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Narrating the History of Reason Itself: Friedman, Kuhn, and a Constitutive A Priori for the Twenty-First Century

Richardson, Alan W.
Perspectives on Science, Volume 10, Number 3, Fall 2002, pp. 253-274 (Article)
Published by The MIT Press

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Narrating the History of Reason Itself: Friedman, Kuhn, and a Constitutive A Priori for the Twenty-First Century
Alan W. Richardson

Department of Philosophy University of British Columbia

This essay explores some themes in use of a relativized Kantian a priori in the work of Thomas Kuhn and Michael Friedman. It teases out some shared and some divergent beliefs and attitudes in these two philosophers by comparing their characteristic questions and problems to the questions and problems that seem most appropriately to attend to an adequate understanding of games and their histories. It argues for a way forward within a relativized Kantian framework that is suggested but not argued for in Friedman (2001): philosophers of science should move from a concern with unreason as meaninglessness to a concern with unreason as argumentative coercion. It ends with a few suggestions regarding a place for philosophy in the history of reason.

In an interview given late in his life, Thomas Kuhn reected on a philosophy course he took as an undergraduate: Kant was a revelation . . . I gave a presentation on Kant and the notion of preconditions for knowledge. Things that had to be the case because you wouldnt be able to know things otherwise. [My presentation] was thought very well of, but it just knocked me over, that notion, and you can see why thats an important story (Kuhn 2000, p. 264).
This essay began as a comment on Michael Friedmans Ernan McMullin Perspectives Lecture at Notre Dame University in April 2001, and was given also at a Duke University Philosophy Colloquium that month. I would like to thank Don Howard and Robert Brandon for the invitations and members of both audiences, especially Don Howard, Robert DiSalle, Ernan McMullin, Lynn Joy, Robert Brandon, and Todd Davis, for helpful comments. I have also received helpful comments and encouragement from Joseph C. Pitt and Yoshinori Ogawa and two anonymous referees. What I know about rhetoric and historical narrative, I have learned from my science studies colleagues at UBC, Judy Segal and Stephen Straker. My largest debt is, of course, to Michael Friedman, for continuing philosophical instruction and inspiration.
Perspectives on Science 2002, vol. 10, no. 3 2003 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology 253


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

He elaborated briey on the storys importance: I go around explaining my own position saying I am a Kantian with moveable categories (Kuhn 2000, p. 264). Kuhn here (and elsewhere) places his philosophical project within a neo-Kantian tradition, centered on the Marburg School and its successors, for understanding the progress of scientic knowledge. This tradition has become the subject of an increasing amount of historical attention, both for its relations to logical empiricism and in its own right. The most important scholar of this neo-Kantian tradition is Michael Friedman, who explains its key twentieth-century theme in this way: What we end up with, in this tradition, is thus a relativized and dynamical conception of a priori mathematical-physical principles, which change and develop along with the development of the mathematical and physical sciences themselves, but which nevertheless retain the characteristically Kantian constitutive function of making the empirical natural knowledge thereby structured and framed by such principles rst possible (Friedman 2001, p. 31). That is to say, the neo-Kantians in this tradition emphasized the way certain fundamental principles within the exact sciences have served as Kantian preconditions for scientic knowledge even though those principles are not, as they were for Kant himself, xed eternally.1 Rather, the principles themselves change over time, such changes marking signicant ruptures in what it is possible to know scientically at all, a phenomenon better known as scientic revolutions. This neo-Kantian tradition gives up immutability and necessity of a priori knowledge in favor of working within Kants idea that the methodological key to a priori principles is the way they are constitutive of the object of knowledge. This is a tradition that offers relativized accounts of the constitutive a priori principles of scientic knowledge, and Kuhns Kantianism with movable categories does look to be one project within this larger tradition.2
1. This is emphatically not to say that all neo-Kantians gave up on immutability and necessity; Friedmans (2001) account of the tradition is a bit simplied precisely because his project there is not detailed historical scholarship, and I follow his simplication here. The struggles to relativize the synthetic a priori were difcult and often even a single gure can be found arguing both sides of the issue in the same work. I (Richardson 1998, Chapter Five) have argued that even Ernst Cassirers masterful Substance and Function is equivocal on this issue. I owe this clarication to one of the anonymous referees. 2. Many of Friedmans essays on this branch of neo-Kantianism can be found in Friedman (1999). See also Friedman (2000). The tradition is also examined in Richardson (1998, Chapter Five).

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Friedman has himself recently moved from being a sympathetic expositor of this tradition to be an advocate of a position within it, a position given in his book, Dynamics of Reason (Friedman 2001). Friedman advocates a neo-Kantian position that is motivated against the background of the history of neo-Kantianism proper and that draws important lessons also from the philosophies of Rudolf Carnap, Jrgen Habermas, and Kuhn. Friedman attempts to enunciate a relativized constitutive a priori in certain mathematical and physical principles embedded within theories in the exact science. He also provides an understanding of the importance of philosophy as a source of conceptual tools to be used in the exact sciences as they develop over time. This essay will not expound Kuhns or Friedmans position in great detail; my interest is rather in teasing out some issues regarding the peculiar place of science in the histories of reason given by Friedman and Kuhn. Friedmans dynamics of reason provides a framework for constructing an historical narrative of reasonfor giving a history of reason in which science and philosophy nd pride of place. Our main business is to explore how and why Friedman puts science and philosophy at the center of the history of reason and how his doing so relates to Kuhns own historiography. This exploration sheds light on the place of science, philosophy, and their histories in the project of philosophy of science more generally. My consideration of these themes will start rather obliquely by reminding us of something we all know about the history of other human practices. As something we all know, what I begin with is not particularly interesting in itself, but it can help us to see something that is interesting it can help us to begin to make out what the problems are that Kuhn and Friedman are or might be trying to solve in suggesting ways to write the history of reason.
What We All Know about Chess and its History

There is a complex pattern of human action and artifact that goes by the name chess. There are rules for chessrules about how the pieces move, how the board is set up at the start of the game, when a game is won or drawn, and so on. In addition to these rules, there are usually less explicit rules or guidelines for how to play chess well. These rules give you strategies and tactics in the service of the goal of winning the game. A tournament chess player has to contend with additional, as it were, local rulesfor example, time limits for making her movesas well as with more stringent enforcement of rules of procedure. These rules set the local conditions for playing chess in this tournament here and now.


