The national science foundation and philosophy of science's withdrawal from social concerns

K. Vaesen (Corresponding author), J. Katzav

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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At some point during the 1950s, mainstream American philosophy of science began increasingly to avoid questions about the role of non-cognitive values in science and, accordingly, increasingly to avoid active engagement with social, political and moral concerns. Such questions and engagement eventually ceased to be part of the mainstream. Here we show that the eventual dominance of ‘valuefree’ philosophy of science can be attributed, at least in part, to the policies of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s “History and Philosophy of Science” sub-program. In turn, the sub-program’s policies were set by logical empiricists who espoused value-free philosophy of science; these philosophers’ actions, we also point out, fit a broad pattern, one in which analytic philosophers used
institutional control to marginalize rival approaches to philosophy. We go on to draw on existing knowledge of this pattern to suggest two further, similar, contributors to the withdrawal from valueladen philosophy of science, namely decisions by the editors of Philosophy of Science and by the editors of The Journal of Philosophy. Political climate was, we argue, at most an indirect contributor to the withdrawal and was neither a factor that decided whether it occurred nor one that was sufficient to bring it about. Moreover, we argue that the actions at the National Science Foundation went beyond what was required by its senior administrators and are better viewed as part of what drove, rather than as what was being driven by, the adoption of logical empiricism by the philosophy of science
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • American philosophy
  • History of philosophy
  • History of philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of science
  • Science funding


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