•  2988
    Hermann Cohen’s History and Philosophy of Science
    Dissertation, McGill University. 2004.
    In my dissertation, I present Hermann Cohen's foundation for the history and philosophy of science. My investigation begins with Cohen's formulation of a neo-Kantian epistemology. I analyze Cohen's early work, especially his contributions to 19th century debates about the theory of knowledge. I conclude by examining Cohen's mature theory of science in two works, The Principle of the Infinitesimal Method and its History of 1883, and Cohen's extensive 1914 Introduction to Friedrich Lange's History…Read more
  •  1216
    German supporters of the Kantian philosophy in the late 19th century took one of two forks in the road: the fork leading to Baden, and the Southwest School of neo-Kantian philosophy, and the fork leading to Marburg, and the Marburg School, founded by Hermann Cohen. Between 1876, when Cohen came to Marburg, and 1918, the year of Cohen's death, Cohen, with his Marburg School, had a profound influence on German academia.
  •  902
    Review: Makkreel and Luft (eds.), Neo-Kantianism in Contemporary Philosophy (review)
    Philosophy in Review 30 (4): 280-282. 2010.
    A volume dealing seriously with the influence of the major schools of Neo-Kantian thought on contemporary philosophy has been needed sorely for some time. But this volume of essays aims higher: it 'is published in the hopes that it will secure Neo-Kantianism a significant place in contemporary philosophical discussions' (Introduction, 1). The aim of the book, then, is partly to provide a history of major Neo-Kantian thinkers and their influence, and partly to argue for their importance in contem…Read more
  •  508
    Kant's account of space as an infinite given magnitude in the Critique of Pure Reason is paradoxical, since infinite magnitudes go beyond the limits of possible experience. Michael Friedman's and Charles Parsons's accounts make sense of geometrical construction, but I argue that they do not resolve the paradox. I argue that metaphysical space is based on the ability of the subject to generate distinctly oriented spatial magnitudes of invariant scalar quantity through translation or rotation. Th…Read more
  •  482
    Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) established results both controversial and enduring: analysis of mixed colors and of combination tones, arguments against nativism, and the analysis of sensation and perception using the techniques of natural science. The paper focuses on Helmholtz’s account of sensation, perception, and representation via “physiological psychology”. Helmholtz emphasized that external stimuli of sensations are causes, and sensations are their effects, and he had a practical and…Read more
  •  450
    Russell’s method of analysis and the axioms of mathematics
    In Sandra Lapointe Christopher Pincock (ed.), Innovations in the History of Analytical Philosophy, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 105-126. 2017.
    In the early 1900s, Russell began to recognize that he, and many other mathematicians, had been using assertions like the Axiom of Choice implicitly, and without explicitly proving them. In working with the Axioms of Choice, Infinity, and Reducibility, and his and Whitehead’s Multiplicative Axiom, Russell came to take the position that some axioms are necessary to recovering certain results of mathematics, but may not be proven to be true absolutely. The essay traces historical roots of, and mot…Read more
  •  424
    Signs, Toy Models, and the A Priori
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (3): 281-289. 2009.
    The Marburg neo-Kantians argue that Hermann von Helmholtz's empiricist account of the a priori does not account for certain knowledge, since it is based on a psychological phenomenon, trust in the regularities of nature. They argue that Helmholtz's account raises the 'problem of validity' (Gueltigkeitsproblem): how to establish a warranted claim that observed regularities are based on actual relations. I reconstruct Heinrich Hertz's and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Bild theoretic answer to the problem …Read more
  •  347
    Experiment and theory building
    Synthese 184 (3): 235-246. 2012.
    I examine the role of inference from experiment in theory building. What are the options open to the scientific community when faced with an experimental result that appears to be in conflict with accepted theory? I distinguish, in Laudan's (1977), Nickels's (1981), and Franklin's (1993) sense, between the context of pursuit and the context of justification of a scientific theory. Making this distinction allows for a productive middle position between epistemic realism and constructivism. The de…Read more
  •  309
    Kantian Essentialism in the Metaphysical Foundations
    The Monist 100 (3): 342-356. 2017.
    Ott (2009) identifies two kinds of philosophical theories about laws: top-down, and bottom-up. An influential top-down reading, exemplified by Ernst Cassirer, emphasized the ‘mere form of law’. Recent bottom-up accounts emphasize the mind-independent natures of objects as the basis of laws of nature. Stang and Pollok in turn focus on the transcendental idealist elements of Kant’s theory of matter, which leads to the question: is the essence of Kantian matter that it obeys the form of law? I argu…Read more
  •  303
    Laws of Thought and Laws of Logic after Kant
    In Sandra Lapointe (ed.), Logic from Kant to Russell, Routledge. pp. 123-137. 2018.
    George Boole emerged from the British tradition of the “New Analytic”, known for the view that the laws of logic are laws of thought. Logicians in the New Analytic tradition were influenced by the work of Immanuel Kant, and by the German logicians Wilhelm Traugott Krug and Wilhelm Esser, among others. In his 1854 work An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities, Boole argues that the laws of thought acquire normative force wh…Read more
  •  299
    Incommensurability and the Bonfire of the Meta-Theories: Response to Mizrahi
    Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4 (7): 51-58. 2015.