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

All these rules jointly constitute, so to speak, the rules of rationality for chess. The rst set of rules gives you the initial state, the range of desired goal states, and, at any moment, the range of legal moves in the game. The second set gives you, so to speak, the internal principles of proper play. The third set of rules give you the local external conditions for strategy. (If your opponent is short on time, you may very well play to keep the game complicated if you think you are more likely to win on time than on the board.) Someone who violated the rst set of ruleswho tried to move his king six spaces on one move or move when it is not his turnis not, we would like to say, playing chess at all. Someone who violates the second set badly enoughwho places her queen where it can be taken by a pawn or who moves her king out into play without regard for counterattackmight also be said not to be playing chess, but in a somewhat different sense. She doesnt get it somehow; she makes no illegal moves but plays without regard for winning; she plays irrationally or pointlessly. The rst person is not playing chess because he does not know how, the second person seems not to know how to play games, or perhaps is making fun of this game. The third set of rules are also rules of strategic rationalitya tournament player who played very well but so slowly that he lost every game on time would not understand the point of playing chess in tournaments. When playing a game of chess, then, these rules form, so to speak, the a prioris of the chessic situation. I would be behaving bizarrely if I made illegal moves, paid no attention to the goodness of my moves, and so on; indeed, absent the rules that constitute the game, I cannot be playing chess. These rules, despite the fact that the second and third set of rules are defeasible and partially competing, constitute the legal moves and space of reasons for moves in the game: if called to account for a move I have made, I would cite the rules and their application in my situation. I could not, however, for example, protest to my opponent that the reason why I made two moves in a row without waiting for her to make a move is that so acting made me more likely to win: violations of the rules cannot be explained or justied by citation of the rules. Even my mistakes are explained by my misassessment of the strategic or tactical situation or my inability to calculate properly all the possibilitiesmy misapplication of or lack of facility with the rules, not my application of different rules, the rules for blundering. Of course, the game of chess has a history. The game we play descends from games much like it but with different rules, and thus with strategies more well-suited to those rules. Among the rules that were introduced into the current game of chess are these: castling (in which both the king

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and a rook move on the same turn), and a sweeping change in the legal moves of the bishops and, most especially, the queen, the latter of which went from being the weakest to the strongest major piece. It is certain that the arguments among historical players of chess as to whether the rules ought to be changed have looked different from their arguments about whether a given move in a given game was a legal or a good move. It would be odd, however, for that reason to think that there were no arguments for the rule changes, that the rule changes were in any important sense simply arbitrary, subjective, or not rational. In general, Europeans seem to have sought to speed up the game by making the pieces more powerful. Presumably the general reasons given for the rule changes were, therefore, that the quicker game was more enjoyable or more interesting or simply less time-consuming. There were, I believe, historical periods for which the following is true: some games played under that periods rules would be legal games according to the current rules. If you showed the transcript of such a game to a current chess player and did not tell him that it was a game under different rules, he would recognize it as a legal game but a very peculiar one. The reasons why the players moved as they did would be obscure. If he were asked to explain the game, he might well despairthe game is full of mistakes but not of common, predictable mistakes made among duffers. Show him enough transcripts of legal games from that period, however, and he will come to recognize that the rules were different: for example, changing the way the pieces move changes the circumstances in which a King is in check and thus alters the possible legal ways of continuing the game. Many of their legal games, and probably most that were actually played, are not legal games for us.
The Game of Science and Relativism

The obvious lessons one might draw in the context of theories of science from this rehearsal of what we all know about games and their histories are two: a. Science is importantly like chess. b. Science is importantly unlike chess. One of the excellent things about the work of Kuhn and Friedmannot to mention Ludwig Wittgensteinis that it suggests that both lessons are true. If both lessons are right, then exploring how science is and is not importantly like chess and, thus, how the history of science should and should not be like the history of chess should help us gure out what


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

Kuhn and Friedman are seeking to illuminate or explain in their respective accounts of the history of science. The most obvious similarity between games and science is more motivational for Friedmanian (and, less explicitly, Kuhnian) philosophy than it is argumentative within it: the notion of the constitutive a priori is usefully motivated by thinking about gamesthe rules constitute the game in question and also the reasons for moves in the game. This notion of rules as constitutive of games has little to do with any standard epistemological account of the a priori. In particular, rules do not constitute games in virtue of their necessity or certainty. If we were teaching chess to someone and he asked us, Are you certain that the queen moves that way? we would have to conclude not that he was asking an important question about our grounds for belief in the rules of chess, but rather that he was questioning our competence as chess teachers. Questions of certainty and necessity are misplaced in this context. Our inability to nd out when we have been wrong about how queens move in chess is not expressive of a certain knowledge or necessary truth; it is expressive of a decision, codied into the rules and secured socially in practice, to move the queen that way. Similarly, as Friedman (2001, p. 30) notes, Hans Reichenbach had already by 1920 explicitly rejected the idea that a priori principles in the exact sciences were necessary and unrevisable, xed for all time. The second set of rulesthe rules for determining what is a good or bad move in chesshas a more curious status. These rules constitute our reasons for making moves but they have changed over time and in ways not always tied to changes in the rules for what is a legal move. It seems that we can nd out in the case of chess (where winning provides an a posteriori justication for a move or pattern of moves) that our standards for justifying or evaluating moves are incomplete or inaccurate. Moreover, these rules can be and have been appealed to in justifying changes in the rst set of rules. One argument for the introduction of castling is that absent castling there is no good way to develop one rook; that is, a chess game without castling is a game in which one piece has no good opening moves, and this fact is a aw in the game. Such facts about the interaction of the rules make things interestingly complicated, but they are not reasons to deny that there are these two sets of rules or to deny that the rst set constitutes the legal games while the second set constitutes the space of reasons for the moves made in games played. If thinking briey about games provides a way into the constitutive a priori for those unmoved by or unschooled in Kantian philosophy, it can also help illuminate some puzzles in Friedmans and Kuhns treatments of the history of science. Certain concerns that philosophers have as a matter

