The purpose of this essay is to identify why history of science and philosophy of science have lost their former alliance. Reasons include, among others, structural elements in funding, e.g. a run-down version of interdisciplinarity that encourages philosophy and history to work with the sciences rather than with each other. Moreover, the disciplinary assemblage in terms of cultural studies (German: Kulturwissenschaften) has eroded the continental concept of 'Geisteswissenschaft' to which history and philosophy traditionally belong. In consequence, both disciplines face a loss of knowledge in historical terminologies and related inquiries. Above all, these matter for shaping and understanding concepts and ideas; not last for the conceptualization of history and philosophy of science themselves.
History of science and philosophy of science have experienced a somewhat turbulent relationship over the last century. At times it has been said that philosophy needs history, or that history needs philosophy. Very occasionally, something entirely new is said to need them both. Often, however, their relationship is seen as little more than a marriage of convenience. This article explores that marriage by analyzing the citations of over 7,000 historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science. The data reveal that a small but tightly-knit bridge does exist between the disciplines, and raises suggestions about how to understand that bridge in a more nuanced fashion.
Which domains of biology do philosophers of biology primarily study? The fact that philosophy of biology has been dominated by an interest for evolutionary biology is widely admitted, but it has not been strictly demonstrated. Here I analyse the topics of all the papers published in Biology & Philosophy, just as the journal celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. I then compare the distribution of biological topics in Biology & Philosophy with that of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, focusing on the recent period 2003–2015. This comparison reveals a significant mismatch between the distributions of these topics. I examine plausible explanations for that mismatch. Finally, I argue that many biological topics underrepresented in philosophy of biology raise important philosophical issues and should therefore play a more central role in future philosophy of biology.
Feminist philosophy of science has led to improvements in the practices and products of scientific knowledge-making, and in this way it exemplifies socially relevant philosophy of science. It has also yielded important insights and original research questions for philosophy. Feminist scholarship on science thus presents a worthy thought-model for considering how we might build a more socially relevant philosophy of science—the question posed by the editors of this special issue. In this analysis of the history, contributions, and challenges faced by feminist philosophy of science, I argue that engaged case study work and interdisciplinarity have been central to the success of feminist philosophy of science in producing socially relevant scholarship, and that its future lies in the continued development of robust and dynamic philosophical frameworks for modeling social values in science. Feminist philosophers of science, however, have often encountered marginalization and persistent misunderstandings, challenges that must be addressed within the institutional and intellectual culture of American philosophy.
Intellectual history still quite commonly distinguishes between the episode we know as the Scientific Revolution, and its successor era, the Enlightenment, in terms of the calculatory and quantifying zeal of the former—the age of mechanics—and the rather scientifically lackadaisical mood of the latter, more concerned with freedom, public space and aesthetics. It is possible to challenge this distinction in a variety of ways, but the approach I examine here, in which the focus on an emerging scientific field or cluster of disciplines—the ‘life sciences’, particularly natural history, medicine, and physiology (for ‘biology’ does not make an appearance at least under this name or definition until the late 1790s)—is, not Romantically anti-scientific, but resolutely anti-mathematical. Diderot bluntly states, in his Thoughts on the interpretation of nature (1753), that “We are on the verge of a great revolution in the sciences. Given the taste people seem to have for morals, belles-lettres, the history of nature and experimental physics, I dare say that before a hundred years, there will not be more than three great geometricians remaining in Europe. The science will stop short where the Bernoullis, the Eulers, the Maupertuis, the Clairauts, the Fontaines and the D’Alemberts will have left it... We will not go beyond.” Similarly, Buffon in the first discourse of his Histoire naturelle (1749) speaks of the “over-reliance on mathematical sciences,” given that mathematical truths are merely “definitional” and “demonstrative,” and thereby “abstract, intellectual and arbitrary.” Earlier in the Thoughts, Diderot judges “the thing of the mathematician” to have “as little existence in nature as that of the gambler.” Significantly, this attitude—taken by great scientists who also translated Newton (Buffon) or wrote careful papers on probability theory (Diderot), as well as by others such as Mandeville—participates in the effort to conceptualize what we might call a new ontology for the emerging life sciences, very different from both the ‘iatromechanism’ and the ‘animism’ of earlier generations, which either failed to account for specifically living, goal-directed features of organisms, or accounted for them in supernaturalistic terms by appealing to an ‘anima’ as explanatory principle. Anti-mathematicism here is then a key component of a naturalistic, open-ended project to give a successful reductionist model of explanation in ‘natural history’ (one is tempted to say ‘biology’), a model which is no more vitalist than it is materialist—but which is fairly far removed from early modern mechanism.