    Scientists working within a paradigm must play by the rules of the game of that paradigm in solving problems, and that is why incommensurability arises when the rules of the game change. If we deny the thesis of the priority of paradigms, then there is no good argument for the incommensurability of theories and thus for taxonomic incommensurability, because there is no invariant way to determine the set of results provable, puzzles solvable, and propositions cogently formulable under a given par…Read more
  •  283
    Kuhn's Kantian Dimensions
    In K. Brad Wray (ed.), Interpreting Kuhn, Cambridge University Press. pp. 27-44. 2021.
    Two questions should be considered when assessing the Kantian dimensions of Kuhn’s thought. First, was Kuhn himself a Kantian? Second, did Kuhn have an influence on later Kantians and neo-Kantians? Kuhn mentioned Kant as an inspiration, and his focus on explanatory frameworks and on the conditions of knowledge appear Kantian. But Kuhn’s emphasis on learning; on activities of symbolization; on paradigms as practical, not just theoretical; and on the social and community aspects of scientific res…Read more
  •  269
    Methodology of the Sciences
    In Michael Forster & Kristin Gjesdal (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of German Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. pp. 594-606. 2015.
    In the growing Prussian university system of the early nineteenth century, "Wissenschaft" (science) was seen as an endeavor common to university faculties, characterized by a rigorous methodology. On this view, history and jurisprudence are sciences, as much as is physics. Nineteenth century trends challenged this view: the increasing influence of materialist and positivist philosophies, profound changes in the relationships between university faculties, and the defense of Kant's classification …Read more
  •  229
    Ernst Mach’s defense of relativist theories of motion in Die Mechanik involves a well-known criticism of Newton’s theory appealing to absolute space, and of Newton’s “bucket” experiment. Sympathetic readers (Norton 1995) and critics (Stein 1967, 1977) agree that there’s a tension in Mach’s view: he allows for some constructed scientific concepts, but not others, and some kinds of reasoning about unobserved phenomena, but not others. Following Banks (2003), I argue that this tension can be interp…Read more
  •  213
    Perspectivalism in the Development of Scientific Observer-Relativity
    In Martin Kusch, Katherina Kinzel, Johannes Steizinger & Niels Jacob Wildschut (eds.), The Emergence of Relativism, Routledge. pp. 63-78. 2019.
    Hermann von Helmholtz allows for not only physiological facts and psychological inferences, but also perspectival reasoning, to influence perceptual experience and knowledge gained from perception. But Helmholtz also defends a version of the view according to which there can be a kind of “perspectival truth” revealed in scientific research and investigation. Helmholtz argues that the relationships between subjective and objective, real and actual, actual and illusory, must be analyzed scientific…Read more
  •  210
    Hilbert's Objectivity
    Historia Mathematica 41 (2): 188-203. 2014.
    Detlefsen (1986) reads Hilbert's program as a sophisticated defense of instrumentalism, but Feferman (1998) has it that Hilbert's program leaves significant ontological questions unanswered. One such question is of the reference of individual number terms. Hilbert's use of admittedly "meaningless" signs for numbers and formulae appears to impair his ability to establish the reference of mathematical terms and the content of mathematical propositions (Weyl (1949); Kitcher (1976)). The paper trace…Read more
  •  207
    Moti Mizrahi has argued that Thomas Kuhn does not have a good argument for the incommensurability of successive scientific paradigms. With Rouse, Andersen, and others, I defend a view on which Kuhn primarily was trying to explain scientific practice in Structure. Kuhn, like Hilary Putnam, incorporated sociological and psychological methods into his history of science. On Kuhn’s account, the education and initiation of scientists into a research tradition is a key element in scientific training a…Read more
  •  201
    Francesca Biagioli: Space, Number, and Geometry from Helmholtz to Cassirer: Springer, Dordrecht, 2016, 239 pp, $109.99 , ISBN: 978-3-319-31777-9 (review)
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (2): 311-315. 2019.
    Francesca Biagioli’s Space, Number, and Geometry from Helmholtz to Cassirer is a substantial and pathbreaking contribution to the energetic and growing field of researchers delving into the physics, physiology, psychology, and mathematics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book provides a bracing and painstakingly researched re-appreciation of the work of Hermann von Helmholtz and Ernst Cassirer, and of their place in the tradition, and is worth study for that alone. The contribution…Read more
  •  186
    Psillos, Kitcher, and Leplin have defended convergent scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction by arguing for the divide et impera strategy. I argue that DEI faces a problem more serious than the pessimistic meta-induction: the problem of accretion. When empirically successful theories and principles are combined, they may no longer make successful predictions or allow for accurate calculations, or the combination otherwise may be an empirical failure. The shift from classical m…Read more
  •  185
    Ernst Cassirer’s focus on the expressive function of language should be read, not in the context of Carnap’s debate with Heidegger, but in the context of the earlier work of Chajim (Heymann) Steinthal. Steinthal distinguishes the expressive form of language, when language is studied as a natural phenomenon, from language as a logical, inferential system. Steinthal argues that language always can be expressed in terms of logical inference. Thus, he would disagree with Heidegger, just as Carnap do…Read more
  •  173
    In the nineteenth century, the separation of naturalist or psychological accounts of validity from normative validity came into question. In his 1877 Logical Studies (Logische Studien), Friedrich Albert Lange argues that the basis for necessary inference is demonstration, which takes place by spatially delimiting the extension of concepts using imagined or physical diagrams. These diagrams are signs or indications of concepts' extension, but do not represent their content. Only the inference as …Read more
  •  135
    Symbolic Forms and the Logic of the Cultural Sciences: Cassirer in Context and Influence
    In Luigi Filieri & Anne Pollok (eds.), The Method of Culture, Editioni Ets. pp. 261-278. 2021.
