): how to establish a warranted claim that observed regularities are based on actual relations. I reconstruct Heinrich Hertz's and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Bild theoretic answer to the problem of validity: that scientists and philosophers can depict the (...) necessary a priori constraints on states of affairs in a given system, and can establish whether these relations are actual relations in nature. The analysis of necessity within a system is a lasting contribution of the Bild theory. However, Hertz and Wittgenstein argue that the logical and mathematical sentences of a Bild are rules, tools for constructing relations, and the rules themselves are meaningless outside the theory. Carnap revises the argument for validity by attempting to give semantic rules for translation between frameworks. Russell and Quine object that pragmatics better accounts for the role of a priori reasoning in translating between frameworks. The conclusion of the tale, then, is a partial vindication of Helmholtz's original account. (shrink)
Scientists working within a paradigm must play by the rules of the game of that paradigm in solving problems, and that is why incommensurability arises when the rules of the game change. If we deny the thesis of the priority of paradigms, then there is no good argument for the incommensurability of theories and thus for taxonomic incommensurability, because there is no invariant way to determine the set of results provable, puzzles solvable, and propositions cogently formulable under a given paradigm.
Moti Mizrahi has argued that Thomas Kuhn does not have a good argument for the incommensurability of successive scientific paradigms. With Rouse, Andersen, and others, I defend a view on which Kuhn primarily was trying to explain scientific practice in Structure. Kuhn, like Hilary Putnam, incorporated sociological and psychological methods into his history of science. On Kuhn’s account, the education and initiation of scientists into a research tradition is a key element in scientific training and in his explanation of incommensurability (...) between research paradigms. The first part of this paper will explain and defend my reading of Kuhn. The second part will probe the extent to which Kuhn’s account can be supported, and the extent to which it rests on shaky premises. That investigation will center on Moti Mizrahi’s project, which aims to transform the Kuhnian account of science and of its history. While I do defend a modified kind of incommensurability, I agree that the strongest version of Kuhn’s account is steadfastly local and focused on the practice of science. (shrink)
Detlefsen (1986) reads Hilbert's program as a sophisticated defense of instrumentalism, but Feferman (1998) has it that Hilbert's program leaves significant ontological questions unanswered. One such question is of the reference of individual number terms. Hilbert's use of admittedly "meaningless" signs for numbers and formulae appears to impair his ability to establish the reference of mathematical terms and the content of mathematical propositions (Weyl (1949); Kitcher (1976)). The paper traces the history and context of Hilbert's reasoning about signs, which illuminates (...) Hilbert's account of mathematical objectivity, axiomatics, idealization, and consistency. (shrink)
Kant's account of space as an infinite given magnitude in the Critique of Pure Reason is paradoxical, since infinite magnitudes go beyond the limits of possible experience. Michael Friedman's and Charles Parsons's accounts make sense of geometrical construction, but I argue that they do not resolve the paradox. I argue that metaphysical space is based on the ability of the subject to generate distinctly oriented spatial magnitudes of invariant scalar quantity through translation or rotation. The set of determinately oriented, constructed (...) geometrical spaces is a proper subset of metaphysical space, thus, metaphysical space is infinite. Kant's paradoxical doctrine of metaphysical space is necessary to reconcile his empiricism with his transcendental idealism. (shrink)
Experiments may not reveal their full import at the time that they are performed. The scientists who perform them usually are testing a specific hypothesis and quite often have specific expectations limiting the possible inferences that can be drawn from the experiment. Nonetheless, as Hacking has said, experiments have lives of their own. Those lives do not end with the initial report of the results and consequences of the experiment. Going back and rethinking the consequences of the experiment in a (...) new context, theoretical or empirical, has great merit as a strategy for investigation and for scientific problem analysis. I apply this analysis to the interplay between Fizeau's classic optical experiments and the building of special relativity. Einstein's understanding of the problems facing classical electrodynamics and optics, in part, was informed by Fizeau's 1851 experiments. However, between 1851 and 1905, Fizeau's experiments were duplicated and reinterpreted by a succession of scientists, including Hertz, Lorentz, and Michelson. Einstein's analysis of the consequences of the experiments is tied closely to this theoretical and experimental tradition. However, Einstein's own inferences from the experiments differ greatly from the inferences drawn by others in that tradition. (shrink)
Philosophers of science have long been concerned with the question of what a given scientific theory tells us about the contents of the world, but relatively little attention has been paid to how we set out to build theories and to the relevance of pre-theoretical methodology on a theory’s interpretation. In the traditional view, the form and content of a mature theory can be separated from any tentative ontological assumptions that went into its development. For this reason, the target of (...) interpretation is taken to be the mature theory and nothing more. On this view, positions on ontology emerge only once a theory is to hand, not as part of the process of theory building. Serious attention to theory creation suggests this is too simple. In particular, data collection and experimentation are influenced both by theory and by assumptions about the entities thought to be the target of study. Initial reasoning about possible ontologies has an influence on the choice of theoretical variables as well as on the judgments of the methodology appropriate to investigate them. (shrink)
