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