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Perspectives on Science 11.1 (2003) 1-2

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The Contexts of Philosophy of Science

Alan Richardson
University of British Columbia

Don Howard
University of Notre Dame

The International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS) held its fourth biennial conference at Concordia University in Montreal in June 2002. This conference featured roughly one hundred speakers discussing topics in the history of philosophical reflection on science from ancient times to the present and across the range of scientific disciplines from sociology to physics. While not neglecting logical empiricism, Kant, or philosophy of physics, the conference featured sessions on figures such as August Comte and Émile Meyerson and on topics as diverse as seventeenth century life science, nineteenth century social science, and twentieth century psychology. This diversity was evident also in the two invited plenary addresses; François Duchesneau of the Université de Montréal spoke on "Leibniz on Building a Science of Organic Bodies," while Don Howard of the University of Notre Dame discussed "Politics and the Philosophy of Science in the Nineteenth Century: Suggestions for an Agenda." Among the striking features of the papers at the conference was the consistently high level of attention to the various contexts within which work in philosophy of science has gone forward. In addition to offering discussions of the larger scientific and philosophical contexts of work in philosophy of science, HOPOS speakers also spoke to the social and political contexts and goals of philosophy of science at various places and times. Attendees of the conference were convinced that such historical contextualization of philosophy of science was not only of interest to philosophers of science, but it also provided a bridge from philosophy of science to, as well as philosophical resources for, history and sociology of science.

This issue of Perspectives on Science contains four exemplary instances of such contextual history of philosophy of science. Warren Schmaus's essay, [End Page 1] "Kant's Reception in France: Theories of the Categories in Academic Philosophy, Psychology, and Social Science," examines the nineteenth century reception of Kantian philosophy in France, especially in the work of Victor Cousin, Pierre Maine de Biran, and Pierre Janet. Schmaus draws us through a complicated story of French thinkers interpreting and employing Kant's philosophy for their own purposes, purposes often connected with the foundation of nineteenth century sciences of the mind. Gregory C. Moynahan's essay, "Hermann Cohen's Das Prinzip der Infinitesimalmethode, Ernst Cassirer, and the Politics of Science in Wilhelmine Germany," takes up the question of how Cohen's curious 1883 book on the foundations of the calculus was read among the neo-Kantians. Moynahan provides a compelling account of why and how a book on the philosophical foundations of the calculus was understood to be promoting a left- liberal political agenda and provided inspiration for generations of neo- Kantians.

Thomas Ryckman's contribution to the issue, "Surplus Structure from the Standpoint of Transcendental Idealism: The 'World Geometries' of Weyl and Eddington," offers a detailed account of the philosophical project underlying Hermann Weyl's geometrization of physics. Ryckman's essay contributes to the historical and philosophical understanding of Weyl's work in the foundations of physics and provides contemporary philosophers a transcendental alternative to a metaphysical understanding of "surplus structure" in physical theory. Finally, David Hyder's "Foucault, Cavaillès, and Husserl on the Historical Epistemology of the Sciences" provides an entry way into Foucault's early work in the archaeology of knowledge through a consideration of how Husserl's historical a priori was taken up and reconceived in the French context. Hyder accounts for the delicate relations of Foucault's project to, on the one hand, sociology of knowledge and, on the other, a normative philosophy of science by tracing through the place of Husserl's historical phenomenology of knowledge in subsequent French theorizing about science.

The 2002 HOPOS conference would not have been possible without the hard work of many people, including the HOPOS steering committee, then chaired by Thomas Uebel, the HOPOS 2002 program committee, co-chaired by Emily Carson and Alan Richardson, and the local organizing committee, chaired...


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