Clio meets Minerva: Interrelations between History and Philosophy of Science

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Tuchanska, Barbara
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The idea that science is historical is almost a cliché nowadays. The historical dimensions of science have begun to be appreciated by philosophers of science, for some through the work of Kuhn, and for others through Popper and Lakatos. Does this mean that contemporary philosophy of science understands the historical nature of science? Let me begin with a provocative negative answer. My reason is not the obvious one, namely, that there are several competing models that address the historical development of science. Rather, it's more substantial: philosophers of science have not adequately reflected on the historical nature of science. There are still at least two barriers blocking a meaningful dialogue between the history of science and the philosophy of science: (1) the normative and evaluative orientation of philosophy of science and (2) its universalist stance toward science, a stance somewhat modified in current literature. No wonder Minerva cannot communicate with Clio; not only do they not speak the same language, but their perspectives and aims differ too. Does this mean that Minerva can't be replaced with Calliope, that philosophy of science will go on "its own way, paying little attention to the naturalist stories told by historians and sociologists, and, in turn, being widely ignored by them?". Does this mean that their only possible relation is lack of relation--their "splendid isolation"--entailing abstention from alliances, even from a "marriage of convenience," or, for that matter, from any other sort of interaction? Does this mean that philosophy of science uses historical episodes simply to find its problems, or appeals to those episodes only to illustrate its claims or to falsify the claims of opposing philosophical views? Well, not necessarily. Interactions and cooperation between the two are possible, but depend, first, on their (in particular, philosophy's) self-definitions, and, second, on how they both relate to philosophy, and, in particular, to the philosophy of history.