Advertisement

Metascience

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 71–76 | Cite as

The historical contingency of rationality: The social sciences and the Cold War

Paul Erickson, Judy L. Klein, Lorraine Daston, Rebecca Lemov, Thomas Sturm and Michael D. Gordin: How reason almost lost its mind: The strange career of Cold War rationality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013, viii+259pp, $35.00 HB
  • Jeroen van DongenEmail author
Essay Review
  • 189 Downloads

During World War II, Niels Bohr realized that the nature of war had changed irrevocably due to the introduction of the atomic bomb. This, in his opinion, meant that nation states had to be open about nuclear knowledge and negotiate toward peace. The bomb presented a threat, yet at the same time, an opportunity, as Bohr would argue in his characteristic way. It is not too difficult to point to the epistemological origin of Bohr’s argument: One easily identifies resonances with his ideas on “complementarity” from quantum mechanics. According to Bohr’s doctrine of complementarity, a quantum mechanical object shows certain qualities depending on the experimental perspective from which it is studied; and these qualities may be mutually exclusive. However, they should in fact be looked upon as “complementary” properties that together make up the full picture of the object under investigation.

Initially, Bohr could express his ideas to the highest circles of power. This would soon change,...

References

  1. Brummer, C. 2013. Striving for influence. A comparative analysis of Niels Bohr’s and John von Neumann’s ideas about nuclear deterrence and arms control in the Cold War. M.Sc. Thesis, Utrecht University.Google Scholar
  2. Daston, L., and P. Galison. 2007. Objectivity. New York: Zone books.Google Scholar
  3. Kuhn, T.S. 1961. The function of measurement in modern physical science. Isis 52: 161–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kuhn, T.S. 1977. Objectivity, value judgment and theory choice. In The essential tension, ed. T.S. Kuhn, 320–339. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. MacRae, N. 1992. John von Neumann: The scientific genius who pioneered the modern computer, game theory, nuclear deterrence, and much more. New York: American Mathematical Society.Google Scholar
  6. Pais, A. 1991. Niels Bohr’s times, in physics, philosophy and polity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ITFAUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Descartes CenterUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations