Renouvier and the method of hypothesis

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (1):132-148 (2007)
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Abstract

Renouvier was among the first philosophers in France to break with the nineteenth-century inductivist tradition and defend the use of hypotheses in science. Earlier in the century, the humanistically-educated eclectic spiritualist philosophers who dominated French academic life had followed Reid in proscribing the use of hypotheses. Renouvier, who was educated in the sciences, took up the Comtean positivist alternative and developed it further. He began by defending hypotheses that anticipate laws governing the phenomena, but then eventually adopted a more liberal attitude towards hypotheses that postulate unobservable entities and processes as well. He also came to the realization that, from an epistemological point of view, all of empirical science is hypothetical. Renouvier used the tentative character of scientific knowledge as a premise from which to critique those who would claim scientific status for their social philosophies, and maintained a distinction between normative philosophical and empirical scientific inquiries.Keywords: Charles Renouvier; Auguste Comte; Positivism; Hypothesis; Eclectic spiritualism

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Warren Schmaus
Illinois Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Science, Religion, and “The Will to Believe".Alexander Klein - 2015 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1):72-117.
French Neopositivism and the Logic, Psychology, and Sociology of Scientific Discovery.Krist Vaesen - 2021 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 11 (1):183-200.
Idealism, Pragmatism, and the Will to Believe: Charles Renouvier and William James.Jeremy Dunham - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (4):1-23.
Science and the Social Contract in Renouvier.Warren Schmaus - 2011 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 1 (1):73-100.

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