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of course regarding history of science do not arise when we think of the history of games. A history of chess would explain the reasons why the game developed as it did. The introduction of new rules is not adequately characterized as a rupture in the fabric of rationality or a gestalt switch in which the community of chess players woke up one morning and moved their queens differently. Nor would we expect that there was only one rational way that the history could have gonenone of the ways that philosophers try to introduce directionality and uniqueness onto the history of science seem plausible in the history of chess: there is no Platonic chess in itself that our game is a awed realization of; there is no ideal game to be played at the end of games-playing that our game asymptotically approaches; there is no structure of reason itself that is increasingly exhibited with each change of rules. Indeed, we would expect that there is a history of Chinese chess, which looks to be derived from the same origin as the Western game, that is just as rational as the history of the Western game but in which different choices were made. We need not even expect common general beliefs about games or common values regarding games throughout the hundreds of years of history of chessis it not possible that, in the ever-promised and never-realized future world in which people have lots of leisure, the value of shorter, more active games that seems to have driven the Western game might be reversed? Local circumstances dictate what is thought to be unsatisfactory in the game and the direction in which its players try to make it better. Still less would a plausible history of chess try to convince us that the rule changes were either induced by or resolved with the help of a community of philosophers of games. There is no such community of philosophers nor has the lack been a problem. On the contrary, it is the excellent chess players who are the one who have become dissatised, and they are the ones who best know why they are dissatised and what the resources are that might solve the problem. My remarks to this point might remind the reader of one of the Kuhns on offer in the Structure (Kuhn [1962] 1996)this is not a Kuhn who denies the rationality of science but one who suggests that its rationality is very much like the rationality of chess. This Kuhn seeks a new model of scientic rationality. This is the Kuhn of the famous rst sentence of the Structure and this Kuhn reappeared importantly in Chapter Nine in a discussion of scientic revolutions: The man who premises a paradigm in its defense can nonetheless provide a clear exhibit of what scientic practice will be like for those who adopt the new view of nature. That exhibit can be immensely persuasive, even compellingly so. Yet, whatever its force, the status of the circular argument is only that of persua-


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

sion. . . . To discover how scientic revolutions are effected, we shall therefore have to examine not only the impact of nature and of logic, but also the techniques of persuasive argumentation effective within the quite special groups that constitute the community of scientists (Kuhn 1996, p. 94). In other words, one will be tempted to view scientic revolutions as irrational only if ones model of reason is exhausted by experimental demonstration and deductive reasoning from universally evident premises. But such a commitment in the case of chess would amount to trying to nd a sound deductive argument in favor of castling (as a rule), and, failing to nd one, deciding that there were no reasons for introducing it as a rule. But, there were reasons to add the rulewe can even recover some of them from the historical record. No doubt there were also reasons not to add the rule, also, and if we wanted to tell the history of this rule change we would have to discover what community decided what the rules were and we would have to look at who in the community mobilized the appropriate means of persuasion more effectively. This is, after all, the messy but intelligible world we live ina world that is irrational only occasionally, however messy it is. My classical humanist Kuhn invites us to think of the history of science as rather like the history of gamesthat is, as rational without being necessarily unidirectional or governed by a universal set of values or goals. This Kuhn exists as an interpretative entity; he is the most coherent author of at least some pages of the Structure. But this Kuhn will have to face the problem of relativism, as indeed the actual Kuhn himself did. Thinking of science as a game does invite a relativism that mirrors what is unproblematic in the case of games: those are the rules and practices of Chinese chess; these are our rules and practices; both games developed from a common historical origin; neither current game is more rational than the other or indeed than the progenitor game. The actual Kuhn, as is well-known, sought to evade charges of relativism by claiming that there was a universal set of problem-solving values that could be used across revolutionary divides and that would allow scientists and theorists of science to claim that the history of science exhibits progress. Friedman nds Kuhn unpersuasive on this point. He adds his voice to a chorus of critics who argue that it is not clear that there has been any such set of values in science or that such values can be employed to give univocal judgments of progress across paradigms (Friedman 2001, pp. 50ff). But Friedman does not just rely on these criticisms of Kuhn; he uses his sense of the inadequacy of Kuhns response to relativism to motivate his own characteristic views and attitudesand these exhibit a differ-

