In this collection of essays one of the preeminent philosophers of science writing offers a reinterpretation of the enduring significance of logical positivism, the revolutionary philosophical movement centered around the Vienna Circle in the 1920s and 30s. Michael Friedman argues that the logical positivists were radicals not by presenting a new version of empiricism but rather by offering a new conception of a priori knowledge and its role in empirical knowledge. This collection will be mandatory reading for any philosopher or (...) historian of science interested in the history of logical positivism in particular or the evolution of modern philosophy in general. (shrink)
In this insightful study of the common origins of analytic and continental philosophy, Friedman looks at how social and political events intertwined and influenced philosophy during the early twentieth century, ultimately giving rise to the two very different schools of thought. He shows how these two approaches, now practiced largely in isolation from one another, were once opposing tendencies within a common discussion. Already polarized by their philosophical disagreements, these approaches were further split apart by the rise of Naziism and (...) the resulting emigration of all influential German-speaking philosophers except for Heidegger. Although the book gives a general overview of the philosophical issues of the period, the author pays special attention to the relationships among three key twentieth-century philosophers: Rudolf Carnap, Ernst Cassirer, and Martin Heidegger. (shrink)
This book introduces a new approach to the issue of radical scientific revolutions, or "paradigm-shifts," given prominence in the work of Thomas Kuhn. The book articulates a dynamical and historicized version of the conception of scientific a priori principles first developed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant. This approach defends the Enlightenment ideal of scientific objectivity and universality while simultaneously doing justice to the revolutionary changes within the sciences that have since undermined Kant's original defense of this ideal. Through a modified (...) Kantian approach to epistemology and philosophy of science, this book opposes both Quinean naturalistic holism and the post-Kuhnian conceptual relativism that has dominated recent literature in science studies. Focussing on the development of "scientific philosophy" from Kant to Rudolf Carnap, along with the parallel developments taking place in the sciences during the same period, the author articulates a new dynamical conception of relativized a priori principles. This idea applied within the physical sciences aims to show that rational intersubjective consensus is intricately preserved across radical scientific revolutions or "paradigm-shifts and how this is achieved. (shrink)
Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science is one of the most difficult but also most important of Kant's works. Published in 1786 between the first and second editions of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Metaphysical Foundations occupies a central place in the development of Kant's philosophy, but has so far attracted relatively little attention compared with other works of Kant's critical period. Michael Friedman's book develops a new and complete reading of this work and reconstructs Kant's main argument clearly (...) and in great detail, explaining its relationship to both Newton's Principia and eighteenth-century scientific thinkers such as Euler and Lambert. By situating Kant's text relative to his pre-critical writings on metaphysics and natural philosophy and, in particular, to the changes Kant made in the second edition of the Critique, Friedman articulates a radically new perspective on the meaning and development of the critical philosophy as a whole. (shrink)
I use recent work on Kant and diagrammatic reasoning to develop a reconsideration of central aspects of Kant’s philosophy of geometry and its relation to spatial intuition. In particular, I reconsider in this light the relations between geometrical concepts and their schemata, and the relationship between pure and empirical intuition. I argue that diagrammatic interpretations of Kant’s theory of geometrical intuition can, at best, capture only part of what Kant’s conception involves and that, for example, they cannot explain why Kant (...) takes geometrical constructions in the style of Euclid to provide us with an a priori framework for physical space. I attempt, along the way, to shed new light on the relationship between Kant’s theory of space and the debate between Newton and Leibniz to which he was reacting, and also on the role of geometry and spatial intuition in the transcendental deduction of the categories. (shrink)
This is a very important book. It has already become required reading for researchers on the relation between the exact sciences and Kant’s philosophy. The main theme is that Kant’s continuing program to find a metaphysics that could provide a foundation for the science of his day is of crucial importance to understanding the development of his philosophical thought from its earliest precritical beginnings in the thesis of 1747, right through the highwater years of the critical philosophy, to his last (...) unpublished writings in the Opus postumum. In the course of articulating this theme, Friedman has made extensive use of detailed historical information about their scientific and mathematical background to illuminate Kant’s texts. Over and over again, such information is used to suggest interesting and quite subtle interpretations for texts that may have seemed puzzling or just wrong-headed. (shrink)
This paper considers the evolution of the problem of scientific rationality from Kant through Carnap to Kuhn. I argue for a relativized and historicized version of the original Kantian conception of scientific a priori principles and examine the way in which these principles change and develop across revolutionary paradigm shifts. The distinctively philosophical enterprise of reflecting upon and contextualizing such principles is then seen to play a key role in making possible rational intersubjective communication between otherwise incommensurable paradigms.
