Tuesday, 24 Febuary 2009
History Matters! But Why? And How?
Claus Beisbart, Dortmund University of Technologies
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Ever since Kuhn, philosophers of science take it that the history of science matters to their field. But the arguments that Kuhn presents for what is called the historical turn are not entirely convincing. In particular, if the philosophy of science is concerned with genuinely normative questions, it is not clear how a historical investigation may help.
The talk offers a fresh look at the question why a philosopher of science may have to look at the history of science (HS). My inquiry will also shed light on the question of what kinds of historical investigations philosophers of science should consult. I start with what I take to be the basic tasks that the philosophy of science has and check to what extent the fulfillment of each task requires one to look in the history of science. In this, my talk will also illuminate the normativity of science.
The most important claims that I wish to defend are as follows: 1. The philosophy of science, as it is commonly conceived of, presupposes a historical claim, viz. the denial of a version of radical historicism. 2. Science is to be defined in terms of constitutive aims, standards and values; they have to be uncovered by a historically informed approach that aims at something like a Rawlsian reflective equilibrium. 3. A normative assessment of some bit of science, its activities and results in terms of science’s own standards, has to be historical, if to justify a belief is to tell a story how the belief originated. 4. A justificatory story of this kind can largely ignore the individual motives of scientists and the forces that drive scientific change.