The rise of logical empiricist philosophy of science and the fate of speculative philosophy of science

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This paper contributes to explaining the rise of logical empiricism in mid-twentieth century (North) America and to a better understanding of American philosophy of science before the dominance of logical empiricism. We show that, contrary to a number of existing histories, philosophy of science was already a distinct subfield of philosophy, one with its own approaches and issues, even before logical empiricists arrived in America. It was a form of speculative philosophy with a concern for speculative metaphysics, normative issues relating to science and society and issues which later were associated with logical empiricist philosophy of science, issues such as confirmation, scientific explanation, reductionism and laws of nature. Further, philosophy of science was not primarily pragmatist in orientation. We also show, with the help of our historical characterization, that a recent account of the emergence of analytic philosophy applies to the rise of logical empiricism. It has been argued that the emergence of American analytic philosophy is partly explained by analytic philosophers’ use of key institutions, including of journals, to marginalize speculative philosophy and promote analytic philosophy. We argue that this use of institutions included the marginalization of speculative and value-laden philosophy of science and the promotion of logical empiricism.
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Archival date: 2021-12-08
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