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ence between Kuhn and Friedman that their shared commitment to some form of relativized Kantianism should not obscure. As is well-known, Kuhns account of rationality in science has two levels. The rst level is the level of historically changing paradigms, exhibiting discontinuities in what is known about the world. The second level is the posited universally shared values and goals that allow for there to be an intelligible sense of progress in the overall historical story, despite such ruptures. Since, as we have noted, Friedman rejects this account, he must provide an alternative to it. Friedmans story operates with three levels, instead of two. The rst level looks very much like Kuhns rst level: an historically discontinuous sequence of fundamental theories of exact science, each with their own set of constitutive a priori principles. The second level is, however, a level occupied by philosophers (and, perhaps, other humanities scholars) who provide not universally accepted values and goals of science, but conceptual resources for revolutionary science: Science, if it is to continue to progress through revolutions, therefore needs a source of new ideas, alternative programs, and expanded possibilities that is itself not scientic in the same sensethat does not, as do the sciences themselves, operate within a generally agreed upon framework of taken for granted rules. For what is needed here is precisely the creation or stimulation of new frameworks or paradigms, together with what we might call meta-frameworks or meta-paradigmsnew conceptions of what a coherent rational understanding of nature might amount to capable of motivating and sustaining the revolutionary transition to a new rst-level or scientic paradigm. Philosophy, throughout its close association with the sciences, has functioned in precisely this way (Friedman, 2001, p. 23). Nothing in Friedmans rst and second levels provides the universal that binds the particulars and solves the problem of relativism. Where Kuhn posits an actually shared set of values and goals to this end, Friedman claims an ideal end-state as a necessary posit to which any rational scientic enterprise reaches. This necessary and ideal nal state is a regulative ideal of reason, according to Friedman: We can thus view our present scientic community, which has achieved temporary consensus based on the communicative rationality erected on its present constitutive principles, as an approximation to a nal, ideal community of inquiry (to use an obviously Peircean gure) that has achieved a universal, trans-historical communicative rationality on the basis of the fully general and ade-


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

quate constitutive principles reached in the ideal limit of scientic progress. Indeed, we must view our present scientic community as an approximation to such an ideal community, I suggest, for only so can the required inter-paradigm notion of communicative rationality be sustained (Friedman 2001, pp. 6465). This passage relies on Habermass account of communicative rationality, which Friedman quotes from Habermas this way: This concept of communicative rationality carries connotations that ultimately trace back to the central experience of the non-coercively uniting, consensus creating power of argumentative speech, in which different participants overcome their initially subjective points of view, and, thanks to the commonality of reasonably motivated convictions, assure themselves simultaneously of the unity of the objective world and the intersubjectivity of their context of life (Friedman 2001, p. 54). Friedmans views are not orthodox Kantianism by any means. As Friedman (2001, pp. 64f) notes, the regulative use of theoretical reason is quite different for Kant in the rst Critique than it is for Friedman himself, since Kant had (he thought) already established once and for all the constitutive a priori principles of Newtonian science. Regulative reason in the theoretical realm is for Kant, therefore, the drive for systematic completeness within Newtonian sciencethe pursuit of a single paradigmand has nothing to do with a rational guide to paradigm change. Regulative reasons largest place in history is, for Kant, rather to be found in the political realm, where the ideas of practical reason set a genuine political task: to institute the conditions of the Kingdom of Endsthe harmonious world of moral lawhere on Earth. Friedmans account reveals him therefore to be something of an Hegelian: a Hegelian is, of course, as keen to see the structure of reason revealed in the history of speculative reason as in the history of practical reason. The trouble comes when an Hegelian sensibility regarding the history of reason as exhibited in the progress of science collides with a Kuhnian revolutionary dynamic of science. Dialectical synthesis is a more promising dynamical model of reason than is progress through revolutionin dialectic previously opposed views synthesize at a higher level. Synthesis, the coming together of mentalities, sounds like reasoned negotiationit is both rational and non-revolutionary. The need for the dynamics of reason itself to be rational seems antithetical to real revolution. It drove Kuhn to permanent values and drives Friedman to the regulative a priori and to the ideal of pure reason.

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Friedman posits kinder, gentler revolutions in the realm of science. Revolutions in science involve the introduction of new constitutive a priori principles through natural and continuous transformation.3 This is not an image we ordinarily associate with revolutions, but Friedman achieves revolution despite continuity by stressing, with Kuhn, the lack of inter-translatability across change of constitutive a priori principles: a Newtonian, for example, cannot agree that his constitutive a priori principles are special cases of Einsteins, since the Newtonian cannot fully understand the argument for special-case status, which can only be framed within the post-revolutionary language. Thus, for Friedman, from a properly historical point of view we see that there is indeed an important sense in which succeeding paradigms are incommensurable or nonintertranslatable (Friedman 2001, p. 63).
The Regulative A Priori: From Semantics to Persuasion

The key notion, of course, in Friedmans solution to the problem of relativism is the regulative ideal conceived as a nal, ideal community of inquiry (to use an obviously Peircean gure) that has achieved a universal, trans-historical communicative rationality on the basis of the fully general and adequate constitutive principles reached in the ideal limit of scientic progress (Friedman 2001, p. 64). After all, only trans-historical rationality solves the problem of relativism that Friedmans adoption of Kuhn forces upon him. But, what does trans-historical mean here? It is interesting to note that the ideal community of inquiry held up as a regulative ideal does not in fact solve the problem of inter-translatability that motivated its introduction. If Newton cannot understand Einsteins language, this is not rectied by introducing an ideal third language that neither of them can understand. No problem of meaning is solved by Peircean means. If this is the case, what problem is solved? That there is another problem to be solved is suggested in Friedmans text and more clearly in the words he quotes from Habermas, but it is a problem not of unreason as meaninglessness but of unreason as coercion. What the ideal limit of the history of inquiry does for Friedman is precisely what cannot be done at any stage in the history of inquiry. At every historically given stage in the history of science, current science is coercive with respect to the past: Current science explains its continuity with but progress beyond previous science from its own point of view and in language the earlier scientists would not be able to understand, much less endorse. The ideal limit intro3. The language of the natural and continuous nature of revolutionary conceptual change appears throughout the third chapter in Friedman (2001).