    My paper will analyze Cassirer’s logic of the cultural sciences as it developed in close engagement with work on logic, psychology, biology, and linguistics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The paper focuses on Chajim Steinthal, who sees the “expressive form” of language as a natural function of human engagement with the environment, developing independently of logic. When read in the context of his engagement with Steinthal, the biologist Uexküll, and the neuroscientist Kurt Gol…Read more
  •  132
    That the history and the philosophy of science have been united in a form of disciplinary marriage is a fact. There are pressing questions about the state of this union. Discourse on a New Method: Reinvigorating the Marriage of History and Philosophy of Science is a state of the union address, but also an articulation of compelling and well-defended positions on strategies for making progress in the history and philosophy of science.
  •  129
    Reconsidering Experiments
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 1 (2): 209-226. 2011.
    Experiments may not reveal their full import at the time that they are performed. The scientists who perform them usually are testing a specific hypothesis and quite often have specific expectations limiting the possible inferences that can be drawn from the experiment. Nonetheless, as Hacking has said, experiments have lives of their own. Those lives do not end with the initial report of the results and consequences of the experiment. Going back and rethinking the consequences of the experiment…Read more
  •  114
    The framework of the modern Western analysis of culture, in terms of the socio-historical situation of the subject and the reciprocal influence of one on the other, has its roots in nineteenth century discussions. This paper will examine two traditions: the hermeneutic approach of Wilhelm Dilthey, and the Völkerpsychologie of Moses Lazarus and Chajim Steinthal. The account will focus on two elements. First, Lazarus and Steinthal attempted to motivate an account based on collective structures, or…Read more
  •  102
    Review: Hyder, The Determinate World: Kant and Helmholtz on the Physical Meaning of Geometry (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (7). 2010.
    Hyder constructs two historical narratives. First, he gives an account of Helmholtz's relation to Kant, from the famous Raumproblem, which preoccupied philosophers, geometers, and scientists in the mid-19th century, to Helmholtz's arguments in his four papers on geometry from 1868 to 1878 that geometry is, in some sense, an empirical science (chapters 5 and 6). The second theme is the argument for the necessity of central forces to a determinate scientific description of physical reality, an abi…Read more
  •  99
    Ontology & Methodology
    with Benjamin C. Jantzen and Deborah G. Mayo
    Synthese 192 (11): 3413-3423. 2015.
    Philosophers of science have long been concerned with the question of what a given scientific theory tells us about the contents of the world, but relatively little attention has been paid to how we set out to build theories and to the relevance of pre-theoretical methodology on a theory’s interpretation. In the traditional view, the form and content of a mature theory can be separated from any tentative ontological assumptions that went into its development. For this reason, the target of inter…Read more
  •  99
    Hermann von Helmholtz
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) participated in two of the most significant developments in physics and in the philosophy of science in the 19th century: the proof that Euclidean geometry does not describe the only possible visualizable and physical space, and the shift from physics based on actions between particles at a distance to the field theory. Helmholtz achieved a staggering number of scientific results, including the formulation of energy conservation, the vortex equations for fluid d…Read more
  •  89
    Finitism in the Metaphysical Foundations
    In Michael Bennett McNulty (ed.), Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press. pp. 119-137. 2022.
    In this paper, building on recent and longstanding work (Warren 2001, Friedman 2013, Glezer 2018), I investigate how the account of the essences or natures of material substances in the Metaphysical Foundations is related to Kant’s demand for the completeness of the system of nature. We must ascribe causal powers to material substances for the properties of those substances to be observable and knowable. But defining those causal powers requires admitting laws of nature, taken as axioms or princ…Read more
  •  82
    Intuitions and Assumptions in the Debate over Laws of Nature
    with Walter Ott
    In Walter R. Ott & Lydia Patton (eds.), Laws of Nature, Oxford University Press. pp. 1-17. 2018.
    The conception of a ‘law of nature’ is a human product. It was created to play a role in natural philosophy, in the Cartesian tradition. In light of this, philosophers and scientists must sort out what they mean by a law of nature before evaluating rival theories and approaches. If one’s conception of the laws of nature is yoked to metaphysical notions of truth and explanation, that connection must be made explicit and defended. If, on the other hand, one’s aim is to disentangle laws from truth …Read more