Philosophical Presuppositions and Shifting Interpretations of Galileo
It is entirely appropriate that a discussion of shifting interpretations of Galileo should take as its terminus a quo the trés cher maître of so many of us who took up the history of science professionally immediately after the Second World War: the great Alexandre Koyré. With three or four other rare spirits he was one of those who showed by example the enlightenment that can be gained only by looking beneath the surface of immediate scientific results, by seeking to identify the intellectual and technical conditions that made certain discoveries possible and explanations acceptable to a particular generation or group, others not, and the same not to others. By displaying the science in historical relation to the philosophical assumptions, technical equipment, and social context of its designers and discoverers, they showed how the history of science could illuminate the nature both of European culture and of scientific thinking. This contextual approach establishes the identity of the history of science as a field of study. It shows it clearly to belong in its sources, content and methods of scholarship to history and philosophy, and equally clearly to require some special knowledge of the problems whose records are its primary materials. The history of science might be seen as a history of intellectual behaviour, in the sense both of a history recreating the past and of a comparative natural history of examples, a kind of philosophical anthropology.
KeywordsScientific Thinking Physical Causation Philosophical Anthropology Intellectual Culture Intellectual Style
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