Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century

By Stuart G. Shanker | Go to book overview

General editors' preface

The history of philosophy, as its name implies, represents a union of two very different disciplines, each of which imposes severe constraints upon the other. As an exercise in the history of ideas, it demands that one acquire a 'period eye': a thorough understanding of how the thinkers whom it studies viewed the problems which they sought to resolve, the conceptual frameworks in which they addressed these issues, their assumptions and objectives, their blind spots and miscues. But as an exercise in philosophy, we are engaged in much more than simply a descriptive task. There is a crucial, critical aspect to our efforts: we are looking for the cogency as much as the development of an argument, for its bearing on questions which continue to preoccupy us as much as the impact which it may have had on the evolution of philosophical thought.

The history of philosophy thus requires a delicate balancing act from its practitioners. We read these writings with the full benefit of historical hindsight. We can see why the minor contributions remained minor and where the grand systems broke down: sometimes as a result of internal pressures, sometimes because of a failure to overcome an insuperable obstacle, sometimes because of a dramatic technological or sociological change, and, quite often, because of nothing more than a shift in intellectual fashion or interests. Yet, because of our continuing philosophical concern with many of the same problems, we cannot afford to look dispassionately at these works. We want to know what lessons are to be learned from the inconsequential or the glorious failures; many times we want to plead for a contemporary relevance in the overlooked theory or to consider whether the 'glorious failure' was indeed such or simply ahead of its time: perhaps even ahead of its author.

We find ourselves, therefore, much like the mythical 'radical translator' who has so fascinated modern philosophers, trying to understand an author's ideas in their and their culture's eyes, and, at the same time,

-vii-

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Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • General Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Chronology xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Chapter 1 - Philosophy of Logic 9
  • Bibliography 39
  • Chapter 2 - Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century 50
  • Chapter 3 - Frege 124
  • Bibliography 153
  • Chapter 4 - Wittgenstein's Tractatus 157
  • Notes 187
  • Chapter 5 - Logical Positivism 193
  • Bibliography 210
  • Chapter 6 - The Philosophy of Physics 214
  • Bibliography 233
  • Chapter 7 - The Philosophy of Science Today 235
  • Chapter 8 - Chance, Cause and Conduct: Probability Theory and the Explanation of Human Action 266
  • Chapter 9 - Cybernetics 292
  • Bibliography 313
  • Chapter 10 - Descartes' Legacy: the Mechanist/Vitalist Debates 315
  • Notes 366
  • Glossary 376
  • Index 444
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