Abstract

This essay deals with the recent history of the disputes about the relation between history and philosophy of science and the merits and prospects of HPS as an intellectual endeavor. I begin with a brief outline of the debates in the late 1960s and 1970s. At that time, several philosophers of science argued that philosophical analysis was interpretive and that understanding a concept or practice involved understanding how it came about. More recently, however, philosophical studies of science have been likened to scientific theory construction. One basic idea permeates recent debates, namely, that pursuing HPS means confronting general philosophical frameworks with historical data. I argue that this “confrontation model” of HPS is highly problematic and should be abandoned. Instead, we should appreciate (again) that philosophical reflection on science is interpretive, and that historicist analyses of scientific, methodological, and epistemological concepts augment our understanding of science.

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