In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 279 survivre, la ph~nom~nologie doit reprendre certaines de ses analyses dans une optique nouveUe n~e ces trois derni~res d~cades ~t partir d'une r~flexion sur l'homme, la soci~t~ et la nature. E. Wr~ANCE St. lohn's College, Camarillo, California History o] Science as Explanation. By Maurice A. Finocchiaro. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973. Pp. 286. $15.95) The study of the history of science has recently become an autonomous academic pursuit , independent, in at least an institutional way, of other related fields of study such as history, philosophy, and the various sciences. One of Professor Finocchiaro's aims is to demonstrate the intellectual autonomy of the discipline as well. More generally, he is concerned to investigate the nature of explanations that are or should be given by historians of science, and through such an investigation, to provide a theory about the history of science. From one point of view (shared by Professor Finocchiaro), the history of science is the history of the growth of knowledge. Thus it is the history of new cognitions and new ideas, the history of discoveries. The explananda for the historian of science, then, cluster about scientific discoveries----why or how some S discovered a Law L, why some other scientist, S', failed to discover or even come close to formulating L, etc. Finocchiaro argues first that explanations of scientific discoveries are of interest in that they fail to satisfy what he considers to be three reasonable philosophical principles about explanation: the Potential Predictiveness Principle, the Law Coverability Principle, and the Why Principle of Explanation . These are variations on principles associated with deductive-nomological theories of explanation. History of science explanations are problematic in another way: they tend to be unsatisfactory. Finocchiaro examines three well known history of science texts: Guerlac's Lavoisier--The Crucial Year, 1 Koyr6's Etudes Galildennes,2 and The Rise of Modern Science: Internal or External Factors?,s edited by George Basalla. He shows that the explanations offered for Lavoisier's performance of certain experiments in 1772, for Descartes' failure to formulate and Galileo's successful formulation of the law of falling bodies, and for the rise of modem science, are, on close analysis, unconvincing. The anomalous character of history of science explanation and the deficiency of the explanations examined, together with the question of whether there is any connection between these two states of affairs, constitute for Finocchiaro the problem of explanation in the history of science. Finocchiaro turns for a solution first to Joseph Agassi's Towards an Historiography of Science.4 Agassi wants to claim that existing studies in the history of science are, for the most part, extremely unsatisfactory and to explain this by appealing to the 'naive acceptance ' by historians of science of philosophical principles. If historians would only adopt a Popperian view of science, rather than some form of 'inductivism' or 'conventionalism', the history of science would become respectable and interesting. By appealing to the ex1 Henry Guerlae, Lavoisier--The Crucial Year (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1961). 2 Alexandre Koyr~, Etudes Galil~ennes (Paris: Hermann, 1966). a George Basalla, ed. The Rise of Modern Science: Internal or External Factors? (Lexington: Heath, 1968). 4 Joseph Agassi, Towards an Historiography of Science, Supplement 2, History and Theory (The Hague: Mouton, 1963). 280 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY planations considered earlier, Finocchiaro shows that while the historians considered do accept some philosophical principles, it is not acceptance of them (naive or critical) that makes the explanations they offer unsatisfactory. In Part III of his book, "Understanding the History of Science," Finocchiaro attempts to provide his own solution to the problem. The solution consists in adopting Benedetto Croce's theory of history and Michael Scriven's analysis of explanation (without, unfortunately , much in the way of argument or explanation) and using these to discuss the character history of science must have if it is to be satisfactory. The character it must have is, of course, an explanatory one, as distinguished from the narrative character of chronicle --that is, history of science texts must be explicitly engaged in providing understanding of something previously not understood, and furthermore must satisfy Scriven...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 279-281
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.