This seminar explores recent historiographical approaches within the history of science. Students will read a wide variety of studies covering topics from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, from the physical sciences to natural history and medicine. Emphasis will be placed on: deciphering different theoretical approaches; the pros and cons of different research questions, subjects, and sources of evidence; and what makes for good and interesting history of science.
The purpose of this article is to respond to Thomas Uebel´s criticisms of my comments regarding the current revisionism of Carnap´s work and its relations to Kuhn. I begin by pointing out some misunderstandings in the interpretation of my article. I then discuss some aspects related to Carnap´s view of the history of science. First, I emphasize that it was not due to a supposed affinity between Kuhn´s conceptions and those of logical positivism that Kuhn was invited to write the monograph on the history of science for the Encyclopedia. Three other authors had been invited first, including George Sarton whose conception was entirely different from Kuhn´s. In addition, I try to show that Carnap attributes little importance to history of science. He seldom refers to it and, when he does, he clearly defends (like Sarton) a Whig or an “old” historiography of science, to which Kuhn opposes his “new historiography of science”. It is argued that this raises serious difficulties for those, like Uebel, who hold the view that Carnap includes the historical or the social within the rational.
The scientific work of Leonardo da Vinci may have served as the main inspiration for the historical research of George Sarton. Although he never produced a work he felt was worthy of its subject, the little that he did write about Leonardo reveals the importance he attributed to him in the history of science. This is especially clear in Sarton´s treatment of Leonardo and a discovery he did not make: William Harvey´s discovery of blood circulation in the 17th Century. In this article, we refer to this particular episode to trace Sarton´s conception of the development of science. It is a conception that illustrates well the traditional historiographic perspective that is the target of Thomas Kuhn´s criticisms. Although Kuhn never wrote about Leonardo or Harvey, we aim to show that he clearly positioned himself contrary to Sarton, albeit indirectly, with respect to this particular historical episode, as well.
We discuss the extent to which the visibility of the heavens was a necessary condition for the development of science, with particular reference to the measurement of time. Our conclusion is that while astronomy had significant importance, the growth of most areas of science was more heavily influenced by the accuracy of scientific instruments, and hence by current technology.
The paper considers the two main challenges to scientific realism, stemming from confirmation holism and the underdetermination thesis as well as from semantic holism and the incommensurability thesis. Against the first challenge, it is argued that there are other criteria besides agreement with experience that enable a rational evaluation of competing theories. Against the second challenge, it is argued that at most a thesis of local incommensurability can be defended that is compatible with a minimal version of scientific realism, namely conjectural realism. However, in order to establish a fully-fledged scientific realism, one has to refute the local incommensurability thesis as well, showing how a comparison is possible on the level of the proper concepts of the theories in question. The paper examines the prospects for such a comparison, distinguishing three cases.
"This collection of essays ... centers around four sustained dialogues among an international group of leading historians of science. Two of the conversations focus on how historians interpret the relationship between science and religion. Another section examines whether there was such a phenomenon as the scientific revolution and, if so, whether it was of pivotal importance. The final section debates the notion that there has been discernable progress in history. Collectively the experts contributing to this volume seek to broach the big questions at stake in ongoing efforts to fathom the historical interface of science and religion - two of the most important ways of knowing our world - to better our understanding of how both have shaped the course of history and the direction of modern thinking."--BOOK JACKET