SPECULATIVE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE & ENGLISH-LANGUAGE EDUCATION – SOME EPISODES FROM c.1850-1950

T.W. Staley

Virginia Tech

Abstract: 
The mid-nineteenth century witnessed an increasingly dominant – but far from unanimous – movement in academic philosophy toward methods advertising themselves as explicitly ‘scientific’ in character. Dissenters from this trend advertised their work in a variety of ways, but could hardly be expected to go so far as to call their own position ‘unscientific’. Instead, they more frequently explored ways in which philosophy proper might entail a wider conceptual basis than that of science, and thus encompass that field within a more panoramic frame. One heading under which this enterprise was conducted was that of ‘speculative philosophy’ – a term dating from the late 1850s in association with American philosopher and educator, William Torrey Harris and the so-called ‘St. Louis Hegelians’. From that start, over the next century, an assortment of like-minded thinkers in Britain and the United States continued to put forward arguments for the supervening scope of philosophy beyond science. This paper will explore some episodes in that history, focusing in particular on the different positive philosophical values attributed to speculation as an alternative to scientific method and the benefits that such thinking was claimed to add to science itself, including a survey of the implications for educational theory and practice in relation to English-language philosophy of science.