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3. Topics: Historical Epistemology of Science [Prof. Condé, Brazil]

Start Date:
26. June 2015, 11:15
Finish date:
26. June 2015, 12:00
MESHS - Espace Baïetto



Leviathan, the aAr-Pump and Wittgenstein: “TheTrouble with the Historical Philosophy of Science” Reconsidered from a Pragmatic Approach


Abstract Course

Although the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions had been an inspirer of different historical approaches of science, he did not fail to make a severe criticism of certain radicalisms presented by David Bloor’s Strong Program and his followers, especially the Shapin and Schaffer’s book, Leviathan and the air-pump book: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life. Particularly, Kuhn attacked the excessive appreciation of “negotiation” in the sciences at the expense of the role of Nature, the revaluation of experiments, conceptual analysis etc. The Strong Program would have radicalized the initial Kuhn’s proposal of a “role for history” of science and thereby leaded to the relativism, or, in Kuhn’s words, “an example of deconstruction gone mad” (Kuhn, 2000 [1993], 110). However, rather than only criticize the position of the Strong Program, Kuhn considered necessary to go further and examine his own work seeking to overcome the problems presented. The American philosopher sought establishing a new theory of science, but, unfortunately, the book promised by him with his new theory never was written. However, considering the tracks left by him in his lectures, papers and book chapters, one could infer how this new theory of science would be, and one can see among his influences the Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, especially, in Kuhn’s notion of lexicon. But unfortunately even by valuing the language in the understanding of the philosophical problems of science, Kuhn’s “linguistic turn” seems not to have been sufficiently effective in overcoming the problems presented by the Strong Program. In my talk, I will reassess this criticism of the Strong Program established by Kuhn, then examine the limits of his notion of lexicon and return to the Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language in an attempt to move forward in solving these problems. Indeed, although the Strong Program also was influenced by the Austrian philosopher, and although the book by Shapin and Schaffer – now already classic – has explicitly assumed a “liberal” and “informal” interpretation of Wittgenstein (Shapin, Schaffer 1985, 15), the problems pointed out but not solved by Kuhn, when reconsidered in Wittgenstein’s pragmatic perspective – what I call grammar of science – can find good possibilities of solution.

Therefore, the main aim of this talk is to reassess, in a Wittgensteinian perspective, the criticism of the Strong Program established by Kuhn in his “the Trouble with the historical philosophy of science”.


Selected References

  • Kuhn T (1993) “The trouble with the historical philosophy of science” In Kuhn, T. The road since structure . Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2000
  • Kuhn T (1970) [1962] ) The structure of scientific revolution. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2000
  • Shapin S Schaffer S (1985) Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the experimental life . Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Wittgenstein L (1953) Philosophical Investigations Oxford: Basil Blackwell
  • Bloor D (1991) [1976] Knowledge and Social imagery. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul