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Liberty and the Pursuit of Knowledge

Charles Renouvier's Political Philosophy of Science



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Liberty and the Pursuit of Knowledge by Warren Schmaus

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Renouvier emerged from youthful positivism and left-wing political activity to create a philosophy of science that challenged any political ideology that claimed the status of a science. At the same time, he revealed the political character of the sciences. Renouvier challenged Kant's distinction between theoretical and practical reason and argued that the principles of our knowledge, like morality and the law, also rest on our freely given consent. The sciences are made possible through social contracts in which scientists agree to be bound at least for the time being by a set of conventions governing their disciplines. Renouvier thus provides the historical link between Comte's positivism and Poincare's conventionalism. Conventionalism is often caricatured as a conservative philosophy, holding back scientific progress. Although Renouvier may have held some relatively conservative ideas about mathematics and evolution, they were not due to his conventionalism, as this book shows. Rather, his conventionalism was a liberal philosophy of science, encouraging research in domains where no greater certainty than the consent of the scientific community could be found.

Author Biography

Warren Schmaus is professor of philosophy at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He conducts research on the history and philosophy of science in nineteenth and twentieth century France, and is one of the co-editors of Love, Order, & Progress: The Science, Philosophy, & Politics of Auguste Comte.
Release date NZ
September 30th, 2018
Country of Publication
United States
University of Pittsburgh Press
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