PSA 1974 pp 585-601 | Cite as

History and Philosophy of Science: A Marriage of Convenience?

  • Ernan Mcmullin
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 32)


In a recent article, Ronald Giere has argued that the currently fashionable union of history and philosophy of science is no more than a marriage of convenience, justified like so many youthful marriages by unhappiness with the parental homes — history and philosophy — rather than by compatibility and mutual need. He allows that it is, for the moment at least, a convenience from the institutional standpoint to encourage the two to pair off together, but insists that this pairing has no “ strong conceptual rationale.”1 In a session devoted to analyzing the directions in which philosophy of science is developing, this topic would seem to merit an important place, for it can hardly be gainsaid that one of the two most obvious shifts in the philosophy of science over the past fifteen years has been its growing involvement with the history of science; the other shift is, of course, the shift away from the empiricist orthodoxies inherited from the Vienna Circle. and the two are not unconnected If the former ought (as Dr. Giere suggests) be construed as a growing sensitivity to the realities of actual scientific procedure (whether contemporary or in the past) rather than a call upon the history of science as such, the consequences for the directing of our future efforts would be quite different from what many historicist philosophers of science have been urging upon us.


Parental Home Successful Prediction Internal Criterion Deductive Logic Vienna Circle 
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  1. 1.
    ‘History and Philosophy of Science: Intimate Relationship or Marriage of Convenience’, British Journal/or the Philosophy of Science 24 (1973), 282-297; see p. 296.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Errol Harris, ‘Epicyclic Popperism’, BJPS 23 (1972), 55-67.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See A Musgrave, ‘Logical versus Historical Theories of Confirmation’, BJPS 25 (1974), 1-23; E. G. Zahar, ‘Why did Einstein’ s Programme Supersede Lorentz’s?’, BJPS 24 (1973), 95-123; 223-262.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

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  • Ernan Mcmullin

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