The origins of early anglophone philosophy of science. Debating scientific explanation

Start - End 
2018 - 2021 (ongoing)
Department of Philosophy and moral sciences
Research Focus 
Research Period 



After the introduction of Carl Hempel’s Covering Law model in 1948, scientific explanation became a central topic of philosophical attention in early anglophone philosophy of science in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, philosophy of science became an academic subdiscipline, with its own societies, journals and graduate programs. Though many contemporary philosophers of science have distanced themselves from the philosophical methodology installed during this phase, scientific explanation continues to play an important role in the philosophical reflection over the sciences. However, for philosophers working before Hempel explanation was not an evident aim of scientific inquiry and so, explanation does not necessarily have to be a central topic in the philosophical reflection on science. Surprisingly, little is known about the reasons why scientific explanation so rapidly became a standard topic in early philosophy of science. In this project, I investigate how the standardization of scientific explanation came about: what implicit or explicit methodological assumptions concerning the analysis of science drove the early debate on scientific explanation? Through this investigation I aim to uncover the broader methodological norms of reasoning that characterize early anglophone philosophy of science in the 1950s and 1960s. This historical research will then be used to assess the current philosophical motivations to discuss scientific activity in terms of explanation.