Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Stephen Toulmin Has Died

Stephen Toulmin, one of the greats of 20th century English philosophy, and one of the few to bring Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas to bear on the philosophy of science, died on December 4th after a brief illness.

The time is interesting. Much of Toulmin's work in the field was in part a reaction to Popper and the logical positivists, who saw scientific inquiry as an ahistorical, relatively bloodless unfolding of logical argument and counter-argument. In his Human Understanding (1972), Toulmin attempted to apply evolutionary concepts to the history of knowledge in an attempt to "save" the Rationality of science in the messy post-Popperian world he helped to create.

So it would be have been interesting to hear what Toulmin thought of the CRU Hack. I suspect he would have regarded the emails revealed therein to be part of the usual "hurly-burly" of scientific inquiry.

In any case, a great loss.

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