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    Michael Friedman and the marriage of historyand philosophy of science (and history of philosophy)

    Mary Domski and Michael Dickson (eds): Discourse on a newmethod:Reinvigorating the marriage of history and philosophy ofscience; with a concluding essay by Michael Friedman. Chicago:Open Court, 2010, viii+852pp, $89.95 HB

    Thomas Sturm

    Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

    The marriage of history and philosophy of science (HPS) that developed

    especially after Kuhns Structure of Scientific Revolutions has been called

    intimate but also a mere matter of convenience. Both of these characterizations

    have their problems. For instance, it is hard to see that philosophers and historians of

    science would always or necessarily need each other, given the wide range of issues

    and problems they are dealing with. But we also know topics where close

    interaction seems possible and fruitful, occasionally up to the point that it may

    become unclear whether a specific project or product is historical or philosophical in

    nature. So the marriage of HPS is not merely forced by the existence of academic

    arrangements. How to best capture the relation implied by the notion of HPS has led

    to repeated debates, with no end in sight (see, e.g., Schickore 2011; Arabatzis and

    Schickore 2012). Right now, HPS has become a sequence of several marriages and

    remarriages, partly because of the partners having developed their own new interests

    and agendas. Like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, historians and philosophers were

    first happily engaged, produced things that were welcomed by society (films and

    theories of scientific progress, respectively), and then got fed up with one another

    (e.g., because one side fell in love with certain kinds of sociology of knowledge,

    while the other side flirted with cognitive science or met its old love, formal

    methods, again). Unlike T & B, however, historians and philosophers did not

    become exhausted after merely two marriages. Time and again, we revive our

    relationship, and it is always a new and quite confusing experience. Today, many

    different ways of doing HPS exist, as evidenced, for instance, by the new history of

    philosophy of science (HOPOS) field, the international project on &HPS, or the

    various approaches of historical epistemology.

    T. Sturm (&)Department of Philosophy and Center for the History of Science (CEHIC), Autonomous University

    of Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain

    e-mail: tsturm@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de



    DOI 10.1007/s11016-013-9845-8

  • A new version is presented by Mary Domski and Michael Dickson. While their

    edited volume is a Festschrift to honor Michael Friedmans work, it is also more

    than that. Domski and Dickson aim at a new method for HPS, called synthetic

    history. The volume provides a wide-ranging, and often impressive, snapshot of

    current interactions between philosophy of science, history of science, andthis is

    important herehistory of philosophy. Following the interlocking themes of

    Friedmans oeuvre, the 24 chapters are grouped into five main sections:

    (I) The Newtonian Era (with papers by Domenico Bertoloni Meli, William R.

    Newman, Mary Domski, Andrew Janiak)

    (II) Kant (Alison Laywine, Charles Parsons, Donald Sutherland, Daniel Warren,

    Frederic Beiser)

    (III) Logical Positivism and Neo-Kantianism (John M. Krois, Alan Richardson,

    Paul Pojman, Thomas Ricketts, Don Howard)

    (IV) History and Philosophy of Physics (John Norton, James Mattingly, Michael

    Dickson, Scott Tanona, Thomas Ryckman)

    (V) Post-Kuhnian Philosophy of Science (William Demopoulos, Richard Creath,

    Noretta Koertge, Robert DiSalle, Mark Wilson)

    Finally, as part VI of the volume, Friedman adds an extensive and detailed reply.

    On roughly 240 pages, he updates his own account and reactsin varying

    degreesto many of the contributions. (Buy one book, get two! the publisher

    might have advertised.) There are wonderful and thought-provoking pieces in this

    volume. To mention but three entries from this rich and tasty menu, I was

    particularly impressed by Laywines illuminating chapter on how Kant might have

    taken over the idea of a geometrical postulate from the brilliant philosopher

    scientist Johann Heinrich Lambert and used it in his critical metaphysics, perhaps

    even in the deduction of the categories; by Nortons clear presentation of how non-

    or even anti-Kantian thinkers such as Hume or Mach, through their view that

    scientific concepts must be grounded in experience, inspired Einsteins new idea of

    the relativity of simultaneity; and by Creaths succinct and witty discussion of how

    far Friedman has helped us to keep irrationalism or relativism away from our

    door (508). This selection reflects my personal preferences; others will prefer other

    chapters. Since I cannot possibly explain all that is in the volume, I shall try to give

    a comprehensive overview by looking at its structure and guiding ideas, adding

    more information about other chapters and critical considerations as we go along.

