Historicizing Deduction: Scientific Method, Critical Debate, and the Historian

Comments on Friedrich Stadler’s “Induction and Deduction in the Philosophy of Science”
  • Malachi Hacohen
Part of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook book series (VCIY, volume 11)


If ever there were scientific procedures that seemed immune to history, induction and deduction would be them. Their validity seemingly unimpinged by the vicissitudes of history, they appear a proper subject of discussion for philosophers and scientists, but not for historians. Historians pride themselves on demonstrating that the internal logic of theory is historical — a response to particular conditions. Breakdowns in logic present historians with opportune moments for historicization, for showing how theoreticians’ efforts to respond to their situation made them move inconsistently. When it comes to induction and deduction, however, they seem so universal and basic — the logic and methodology of science unthinkable without them — that any effort to demonstrate their historically bound character risks relativizing science and, some would argue, undermine rational exchange. Can the historian participate, qua historian, in the conversation on induction and deduction without unraveling science and undermining rational exchange?


Public Debate Rational Exchange Deductive Reasoning Rational Reconstruction Critical Rationalist 
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  1. 1.
    Rudolf Carnap, Logische Syntax der Sprache [ 1934], 2nd ed. (Vienna: Springer, 1968), p. Vii, as quoted in Stadler.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    (Tübingen: Mohr, 1979).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Logik der Forschung (Vienna: Springer, 1935), p. 61; The Logic of Scientific Discovery, trans. Popper (London: Hutchinson, 1959), p. 104: “If someday it should no longer be possible for scientific observers to reach agreement about basic statements, this would amount to the failure of language as a means of universal communication ... a new ‘Babel of Tongues.’ ... The soaring edifice of science would soon lie in ruins.”Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Open Society, 2 vols. (London: Routledge, 1945): I:109–111, Ii:204–6, 224–6.Google Scholar
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    Recent studies point in this direction: Ian Jarvie, The Republic of Science (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001); Jeremy Shearmur, The Political Thought of Karl Popper (London: Routledge. 1996).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I am indebted to an email exchange with David Miller (July-August 2002) and to a conversation with Karl Milford during the Esf workshop (July 8, 2002). (Neither Miller nor Milford shares, however, the argument concerning background knowledge.)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Joseph Agassi writes (email of April 2, 2003): “This is true even of contemporary mathematics.”Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    David Miller, “Reasoning: Control, not Command”, phy/staff/miller/dm_control.pdf, a response delivered at the seminar “Induction: Fact or Fantasy?” held at King’s College London on January 9, 2002. See also his “Being an Absolute Skeptic,” Science 284:5420 (4 June 1999): 1625f.
  9. 9.
    Joseph Agassi writes (email of April 2, 2003): “You are right, but you should credit it to Popper.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malachi Hacohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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