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

duces not inter-translatability but argumentative symmetryit is, as it were, ideal synthesis, because, for example, the present community imagines meeting the seventeenth-century community in a situation where we both have given up our own languages and understandings. What seems operative behind the solution to relativism that Friedman offers, then, is a concern not with semantics but with argumentative coercion, which according to Habermas, in the passage quoted above, is set aside only with the ability of the participants in the conversation to overcome their initial subjective standpoints. If I have correctly uncovered hidden motivations for Friedmans moves here, then I can recruit Friedman for the rectication of a great missed opportunity in philosophy of science in the past forty years. Regrettably, Kuhn allowed philosophers to dictate the terms in which the discussion of incommensurability went forward. Kuhn allowed philosophers to tell him that incommensurability was a semantic notion, and he needed to give an account of failure of translation in order to be able to claim incommensurability.4 But incommensurability was not univocally nor exclusively a semantic problem when it was introduced in the Structure. The word incommensurability is introduced by Kuhn in this passage: Paradigms differ in more than substance, for they are directed not only at nature but also back upon the science that produced them. . . . As a result, the reception of a new paradigm often necessitates a redenition of the corresponding science. Some old problems may be relegated to another science or declared entirely unscientic. Others that were previously non-existent or trivial may, with a new paradigm, become the very archetypes of signicant scientic achievement. And as the problems change, so, often, does the standard that distinguishes a real scientic solution from a mere metaphysical speculation, word game, or mathematical play. The normal-scientic tradition that emerges from a scientic revolution is not only incompatible but often actually incommensurable with that which has gone before (Kuhn 1996, p. 103). In this passage, the locus of incommensurability is not in the claims about the world made by two successive paradigms but in the traditions of practice the paradigms induce.5 The notion of signicance is directed at
4. My claim here is my least Kuhnian sentiment, since he not only allowed philosophers to tell him that he was dealing with a semantic problem, he was completely convinced that they were right and that his earlier formulations had obscured the issue. See, for example, Kuhn 2000, p. 60n. 5. One of the anonymous reviewers of this paper found tradition of practice to be an anachronism that reads our current concerns about scientic practice into Kuhns concerns

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signicant scientic activity, not at representational signication of scientic claims.6 This accords well with many of Kuhns characteristic ways of talking in the Structure; for example, as Ian Hacking (1993) has reminded us, Kuhns discussions of new worlds induced by new paradigms typically are given in terms of action: with a new paradigm, scientists do not merely believe new things, they live or work in a new world. The problem is not just that Newton cannot understand Einstein, but that a Newtonian cannot be an Einsteinianindeed, the second problem is the harder since however much Newtons theory may be a limiting case of Einsteins theory, being a Newtonian is not a limiting case of being an Einsteinian. Being a sort of person involves much more than a characteristic set of meaningful claimsit involves a whole series of commitments, dispositions, and values. This is why the psychoanalytic term crisis was so useful to Kuhn: one cannot lose the world in which one acts
of the early 1960s. I certainly do not wish to suggest that everything now discussed under the term scientic practice is something Kuhn was interested in. Nevertheless, I do not nd tradition of practice anachronistic in discussing Kuhns early work. Even in 1957, Kuhn wrote that the astronomical conviction that the two-sphere geocentric universe of Ptolemy was basically correct was difcult to break, particularly once it [had] been embodied in the practice of a whole generation of astronomers who transmit[ted] it to their successors through their teaching and writing (Kuhn 1957, p. 77). My whole argument regarding Kuhn comes down to taking the terms used in such sentences seriously and not reading Kuhn as really and only, though misleadingly, discussing the semantics of scientic language. Problem-solving traditions carried forward by rigorous training cannot be fully adequately discussed wholly in semantic terms; as philosophers we should be interested in acquiring terms adequate to the subject matter Kuhn was interested in, not in translating Kuhns interests into terms we already have to hand (even if we managed to get Kuhn to follow us in that process). 6. The other anonymous reviewer argued that Kuhns comments leading up to my quotation about meaning changes between Newtonian and Relativistic physics (Kuhn 1996, pp. 99103) constitute an argument about incommensurability of meaning. Again, my interpretative stance makes me take as important that Kuhn in 1962 wrote that that argument showed a change [in] the meaning of established and familiar concepts (Kuhn 1996, p. 102)this is the difference of substance at the start of my quotation from Kuhnthat led to an incommensurability of normal-scientic tradition. He doesnt use incommensurability in the semantic argument at all. It is worth noting that Kuhns most sustained account of the partial nature of communication across paradigms in the Structure (Kuhn 1996, p. 149) places that issue as one of three (the others are incommensurability of standards and the way proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds [Kuhn 1996, p. 150]) that are introduced under the more general heading the incommensurability of pre- and post-revolutionary normal-scientic traditions (Kuhn 1996, p. 148). This suggests, again, that normal-scientic traditions are the relata in the incommensurability relation for Kuhn in 1962. I am trying to get around a semantic vision of incommensurability to one that has semantic elements but is properly semiotic (i.e., has pragmatic elements and cannot be accounted for fully in semantic terms) in the sense of Charles Morris ([1938] 1955).


