Books that changed my life – Mario Bunge, Scientific Research vol.1-2

By January 31, 2019Blog

At the age of 30 I took up philosophy of science again, now in Gothenburg, where we had to read a lot of more or less idiosyncratic texts (which I’ve all but forgotten) by Håkan Törnebohm. The best item on the reading list — and the only philosophy of science book that has been firmly imprinted in my memory ever after — was Mario Bunge’s two-volume Scientific Research (1967). It cost a fortune (on Springer!) but it changed my understanding of scientific terms, concepts and kinds for ever.

What I didn’t know then was that this impressive 900+ page work was written by a man in his forties! I’ve just learned that Mario Bunge celebrated his 96th birthday last week, “in sparkling good health and fine mental form”.

This post was also published on Facebook (27 September 2015), where it generated a number of comments:

Aant Elzinga Bunge advocates a form of constructive realism like Giere, one develops a theory by reference to a simplified representation (a model) of something real, so there is a key distinction between model reference and real reference

Thomas Söderqvist Here is a video of Mario Bunge lecturing: at this occasion he’s 94 years old! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ4Pi8H01gM

Kenneth L. Caneva I sheepishly confess that although I’ve heard of the author, I’ve never heard of, let alone read, the book.
Thomas Söderqvist It’s marvelous – especially for a systematic mind like mine.

Thomas Söderqvist You’re not the only one, Kenneth. I think the reason Törnebohm selected Bunge’s book as the major item on the reading list was that they were contemporary (both were born in 1919) and both were trained in theoretical physics before turning to epistemology and other branches of the philosophy (of science). There weren’t that many young precocious philosopohers of theoretical physics at that time. Aant Elzinga told me that Törnebohm started each day with half an hour reading of relativity theory to exercise his mind before he went to work.

David Aubin I sort of like him too, despite rarely agreeing with him. You know, Bunge’s autobiography is about to be published. Excerpts I’ve read are enticing.

Thomas Söderqvist Thanks, David, that’s interesting news – wow, that’s something. How and why have you been involved in reading excerpts? Guess you know the publisher then? Is it in Spanish or in English?

David Aubin Michael Matthews just sent a long email about this on the Mersenne mailing list. I’ll forward it to you.

Thomas Söderqvist David, I know about Michael Matthews news item (my quote above is from it), I just didn’t read down to the bottom to see the news that he’d publish his autobiography on Springer in 2016.

Lars Jørgensen Thomas, we once talked about ‘facts without theory’ – can you give me a reference or two about that?

Thomas Söderqvist Lad os begynde med den modsatte position, nemlig at facts er teori-ladede: Det begyndte, i min historieskrivning, med Norman Hansons Patterns of Discovery (1958) som blev fulgt af Thomas Kuhns The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), som satte dagsorden for to-tre generationer af videnskabsfilosoffer och -historikere.

Thomas Söderqvist Og skal man begynde argumentere for den modsatte standpunkt, så mener jeg ikke man kan komme udenom Maila Walters fremragende biografi om Percy Bridgman (Science and Cultural Crisis: An Intellectual Biography of Percy Williams Bridgman (1882–1961). Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. Det var den som fik mig at begynde at sætte spørgsmålstegn ved ‘theory-ladeness’-dogmaet.

Lars Jørgensen Tak Thomas, men jeg har en del af den litteratur for nu at udtrykke det lidt beskedent. Jeg kan bare ikke mindes at være stødt på et holdbart argument for ikke-teoribaseret fakta. I den form for videnskabsteori og filosofi.

Thomas Söderqvist Se min kommentar for et minut siden …

Lars Jørgensen Interessant!

Lars Jørgensen Jeg tror faktisk også, at jeg kan argumentere for det vha Max Weber og Bourdieu.

Thomas Söderqvist Men det er længe siden (tidlige 1990’ere), dvs. 25 år siden, så du må ikke begynde stille mig alt for detaljerede spørgsmål (jeg er igang med noget andet lige nu og vil nødig lade mig slynges ud af en tangent, hvor interessant den end kan være : -))

Lars Jørgensen Ok tak. Hvis du kommer i tanke om noget hen ad vejen, så er jeg evigt interesseret.

Thomas Söderqvist Fair nok – jeg skal nok have din interesse i baghovedet. Lige nu er min organisme (og mentale alktivitet) indstillet på selvbiografi, hukommelse og aldring. Kedeligt måske, men meget relevant for alle os 60+-ere

Lars Jørgensen God fornøjelse

Merry Maisel Bunge one of the few materialists in philosophy in the 1970s. When I got into it in 1989, I looked for his work. Very widely unknown….

Thomas Söderqvist Rightly so, one of the few materialists.

Thomas Söderqvist Merry – that’s probably why I was attracted to him. Plus what Aant calls his ‘constructive realism’.

Aant Elzinga On p. 10 in the following text I take up Bunge’s important distinction:
http://www.marxistarkiv.se/…/aelzinga-objektivitet_och…

Lennart Svensson Vi hade delar av den på forskarutbildningen i sociologi och vi blev också starkt påverkade av den.

Thomas Söderqvist Lennart, det låter rätt avancerat att använda den till forskarutbildningen i sociologi – särskilt som den verkar mest intuitivt attraktiv för naturvetare.
Thomas Söderqvist

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