History and the Future of Logical Empiricism

  • A. W. Carus
Part of the History of Analytic Philosophy book series (History of Analytic Philosophy)


When Kuhn published his Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, he and many of his readers thought that introducing a historical dimension into the study of scientific theories and their languages was a decisive break with logical empiricism. But it has now been shown that Carnap himself — the editor of the series in which Kuhn’s book was published — welcomed it unreservedly, and that he had good reason to.1 Kuhn’s position, it is now widely agreed, was to some degree compatible with Carnap’s later view, which had developed considerably since the Vienna Circle doctrines of the 1920s.2 But why, then, have history and philosophy of science since Kuhn largely rejected logical empiricism? Evidently, Kuhn added more than just a historical dimension; his conception of knowledge was also quite different from Carnap’s (Section 1 below). Could Carnap have accommodated a historical dimension that fit better? This chapter argues that Carnap’s framework (Section 2) allows a role for the history of science that is distinct from ‘history proper,’ or history as it is ordinarily conceived by historians (Sections 3 and 4). Moreover, history of science in just this Carnapian spirit began to appear soon after Kuhn’s first writings (Section 5). And although it attracted less attention than Kuhn at the time, it has grown into a flourishing alternative tradition, which, I conclude (Section 6), deserves more attention, as it can interact fruitfully with the post-Kuhnian mainstream to open new perspectives for a historically-informed logical empiricism.


Context History Ordinary Language Intellectual History Content History Historical Dimension 
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