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

without losing ones selfand crisis resolution is one process with two faces, nding a new world in which to act and nding a new sort of agent to be in that new world. This is, I submit, a better way of thinking about incommensurability than is one now standard view, which locates the concern exclusively within semantics.7 I shall offer an example from a less formidable science than those Friedman is most concerned with, an example that illustrates a problem that this way of thinking about incommensurability can help us with that no worries about translation quite illuminate. Pick up a book of natural history before Darwin; choose, for example, Gilbert Whites ([1813] 1993) Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. Open it to any page and you might read a passage such as this (White, pp. 143144): A neighbour of mine, who is said to have a nice ear, remarks that the owls about this village hoot in three different keys, in G at, or F sharp, in B at and A at. He heard two hooting to each other, the one in A at, and the other in B at. Query: Do these different notes proceed from different species, or only from various individuals? The same person nds upon trial that the note of the cuckoo (of which we have but one species) varies in different individuals; for, about Selborne wood, he found they were mostly in D: he heard two sing together, the one in D, the other in D sharp, who made a disagreeable concert: he afterwards heard one in D sharp, and about Wolmer-forest some in C. A common experience with such books is, I believe, not lack of comprehension regarding what is being said, but a sort of incredulity that anyone would have bothered saying it. This puzzle becomes more pressing when the author seems, from the perspective of future developments in science, to stumble upon a signicant fact without recognizing its signicance. Here, for example, is White remarking on the constancy of the swift population in Selborne (White 1993, pp. 229230): Among the many singularities attending those amusing birds the swifts, I am now conrmed in the opinion that we have every year the same number of pairs invariably; at least the result of my inquiry has been exactly the same for a long time past. The swallows and martins are so numerous, and so widely distributed over the village, that it is hardly possible to recount them; while the swifts,
7. One of the anonymous reviewers correctly insisted that this is not the only view held by philosophers. Other philosophers, such as Larry Laudan, Ronald Giere, and Imre Lakatos, have put the incommensurability of values or standards of evidence at the center of their concerns.

Perspectives on Science


though they do not all build in the church, yet so frequently haunt it, and play and rendezvous round it, that they are easily enumerated. The number that I constantly nd are eight pairs; about half of which reside in the church, and the rest build in some of the lowest and meanest thatched cottages. Now as these eight pairs, allowance being made for accidents, breed yearly eight pairs more, what becomes annually of this increase; and what determines every spring which pairs shall visit us, and reoccupy their ancient haunts? White spends about as much time and effort on this issue as on the issue of the pitch of owl hoots, whereas, after Malthus (Whites original letter was from 1778) and Darwin, this one fact about swifts seems much more signicant than perhaps any other in the whole book. Of course, absent the question of the origin of varieties departing indenitely from type, the signicance of this fact of population constancy despite breeding success is not clear. The central puzzle, I suggest, of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne is not to come to understand the content of what White says what he is saying is not hard to understand at all. It is, rather, to come to understand the gure of White as character in and author of the bookit is tremendously difcult to gure out why anyone would go to such trouble to gather facts of such insignicance or to gure out what prevented him entering upon the trains of thought that might lead some of his own facts to be theoretically interesting. The historians questions here can only be answered when she has recovered the reasons why White engaged in his characteristic activitieshow did he make sense of himself? What was he doing or trying to do? This question is most pressing within the realm of the largest, most signicant revolutionssuch as Copernicuss or Darwinsin which the place of human beings in the world was very much at stake. The teleological and hierarchical structure of the Aristotelian-Scholastic world was not merely a model of how the cosmos was put together; it suggested both solutions to research questions and an ordering of importance among those questions. Cannonballs falling from towers were realizing their being as earthy things, growing to perfection by virtue of their gravitas. But this is a boring phenomenon compared to the growth of trees or dogs or humans toward their natural perfection. Overturn the telos and hierarchy of the world and replace it with matter in motion and John Donne is quite right that among the things put in doubt by new philosophy are social categories such as Prince and Subject. In this world, Donne cannot nd his way about: The sun is lost, and thearth, and no mans wit/Can well direct him where to look for it. In such culturally momentous revolutions in


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

scientic knowledge, the astronomer, physicist, or natural historian has to reconceive himself both qua esoteric scientist and qua member of the larger social community that nds itself, thanks to his efforts, living in a world far different from what they had previously thought. I believe, therefore, that neither Friedman nor Kuhn presents a solution to the problem of relativism that we can fully endorse. With their help, however, we can sharpen the problem. The problem is not simply to vanquish relativism but to vanquish it without adopting a hegemonic or coercive stance toward the past. The real problem with relativism is that in treating all systems of belief as of equal value, it makes the historical narrative of reason absurd: what is wrong with us if we have not advanced knowledge one step beyond Gilbert White or if we have simply wandered off in some direction other than the one he was treading?8 If reason makes no progress, then reason itself is absurd and contemptible. But how can we talk of our own advance beyond White in a way that does not make him seem ridiculous? The continuing attractiveness of a cumulative history of knowledge is that it solves this problem easily and cleanly. Once such histories seem impossible to write, our troubles worsen. Kuhns last solutions involved nding a generic permanent self-understanding of the scientist as problem solver committed to certain values; Friedman posits an end of inquiry in which no one condescends to others because we all adopt a language other than our own. For Kuhn, White stands in a generic community with current science; for Friedman, White and current scientists can imagine themselves standing in an ideal community. Both of these solutions seem more than we need, and for help I return again to games and to our humanist Kuhn. We have had a tendency to think of communication across paradigms as on the model of a current chess player and a fourteenth-century chess player trying to have a game together despite the fact that their games have different rules. But people are not so opaque to one another that they would actually do that or do it for very longthat is not how we treat one another. Instead of coming to blows about whether blacks sixth move was legal, our two chess players would quickly come to see that their games are different and either give up trying to play one another or gure out which set of rules to play by. In order for me, in my guise as a contemporary neo-Darwinian, imaginatively to converse with Gilbert White I do not need to imagine that he and I share a universal set of values shared by all scientically-minded
8. One anonymous reviewer objected to this characterization of relativism and offered me at least one more. There are a thousand detailed accounts of relativism. My remarks here are informal; I seek to nd a loose description of relativism that helps explain why philosophers these days nd it so troubling. I doubt we can make it less troubling by botanizing it.