In the nineteenth century, the separation of naturalist or psychological accounts of validity from normative validity came into question. In his 1877 Logical Studies (Logische Studien), Friedrich Albert Lange argues that the basis for necessary inference is demonstration, which takes place by spatially delimiting the extension of concepts using imagined or physical diagrams. These diagrams are signs or indications of concepts' extension, but do not represent their content. Only the inference as a whole captures the objective content of the proof. (...) Thus, Lange argues, the necessity of an inference is independent of psychological accounts of how we grasp the content of a proposition. (shrink)
I examine the role of inference from experiment in theory building. What are the options open to the scientific community when faced with an experimental result that appears to be in conflict with accepted theory? I distinguish, in Laudan's (1977), Nickels's (1981), and Franklin's (1993) sense, between the context of pursuit and the context of justification of a scientific theory. Making this distinction allows for a productive middle position between epistemic realism and constructivism. The decision to pursue a new or (...) a revised theory in response to the new evidence may not be fully rationally determined. Nonetheless, it is possible to distinguish the question of whether there is reason to pursue a theory from the question of whether that theory, once it has been pursued over time, solves a problem of interest to science. I argue that, in this context, there is a solid way to distinguish between the contexts of pursuit and of justification, on the basis of a theory's evidential support and problem-solving ability. (shrink)
Hyder constructs two historical narratives. First, he gives an account of Helmholtz's relation to Kant, from the famous Raumproblem, which preoccupied philosophers, geometers, and scientists in the mid-19th century, to Helmholtz's arguments in his four papers on geometry from 1868 to 1878 that geometry is, in some sense, an empirical science (chapters 5 and 6). The second theme is the argument for the necessity of central forces to a determinate scientific description of physical reality, an abiding concern of Helmholtz's, and (...) one that, as Hyder shows, has Kantian roots. Helmholtz's commitment to the necessity of central forces was key to his responses to rival views on electromagnetism, and is a deep and often under-appreciated element of his epistemology of science. (shrink)
That the history and the philosophy of science have been united in a form of disciplinary marriage is a fact. There are pressing questions about the state of this union. Discourse on a New Method: Reinvigorating the Marriage of History and Philosophy of Science is a state of the union address, but also an articulation of compelling and well-defended positions on strategies for making progress in the history and philosophy of science.
In my dissertation, I present Hermann Cohen's foundation for the history and philosophy of science. My investigation begins with Cohen's formulation of a neo-Kantian epistemology. I analyze Cohen's early work, especially his contributions to 19th century debates about the theory of knowledge. I conclude by examining Cohen's mature theory of science in two works, The Principle of the Infinitesimal Method and its History of 1883, and Cohen's extensive 1914 Introduction to Friedrich Lange's History of Materialism. In the former, Cohen gives (...) an historical and philosophical analysis of the foundations of the infinitesimal method in mathematics. In the latter, Cohen presents a detailed account of Heinrich Hertz's Principles of Mechanics of 1894. Hertz considers a series of possible foundations for mechanics, in the interest of finding a secure conceptual basis for mechanical theories. Cohen argues that Hertz's analysis can be completed, and his goal achieved, by means of a philosophical examination of the role of mathematical principles and fundamental concepts in scientific theories. (shrink)
In _Aspects of Scientific Explanation_ (New York, 1965), Carl Hempel argued that the philosophy of science should focus on objectivist explanation and should not incorporate an account of pragmatic or subjective understanding. The stated aim of this collection of essays is to argue against Hempel's objectivist view by arguing for incorporating accounts of understanding into the philosophy of science and by giving a substantive account of the role of understanding in modeling and in scientific practice. The volume is ambitious and (...) wide ranging, including essays on economics, biology, psychology, and history, among other matters. The essays make a substantive contribution, not only to accounts of scientific understanding, but to debates about methodology in science and about methods in history and philosophy of science. The ambitious reach of the project raises inevitable questions, including a pressing one about the relationship between the subjective and the objective in science - how to distinguish substantive understanding from explanation. (shrink)
In this intricately crafted history by Frederick C. Beiser, the neo-Kantian philosophy is not merely a doctrine or an approach to philosophical questions; it is also a strategy. From the beginning, the neo-Kantians were concerned to establish the independence, relevance, and power of philosophy. The historical situation of the neo-Kantian tradition is distinct from ours. On Beiser's telling, the historical context only puts into sharper focus how much their predicament is ours and how many of their preoccupations we share.
Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) participated in two of the most significant developments in physics and in the philosophy of science in the 19th century: the proof that Euclidean geometry does not describe the only possible visualizable and physical space, and the shift from physics based on actions between particles at a distance to the field theory. Helmholtz achieved a staggering number of scientific results, including the formulation of energy conservation, the vortex equations for fluid dynamics, the notion of free energy (...) in thermodynamics, and the invention of the ophthalmoscope. His constant interest in the epistemology of science guarantees his enduring significance for philosophy. (shrink)
In the growing Prussian university system of the early nineteenth century, "Wissenschaft" (science) was seen as an endeavor common to university faculties, characterized by a rigorous methodology. On this view, history and jurisprudence are sciences, as much as is physics. Nineteenth century trends challenged this view: the increasing influence of materialist and positivist philosophies, profound changes in the relationships between university faculties, and the defense of Kant's classification of the sciences by neo-Kantians. Wilhelm Dilthey's defense of the independence of the (...) methodology of the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) from those of the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) is as much a return to the ideal of Wissenschaft as a cooperative endeavor as it is a defense of the autonomy of interpretive or hermeneutic methods. The debate between Dilthey and the neo-Kantian Wilhelm Windelband at the close of the century illuminates the development of this dialogue over the nineteenth century. (shrink)
In the early 1900s, Russell began to recognize that he, and many other mathematicians, had been using assertions like the Axiom of Choice implicitly, and without explicitly proving them. In working with the Axioms of Choice, Infinity, and Reducibility, and his and Whitehead’s Multiplicative Axiom, Russell came to take the position that some axioms are necessary to recovering certain results of mathematics, but may not be proven to be true absolutely. The essay traces historical roots of, and motivations for, Russell’s (...) method of analysis, which are intended to shed light on his view about the status of mathematical axioms. I describe the position Russell develops in consequence as “immanent logicism,” in contrast to what Irving (1989) describes as “epistemic logicism.” Immanent logicism allows Russell to avoid the logocentric predicament, and to propose a method for discovering structural relationships of dependence within mathematical theories. (shrink)
Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) established results both controversial and enduring: analysis of mixed colors and of combination tones, arguments against nativism, and the analysis of sensation and perception using the techniques of natural science. The paper focuses on Helmholtz’s account of sensation, perception, and representation via “physiological psychology”. Helmholtz emphasized that external stimuli of sensations are causes, and sensations are their effects, and he had a practical and naturalist orientation toward the analysis of phenomenal experience. However, he argued as well (...) that sensation must be interpreted to yield representation, and that representation is geared toward objective representation (the central thesis of contemporary intentionalism). The interpretation of sensation is based on “facts” revealed in experiment, but extends to the analysis of the quantitative, causal relationships between stimuli and responses. A key question for Helmholtz’s theory is the extent to which mental operations are to be ascribed a role in interpreting sensation. (shrink)
Translation for this volume by Lydia Patton of Chapter 9 (pages 179-200) of Émilie du Châtelet's Institutions de Physique (Foundations of Physics). Original publication date 1750. Paris: Chez Prault Fils.
Recent work on the philosophy of Hermann Cohen (1848-1914), founder of the Marburg School of Neo-Kantianism, has appeared in three distinct circles in the English-speaking philosophical context. Cohen re-interpreted Kant's a priori to take scientific developments into account. Michael Friedman acknowledges that the later development of this view by Cohen's intellectual heir Ernst Cassirer influenced Friedman's work on the dynamic a priori, especially in the history and philosophy of science. Owing to Cohen's links to Franz Rosenzweig, scholars have begun to (...) investigate Cohen's philosophy with reference to Derrida, Benjamin, Habermas, and Levinas and the philosophy of responsibility. And there is increasing interest in analyzing Cohen's influence on Deleuze and Badiou, particularly in the areas of ethics and aesthetics. (shrink)
Natural Science is a new volume of the Cambridge translations of Kant's works. It makes available some of the most significant texts of Kant's pre-Critical period, some appearing for the first time in English translation. The translations are largely clear and accurate. Eric Watkins is a sure and knowledgeable editor, and provides concise and informative introductions to each text.
Friedrich Albert Lange (b. 1828, d. 1875) was a German philosopher, pedagogue, political activist, and journalist. He was one of the originators of neo-Kantianism and an important figure in the founding of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. He is also played a significant role in the German labour movement and in the development of social democratic thought. His book, THE HISTORY OF MATERIALISM, was a standard introduction to materialism and the history of philosophy well into the twentieth century.
Philosophy, Science, and History: A Guide and Reader is a compact overview of HOPOS that aims to introduce students to the groundwork of the field. Part I of the Reader begins with classic texts in the history of logical empiricism, including Reichenbach's discovery-justification distinction. With careful reference to Kuhn's analysis of scientific revolutions, the section provides key texts analyzing the relationship of HOPOS to the history of science, including texts by Santayana, Rudwick, and Shapin and Schaffer. Part II provides texts (...) illuminating central debates in the history of science and its philosophy. These include the history of natural philosophy (Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Kant, Hume, and du Châtelet in a new translation); induction and the logic of discovery (including the Mill-Whewell debate, Duhem, and Hanson); and catastrophism versus uniformitarianism in natural history (Playfair on Hutton and Lyell; de Buffon, Cuvier, and Darwin). The editor's introductions to each section provide a broader perspective informed by contemporary research in each area, including related topics. (shrink)