Worlds Without Content: Against Formalism

New York, 1991 - 189 pagina's
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For the Enlightenment, science represented an ideal of rational argument, behaviour and community against which could be judged the arbitrary power and authority of other spheres of human practice. This Enlightenment ideal runs through much liberal and socialist theory. However, the Enlightenment picture of science has appeared to many to be increasingly uncompelling. What explains the apparent decline of the Enlightenment vision? This book explores one neglected answer originally proposed by Husserl, that its decline is rooted in formalism, in the view that all there is to theoretical science is the construction and mastery of formal systems. O'Neill demonstrates formalist accounts of mathematics and natural science to be inadequate, and then considers and rejects Husserl's views on the origin of the formalization of the sciences. The book concludes by arguing that the rise of a formalist view of the sciences is founded in the professionalization of modern science, and discusses the significance of this professionalization for the fate of the Enlightenment view of science. Worlds Without Content: Against Formalism tackles an important set of issues which have been neglected in recent philosophy of science, and in so doing highlights themes in Husserl's later works which have been ignored by most commentators. It will be of particular interest for philosophers of mathematics, science and social theory, and for historians of mathematics and philosophy.

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