Toward a Meaningful HOPOS: Metaphysics, Rediscovered

Eric Schliesser

Ghent University

Abstract: 
Philosophy of Science (hereafter POS) and History of the Philosophy of Science (hereafter HOPOS), as an independent activity within philosophy, have a shared origin in eighteenth century reflection on and intervention in polemics between Newtonians and Spinozists.* It was thought that these polemics could be settled with properly worked out accounts of the nature of applied mathematics, study of the reach of evidential arguments, proper scientific method(s), etc. as exemplified in the very best sciences of the day. This origin was both constitutive of and facilitated by the developing split between science and philosophy as conceptually (and eventually institutionally) distinct enterprises. (See, e.g., Nieuwentyt's (1720) *Gronden van zekerheid of De regte betoogwyse der wiskundigen so in het denkbeeldige, als in het zakelyke: Ter wederlegging van Spinosaas denkbeeldig samenstel, en ter aanleiding van eene sekere sakelyke wysbegeerte;* see Beth1955; Ducheyne 2007.) With repeated re-introduction(s) of scientific philosophy into philosophy, HOPOS was displaced by its twin-sibling, POS and, along the way, philosophy's potential diminished. HOPOS ongoing task is to articulate concepts that enable viable futures for a philosophy that remains engaged with the sciences. HOPOS always does so by ongoing reflection on its own shared history with POS and investigation of the shared histories of philosophy and the sciences. Today, this duty means facilitating the articulation of the historical development of the metaphysics of science, so that recovery of a life-giving, systematic metaphysics becomes possible. *At least in Protestant Europe. This is not to deny that there has always been 'philosophy of science' and a history of 'philosophy of science' within practices of inquiry (natural philosophical, mixed mathematics, medicine, and geometry, etc.).