Both realists and instrumentalists have found it difficult to understand (much less accept) Carnap's developed view on theoretical terms, which attempts to stake out a neutral position between realism and instrumentalism. I argue that Carnap's mature conception of a scientific theory as the conjunction of its Ramsey sentence and Carnap sentence can indeed achieve this neutral position. To see this, however, we need to see why the Newman problem raised in the context of recent work on structural realism is no (...) problem for Carnap's conception; and we also need to locate Carnap's work on theoretical terms within his wider program of Wissenschaftslogik or the logic of science. (shrink)
One of the most interesting aspects of McDowell’s very interesting book is the way in which it locates the problems of late-twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy within the historical development of the Western philosophical tradition. Beginning with an opposition between Coherentism and the Myth of the Given exemplified in recent work of Donald Davidson’s, McDowell proceeds to frame his discussion in terms of the Kantian distinction between concepts and intuitions, understanding and sensibility, spontaneity and receptivity. McDowell’s basic idea is that we can (...) satisfactorily overcome the opposition between Coherentism and the Myth of the Given only by recognizing, with Kant, that concepts and intuitions, understanding and sensibility, must be integrated together in every cognitive act or process—even in the mere intake of experiential content characteristic of sense perception. There is thus no room, according to McDowell, for either unconceptualized sensory input standing in no rational relation to conceptual thought or purely intellectual thought operating independently of all rational constraint from sense experience. (shrink)
Addressing a wide range of topics, from Newton to Post-Kuhnian philosophy of science, these essays critically examine themes that have been central to the influential work of philosopher Michael Friedman.
What I call the dynamics of reason is a post-Kuhnian approach to the history and philosophy of science articulating a relativized and historicized version of the Kantian conception of the rationality and objectivity of the modern physical sciences. I here discuss two extensions of this approach. I argue that, although the relativized standards of rationality in question change over time, the particular way in which they do this still preserves the trans-historical rationality of the entire process. I also make a (...) beginning in extending my historical narrative from purely intellectual history (both philosophical and scientific) to the wider cultural context. (shrink)
Kant's original version of transcendental philosophy took both Euclidean geometry and the Newtonian laws of motion to be synthetic a priori constitutive principles—which, from Kant's point of view, function as necessary presuppositions for applying our fundamental concepts of space, time, matter, and motion to our sensible experience of the natural world. Although Kant had very good reasons to view the principles in question as having such a constitutively a priori role, we now know, in the wake of Einstein's work, that (...) they are not in fact a priori in the stronger sense of being fixed necessary conditions for all human experience in general, eternally valid once and for all. And it is for precisely this reason that Kant's original version of transcendental philosophy must now be either rejected entirely or radically reconceived. Most philosophy of science since Einstein has taken the former route: the dominant view in logical empiricism, for example, was that the Kantian synthetic a priori had to be rejected once and for all in the light of the general theory of relativity. (shrink)
The logical positivists adopted Poincare's doctrine of the conventionality of geometry and made it a key part of their philosophical interpretation of relativity theory. I argue, however, that the positivists deeply misunderstood Poincare's doctrine. For Poincare's own conception was based on the group-theoretical picture of geometry expressed in the Helmholtz-Lie solution of the space problem, and also on a hierarchical picture of the sciences according to which geometry must be presupposed be any properly physical theory. But both of this pictures (...) are entirely incompatible with the radically new conception of space and geometry articulated in the general theory of relativity. The logical positivists's attempt to combine Poincare's conventionalism with Einstein's new theory was therefore, in the end, simply incoherent. Underlying this problem, moreover, was a fundamental philosophical difference between Poincare's and the positivists concerning the status of synthetic a priori truths. (shrink)
Carl Hempel introduced what he called "Craig's theorem" into the philosophy of science in a famous discussion of the "problem of theoretical terms." Beginning with Hempel's use of 'Craig's theorem," I shall bring out some of the key differences between Hempel's treatment of the "problem of theoretical terms" and Carnap's in order to illuminate the peculiar function of Wissenschaftslogik in Carnap's mature philosophy. Carnap's treatment, in particular, is fundamentally antimetaphysical—he aims to use the tools of mathematical logic to dissolve rather (...) solve traditional philosophical problems—and it is precisely this point that is missed by his logically-minded contemporaries such as Hempel and Quine. (shrink)
In the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason Kant formulates what he calls “the general problem of pure reason,” namely, “How are synthetic a priori judgements possible?” Kant explains that this general problem involves two more specific questions about particular a priori sciences: “How is pure mathematics possible?” and “How is pure natural science possible?”— where the first concerns, above all, the possibility of Euclidean geometry, and the second concerns the possibility of fundamental laws of Newtonian mechanics such as (...) conservation of mass, inertia, and the equality of action and reaction. In answering these questions Kant develops what he calls a “transcendental” philosophical theory of our human cognitive faculties — in terms of “forms of sensible intuition” and “pure concepts” or “categories” of rational thought. These cognitive structures are taken to describe a fixed and absolutely universal rationality — common to all human beings at all times and in all places — and thereby to explain the sense in which mathematical natural science represents a model or exemplar of such rationality. (shrink)