Joseph Agassi on the History of Science

The history of science is a most rational and fascinating story; yet the study of the history of science is in a lamentable state: the literature of the field is often pseudo-scholarly and largely unreadable. The faults which have given rise to this situation, I shall argue, stem from the uncritical acceptance, on the part of historians of science, of two incorrect philosophies of science. These are, on the one hand, the inductive philosophy of science, according to which scientific theories emerge from facts, and, on the other hand, the conventionalist philosophy of science, according to which scientific theories are mathematical pigeonholes for classifying facts. The second, although some improvement over the first, remains unsatisfactory. A third, contemporary theory of science, Popper’s critical philosophy of science, provides a possible remedy. On this view, scientific theories explain known facts and are refutable by new facts.

It is little surprise to see Joseph Agassi supporting a version of Karl Popper’s philosophy. From Joseph Agassi, “Introductory Note” to Towards an Historiography of Science.

I am as amused by his criticism of scholarship in the history of science as I am unconvinced by his proposed solution.