    Unfortunately, the introduction by Domski and Dickson does not explain the

    contents and connections of the contributions. One might also have grouped the

    individual chapters differently: by how they relate to Friedmans particular

    approach, or how they help to revive the marriage of HPS. The grouping according

    to the first criterion, for instance, would bring together critical discussions of

    Friedmans claim that developments such as the Newtonian and Einsteinian

    revolutions cannot be understood apart from the relativized a priori (Tanona,

    Ryckman, Creath, Koertge, DiSalle, and Wilson; about that topic, more below).

    Other papers criticize Friedman by providing alternative readings of the classical

    authors discussed by him. Thus, Parsons develops further his own reading of Kants

    philosophy of mathematics; Krois and Richardson describe what Friedman has



  • missed in Ernst Cassirer (the notion of symbolic pregnance, and that Cassirer was

    more a Hegelian than a Kantian, respectively); Howard presents Einstein as

    espousing a holistic epistemology rather than as a defender of a relativized a priori.

    The remaining articles complement or only indirectly address Friedmans views

    (Bertoloni Meli, Newman, Domski, Janiak, Laywine, Warren, Beiser, Pojman,

    Ricketts, Norton, Dickson, Demopoulos).

    What the editors instead provide in their introduction is, firstly, a brief overview

    of the previous debate over HPSs marital status, focusing especially on Ronald

    Gieres (1973) skeptical position according to which the marriage is merely one of

    convenience. Secondly, they succinctly summarize Friedmans core ideas as

    presented most especially in Dynamics of Reason (2001). Thirdly, they characterize

    their new idea of synthetic history. The first two aspects of the introduction I have

    no quibbles with. Other chapters in the volume, for instance, by Howard, Tanona,

    Creath, or DiSalle, also explain Friedmans views clearlyas evidenced by the fact

    that some of them bring him to revise certain of his ideas, even a quite central one.

    Before I can get to these changes, a few remarks about Friedmans views are in

    place. Also, we need to grasp the idea of synthetic history, which is not


    Three points are central for understanding how Friedmans approach attempts to

    strengthen the connection of HPS. Firstly, as the editors show, he has argued

    (Friedman 1993) that scientific developments were frequently connected to changes

    in philosophical reflections on science. Stated differently, the history of philosophy

    can be told better if one notices how philosophers responded to the emergence of

    new theories by providing a deeper understanding of, as Domski and Dickson say,

    the status and possibility of our knowledge of the natural world (4). This is

    opposed to those who, say, see early modern philosophy merely or primarily as an

    attempt to refute Cartesian skepticism (a task that the editors also dubitably ascribe

    to Kant8). Friedman was right to claim that the history of philosophy should be

    related closer to past science. (However, he was not the first to do so; cf., e.g.,

    Kruger 1986.)

    Friedmans second core idea is that we can understand scientific change best (if

    not only) if we reconstruct the historically changing, relativized a priori

    frameworks of science or the dynamics of reason. Scientific theories are not

    composed of knowledge-claims that are all revisable in the same way (although they

    might all be revisable). Rather, some play a constitutive role: They are necessary

    conditions for proper empirical claims. Because science changes over time,

    philosophers have repeatedly tried to spell out these a priori frameworks in new

    ways. Friedman has applied these notions especially to the Newtonian revolution

    (for which a framework was provided by Kant in his Metaphysical Foundations of

    Natural Science (1786)) and to the Einsteinian revolution (which Logical

    Empiricists such as Carnap and Reichenbach and Neo-Kantians such as Cassirer

    reflected on in different ways). These were, in Kuhns view at least, central

    instances of the notorious incommensurability between successive paradigms of

    natural science, and this thesis is one that Friedman rejects thr


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