Perspectives on Science


people throughout all time nor do I need to imagine an indenitelyfar-removed community at the end of inquiry into whose language and culture White and I can ascend. I need, rather, to nd out more about White and his culture, and about me and mine. I have to gure out what beliefs, values, social roles and responsibilities a late Enlightenment rural Anglican vicar and Baconian naturalist had, and how to motivate my beliefs and values to such a person. This is something we do all the time; it is how we talk to people. When faced with an argument, a rhetorical theorist does not rst ask Is this a good (strong, valid, sound) argument? or Could this argument be formulated in another theoretical language? but rather, Who, by this argument, is trying to persuade whom of what? My suggestion is that philosophical accounts of scientic persuasion could and should have been moved in the direction of the rhetorical question by Kuhns discussions of paradigms and incommensurability and that we should so move now, since it is the human, very human world of messy attempts at persuasion across unarticulated differences in belief and value in which scientists and philosophers have ever lived. And indeed the stark way in which we present the problem of relativism may simply go away as we look at the details: We imagine Gilbert White wholly enmeshed in a conceptual scheme that he cannot set aside and we imagine him nding us monstrously incomprehensible. But Darwin was not monstrously incomprehensible to Baconian naturalists and Anglican vicarsif he was monstrous at all, he was monstrously comprehensible. If there are no total ideologies or conceptual schemes that inform everything we believe, then the problem of rational opacity that drives concern with relativism may simply not arise in the life of reason. The relativist may be as much a philosophical ction as is the skepticand instead of arguing with ctions, we might do better to think more seriously about how we argue with our fellow human beings.9
A Role for Philosophy in the History of Reason

Friedman (2001) is, as we have noted, inter alia, an apologia pro vita sua for philosophy. Friedman claims a signicant role for philosophy in the dy9. That is to say, the relativist is a theoretical invention of philosophers who have theorized belief, belief change, and commitment in a certain way. A new account of these aspects of epistemic life may simply evade relativism, just as various epistemological projects simply evade skepticism. The remarks in the text are more in the nature of pointers to such a new account rather than the full owering of such an account. Important resources for a more robust account can be mined from van Fraassen (2002), whose empiricism is coming ever closer to the sort of view that Kuhn and Carnap promoted and who provides excellent resources for discussing various different epistemic attitudes one may adopt toward a given theory, language, or disciplinary practice.


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

namics of reason and he argues, in particular, against a contemporary project in philosophy, Quinean naturalism. Friedmans main arguments against Quinean naturalism are direct: Friedman argues that the holist and a posteriorist philosophy of Quine cannot illuminate the progress of knowledge in the exact sciences. In particular, Quine lacks the philosophical vocabulary to make sense of the constitutive a priori and, thus, ends up saying implausible things about the history of science (Friedman 2001, pp. 3241). From this basis, Friedman builds his own positive account of the place of philosophy in knowledge: philosophers are not Quinean scientists but are rather conceptual creativity pumps for scienceas we have seen in the quotation from Friedman above, philosophers, on his account, provide resources for scientists in Kuhnian crisis. If Friedman and Kuhn are correct that something like a relativized notion of the Kantian a priori is necessary for an adequate account of the history of scientic knowledge, then Quinean naturalism is not sufcient for epistemology. Quines epistemological project elides the principled difference between the a priori and the a posteriori and Friedmans or Kuhns accounts cannot be rendered without remainder in Quinean terms. My own view is that Kuhn and Friedman are correct about the need for a constitutive a priori in scientic knowledge, but even if they are not correct about that, Quinean naturalism has severe problems anyway. Quines naturalism makes any human practice an almost intractable explanatory task: rst it has to be reduced to dispositions to gross bodily behavior, then it has to be explained through the causal pathways of sensation. This strikes me as a particular sort of physicalist view of the world that is antithetical to the best instincts of empiricismour experience of human beings is of them as engaged in intelligible practices; to view those practices as unintelligible pending an as-yet-unattained explanation in terms of sensory stimulation and bodily motion is to ask us to believe that our experience of one another is, to this point, unintelligible. I cannot make sense of any such philosophical posture; it is untrue of my experience.10
10. The two anonymous referees seem convinced that what I say here about Quine is not true and that Quine has resources to render human practices intelligible. That is a project for Quineans willing to make the long trip from stimulus to science; I am simply arguing that that is a trip we need not take, however, since scientic practices are available in the rich experience we actually have of the world. In essence, I am arguing for a Deweyan notion of experience as a more proper starting point for a robust pragmatist naturalism than one nds in Quineand Dewey has no problem arguing for a relativized a priori. For a forceful and compact account of Deweys notion of experience, see West (1989, pp. 8892); for a brief account of Deweys theory of the a priori, see Richardson (forthcoming).

