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Perspectives on Science 14.3 (2006) 347-353

Introduction to the Archives of Imre Lakatos, 1922–1974
Sue Donnelly
London School of Economics

The Archives Division of the London School of Economics is home to 77 boxes of papers relating to the life and career of the philosopher, Imre Lakatos and 2,500 books from his personal library. Lakatos joined the Philosophy Department at the London School of Economics in 1960 and in 1969 was appointed Professor of Logic and died in post in 1974. Following his death Lakatos' archive and library were transferred to the British Library of Political and Economic Science, the library of the London School of Economics. The archive was sorted and catalogued with the support of the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung by Dr. Michael Hallett, and involved producing a listing of the research papers, with contextual information, and also a selection of the correspondence, the latter being generally closed to researchers. Much of the description in this article draws on the detailed work of Dr. Hallett. In the mid 1990s the Lakatos Memorial Trust decided to open the correspondence to researchers and a full list of correspondents was prepared.

The archive consists of sixteen distinct series of papers. Some of the papers post-date Lakatos' death in 1974 and consist mainly of posthumous publications.

Series 1: Papers published in Hungary, 1945–1956.

From 1945 until his arrest in 1950, Lakatos made many contributions to Hungarian newspapers and literary and academic journals, including book reviews. Many of the newspaper articles were unsigned and hence have been impossible to trace. Journal articles that have been traced are included in the archive (as photocopies), together with English translations (by Nicholas Krasso and Ninon Leader). [End Page 347]

Series 2: Notes on mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics, c1945–1956

35 notebooks and seven files of loose notes representing work undertaken while Lakatos was in Hungary and in the period immediately after his arrival in Britain, Much of it is in Hungarian and many of the items are mathematical exercises from text books.

Series 3: Essays in the logic of mathematical discovery and the philosophy of mathematics, 1961–1976

From 1956–1959 Lakatos was studying for his PhD in Cambridge under the title Essays in the Logic of Mathematical Discovery at King's College under the supervision of R.B.Braithwaite and this series contains notes and drafts of this work. Part of the thesis was expanded into the four part article Proofs and Refutations published in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science volume 14. Lakatos intended to republish this essay in book form, together with other material (rewritten and expanded) from his PhD. After his death a serious attempt was made to carry out his intentions, though of course without the large scale revisions Lakatos himself would undoubtedly have made. Thus Proofs and Refutations: the logic of mathematical discovery edited by John Worrall and E.G.Zahar, contains a more or less unaltered reprint of Proofs and Refutations together with the continuation of the debate based on Chapter 2 of the PhD thesis and the discussion of Cauchy's theorem and proof forming part of Chapter 1 of the thesis. In addition, the last chapter of the PhD appears as Chapter 5 (The Method of Analysis-Synthesis) of Philosophical Papers, volume 2.

The story of Proofs and Refutations has one strange twist considering Lakatos's political past. In 1967 an unauthorized, though clearly officially sanctioned, Russian translation of it appeared in book form in the Soviet Union (Lakatos Dokatatelstva i Oprovershenia translated by I.N.Veselovski). According to Lakatos it became a philosophical best seller in the Soviet Union, selling over 70,000 copies. A copy of this translation is found in 3/7, together with a review of it in Russian by G. P. Schedrovitsky, which was found in Lakatos's correspondence

Series 4: Papers in the philosophy of mathematics, c1956–1976.

Typescript drafts and notes for papers on the philosophy of mathematics including:

  • Some Philosophical Implications of the Method...


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