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Continental Philosophy of Science
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2011
This blurb is a holding place for a more thorough review in the future when I actually receive this book. I felt in necessary to remark on it since this book has received very little attention.

I do want to say that this book is important for a number of reasons.

First, historically, science had been an important but recently neglected theme in the history of continental philosophy (CPh). This is perhaps the fault of the strong political and literary contingent in people who do and make use of the texts in the continental tradition, though Derrida's dominance and failure to make of science an adequate theme is not entirely without fault. This selection brings out the strong scientific background of many of the classical texts in CPh, and it does this while also bringing attention to a few neglected figures- Bergson, Cassirer, Canguihem. Cassirer alone is worth a fresh look, but to have a few other new-old additions is wonderful.

Second, in terms of recent developments in continental philosophy Zizek, Brassier, and especially Meillassoux, this is an excellent propaedeutic to moderating and correcting some of their more aggressive and absurd posturing against the tradition while fulfilling the justified demand that science become a major focus alongside politics and culture.

This book should also do a good job at giving more flesh to Anglo-American accounts of CPh of science. It is a temptation of many CPh sympathetic professors- no matter how different their orientation -to teach as though every continental philosopher is Thomas Kuhn. This might be Rorty's fault. It might be a symptom of their age. Whatever the case, it's simply inadequate to simply say "Heidegger/Husserl/Deleuze/etc. is like Thomas Kuhn." First, they are only in a superficial way. Second, Kuhn is nowhere near as sympathetic or well understood a figure as he was thirty years ago, so such a comparison as time goes on does more harm than good.

My only concern with the anthology in my quick overview of it is that the Heidegger selection is rather limited. Heidegger has plenty of texts relevant to modern science, and it's not clear to me why only "On Time and Being" should be represented. Second, despite my negative remark towards him above, no selection from Derrida is represented. There *are* people who work on Derrida & Philosophy of Science, and it would be valuable to bring them and the texts relevant to them into focus. Nor either is there any Merleau-Ponty, which is strange. I understand why you would leave out Sartre, but Merleau-Ponty did relevant work here, and deserves as much of a hearing as Husserl does.

For more on Heidegger and Philosophy of Science see:

Heidegger's Philosophy of Science (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy)

it does have that tendency to try and compare Heidegger to Thomas Kuhn, but it does much more and so this doesn't detract from the quality of the book.

For Derrida and science (which is neglected in this anthology) see:

Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology after Bohr and Derrida

I'm not familiar with the book, but John Caputo recommends it, and I take his word on this sort of matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2011
Not Philosophy of Science!

This 340-page book is a collection of 22 previously published works by or about Hegel, Bergson, Cassirer, Husserl, Heidegger, Bachelard, Canguilheim, Foucault, Deleuze, Irigaray, and Habermas. I read this appalling anthology with dismay.

I had been a practicing research economist/econometrician in both business and government for more than thirty years. In my research work I applied the principles of contemporary pragmatist philosophy of science, and I built my career upon my computerized artificial-intelligence discovery system. I can honestly say that philosophy of science has been more contributing to my professional successes in empirical economic research than the economic theory conventionally taught in the graduate schools.

Philosophers have been commenting on science since the historic Scientific Revolution in the sixteenth century. But a philosopher's musings about science are not as such philosophy of science. What I found in this book is unrecognizable as philosophy of science and useless for both the research scientist and the philosopher of science. As Austrian Nobel laureate physicist Wolfgang Pauli was known for saying about an irrelevant paper, "It's not even wrong!"

Philosophy of science today aims to formulate principles of basic-science research practice by investigating successful episodes in the history of science, and then to advance contemporary science by applying the principles. Today this aim has been facilitated by computer systems that simulate important developments in the history of science. Nobel laureate economist Herbert Simon founded this new technique, and many examples of systems can be found in his Scientific Discovery: Computational Explorations of the Creative Processes. In his Computational Philosophy of Science (Bradford Books) Paul Thagard named the new technique appropriately "computational philosophy of science".

Using such computer systems the philosopher now participates in the work of the scientist, and no longer condescends from the mountaintop ivory tower. But the selections in this book reveal Gutting's aloofness from the scientist's work, as well as his anachronistic philosophical understanding. Some articles in this anthology might charitably be construed as metaphysics, epistemology, anthropology, social philosophy, philosophy of history and/or sociology of knowledge - just about anything but professional philosophy of science.

Gutting was once philosophy department chairman at the University of Notre Dame. One of Gutting's predecessors in that job at Notre Dame was a certain Reverend Ernie McMullin, who insisted to me during a Ph.D. exam that philosophy of science is Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. McMullin then told me to get reformed or get out. I got out (!), enrolled elsewhere, and wrote the computerized artificial-intelligence discovery system that could not be a Ph.D. dissertation in philosophy of science at Notre Dame. The system made my professional research career as an economist singularly successful.

McMullin was a European-born and a (Catholic University of Louvain Pontifical Institute, Belgium) European-educated academic, for whom American pragmatism is utterly alien. In my personal experience I observed that McMullin and his philosophy faculty were truculently hostile to the views of contemporary pragmatists. For example McMullin ridiculed Norwood Russell Hanson in the Hanson memorial in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (1968) and was ridiculing and dismissive toward Paul Feyerabend in Irish Theological Quarterly (November 2009). And Michael Loux, who was hired by McMullin, attacked Willard van Quine's philosophy of language in the Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic (January 1974).

Hostility towards pragmatism seems to be characteristic of Catholic philosophy. Pragmatism is indigenous and native to modern American culture. The contemporary pragmatist philosophy of language and philosophy of science affirm semantical and ontological relativism. But Roman Catholic philosophers find it threatening. On the eve of his election Pope Benedict XVI warned that the modern world is moving toward a "dictatorship of relativism".

The Reverend Chairman McMullin had hired Gutting in the 1960's. These days McMullin is pushing up daisies and Gutting has retired. But Gutting's book tells me that the McMullin Geist haunts the halls of Gutting's philosophy department. It tells me that today the Notre Dame philosophy faculty is still as marginalized as when the school had complied with Pope Leo XIII's 1879 mandate to teach Scholastic Thomism, which the Pope had promulgated in his papal encyclical Aeternae Patris. Gutting's book also tells me that Notre Dame Ph.D. philosophy graduates are destined to teach in other reactionary Roman Catholic parochial schools, while contributing nothing to contemporary philosophy of science for consequential practice of science.

Finally I note an irony. The most consequential of the continental philosophers of science is not even mentioned in Gutting's Continental Philosophy of Science. He is Nobel laureate physicist Werner Heisenberg, whose reflections on Einstein's relativity theory and on his own historic uncertainty relations in quantum theory anticipated academia's contemporary pragmatism by a quarter of a century. For example he and Einstein anticipated Quine's theses of empirical underdetermination, relativized semantics and ontological relativity. Heisenberg made a revolution in philosophy of science as well as in physics. Interested readers can find this brilliantly pioneering philosophy of science in Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science,Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science and Across the Frontiers.

For a contemporary understanding of philosophy of science I invite readers to view my Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science: A History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction (Second Edition).

Thomas J. Hickey
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