Perspectives on Science


Of course, to argue against Quinean naturalism is not to argue against naturalism. Human action and the a priori are not necessarily beyond the grasp of naturalism. It is an incontrovertible conceptual fact that a commitment to philosophy as a natural science does not preclude endorsing and giving an account of the a priori; naturalism only precludes giving an account of the a priori in which philosophy partakes of it in any way different from how natural science generally partakes of it. It is, moreover, incontrovertible historical fact that in the heyday of American naturalism in the rst half of the twentieth century, many of the great American naturalists (John Dewey, Morris R. Cohen) both endorsed and theorized a priori knowledge.11 Moreover, naturalists in the American pragmatist camp (George Herbert Mead, Dewey, Charles Morris) took on the task of giving an account of human action. Indeed, the move I have made above in tying signicance more closely to action and less closely to semantic signication is a move in the direction offered by Dewey and Mead. Leaving Quinean naturalism aside, then, what are we to make of Friedmans account of the place of philosophy in the dynamics of reason? Here Friedman seems on shaky ground. First, we should note that Friedmans philosophers nd no place in Kuhns account of science. On Kuhns view, it is very much because they are conservative and technical solvers of puzzles that normal scientists generate both the recalcitrant puzzles that induce crisis and the new paradigms that resolve it. This is in fact the essential tension that Kuhn insisted upon from before the Structure: why is conservatism the best motor of revolution in science, but not elsewhere? Kuhn takes his own advice regarding this question and seeks the answer to how crises in science are resolved in the techniques of persuasive argumentation in the closed community of the science that is in crisis. Philosophers might provide important resources for the formation of a new Kuhnian paradigm, but this is not their role in his account. They have no general role in his account of scientic knowledge and they might provide conceptual resources for science in crisis precisely because there are no assignable limits to where science in crisis might look for such resources. Thus, Friedman has not established the need for philosophers in a generally Kuhnian dynamics of reason. Second, as Friedman actually tells the story of the history of exact science, it is not clear that he has established that philosophers have played the role in the dynamics of reason his own account gives them. By far the
11. A few of the naturalist accounts of the a priori from the early twentieth century are sketched in Richardson (forthcoming).


Narrating the History of Reason Itself

most productive source of new concepts and possibilities for exact empirical science has, on Friedmans own account, been mathematics. Indeed, mathematical structures are the a priori frames that Friedmans account relies on. Mathematicians may nd a role as scientic crisis counselors, then, but the case has not been made out for philosophers (certainly not for post-Kantian philosophers who are not themselves also scientists or natural philosophers in the manner of Descartes, Leibniz, or Newton). Philosophers, to be sure, have theorized about the way in which such mathematical frames have served to condition the possibility of objective knowledgeindeed, Friedmans account is one such theorybut it is not at all clear whether and when scientists have tried to tie their activities to such accounts of objective knowledge, much less that they must so tie their activities. Finally, and relatedly, there is a tension here in Friedmans account: the philosophy argued for in the lectures is not the philosophy exemplied by the lectures. The author of the lectures seeks a philosophically compelling account of the dynamics of reason, but he assigns to philosophers a particular sort of motive force at key moments in the dynamics of reason. Appearing as a theorist of the history of reason, Friedman nonetheless assigns to philosophy not his own critical role but a positive role in providing resources for resolving scientic crises. Without meaning to argue ad hominem, I can make the issue sharper by asking what a scientist in crisis might take as a conceptual resource from Friedmans own book. I think the answer is not anything that directly solves a scientic crisis so much as a willingness to shop around for mathematical resources that might allow her to reorganize her knowledge structure. Friedmans book just is not productive of new science the way tensor calculus turned out to be. This is not merely an historical prediction on my part: I am not saying that Friedmans book is unlikely to play such a role; I am saying that it cannot play such a role. Friedmans book takes science as its subject matter and provides the scientist not resources for doing better science, but resources for coming reectively and critically to understand the nature of his own activities as a scientist. This curious feature of Friedmans account suggests a sharper distinction between the scientic and philosophical roles than is made by Friedman himself. Quine has argued that philosophers are, properly conceived, scientists. According to Friedman, philosophy has no such scientic status and should not seek it, because philosophy has an important role to play for science in crisis that science itself cannot provide. I suggest, based on Friedmans and Quines practice, rather than their proffered views, that philosophers earn their keep as historians of reason. We do not provide

Perspectives on Science


scientic theories of the world and we do not provide, except on rare and unpredictable occasions, conceptual resources for science. We provide, rather, accounts of knowledge and its history that are a coming to selfconsciousness of the human impulse for knowledge. This account, however sketchy its current delineation, makes better sense of the philosopher Friedman is than does his own account of philosophy. This is not surprising, for Friedman shares Kuhns and Quines greatest virtue as philosophers, which is not their contribution to positive knowledge, but their contribution to our understanding of humanitys pursuit of rationality historisch-kritisch dargestellt.12

Friedman, Michael. 1999. Reconsidering Logical Positivism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . 2000. A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger. Chicago: The Open Court. . 2001. The Dynamics of Reason. Stanford: CLSI Publications. Hacking, Ian. 1993. Working in a New World: The Taxonomic Solution. Pp. 275310 in World Changes: Thomas Kuhn and the Nature of Science. Edited by Paul Horwich. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Kuhn, Thomas S. 1957. The Copernican Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. . (1962) 1996. The Structure of Scientic Revolutions. 3rd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. . 2000. The Road Since Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Morris, Charles. (1938) 1955. Foundations of the Theory of Signs. Pp. 78137 in International Encyclopedia of Unied Science. Vol. 1. Edited by Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, and Charles Morris. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Richardson, Alan. 1998. Carnaps Construction of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . Forthcoming. Logical Empiricism, American Pragmatism, and the Fate of Scientic Philosophy in North America. In Logical Empiri12. Yes, I do mean to include Quine in that list. Quine provides us with a detailed, important, and plausible account of the how people have gone about making sense of the world and has done so through historical accounts of the empiricist tradition in epistemology. Quine has provided neither scientic results nor conceptual resources for science. Quine is as much a critical philosopher and as little a positive scientist as any great philosopher has been.


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cism in North America. Edited by Gary Hardcastle and Alan Richardson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. van Fraassen, Bas C. 2002. The Empirical Stance. New Haven: Yale University Press. West, Cornel. 1989. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. White, Gilbert (1813) 1993. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. London: The Ray Society.