Dr hab. Artur Koterski, prof. nadzw.
Dr hab. Artur Koterski

Otto Neurath Conference
Empiryzm. Semantyka. Ontologia
Wprowadzenie do filozofii nauki
Falsyfikacjonistyczne kryteria demarkacji
Spór o zdania protokolarne
Weryfikacjonistycne kryteria demarkacji
Naukowa koncepcja świata


How to be a Critical Rationalist
12th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science
08.2003, Oviedo


The International Colloquium on the Philosophy of Science held in London, July 1965, the famous one, devoted to critical Popperian thought. William W. Bartley III, a close discipulus of Popper, was one of the participants. His speech, however, was highly critical and received quite nervously by some leading Popperians, like Watkins, Musgrave or Giedymin, not to mention Popper himself; all that has its confirmation in the Proceedings edited by Musgrave and Lakatos (1968).
   Bartley's arguments are interesting, indeed, and I will restate this dramatic discussion briefly. However, the real drama took place behind the scene. As the archival (unpublished) materials show, the people who preached critical rationalism and the open society in the morning, followed the opposite rules in the evening: though during the opening ceremony Popper perorated just against all manifestation of censorship, both in science and philosophy, Lakatos tried to stop Bartley—first from delivering his paper during the congress, and then he put a lot of effort to withdraw this article from the planned Proceedings. Finally, when the issue turned out to be a scandal that lasted few years and involved some well-known persons, Lakatos resigned and accepted Bartley's contribution. I am going to restage this sad story with details. The title question, How to be a critical rationalist, as a rhetorical one, has no answer.

Earliest Polemics with Ludwik Fleck
5th European Congress for Analytic Philosophy
08.2005, Lisboa


When Kuhn published his most controversial book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) he had to confront impressively long list of counter-arguments, some of them better, some worse. For the next quarter of the century he was occupied with explaining what he really meant—so did his followers. This is quite well known.
   On the other hand it is absolutely obscure (at least for non-polish speakers) that his forerunner, bacteriologist L. Fleck (1896-1961), had faced some important questions—re-issued later against Kuhn—in discussions with renowned psychiatrist and historian of medicine, T. Bilikiewicz (1901-1980) and philosopher of science, I. Dąmbska (1904-1983). These debates started in the late 30's with Fleck's comments on (today forgotten) book Die Embryologie im Zeitalter des Barock und des Rokoko (1932) by Bilikiewicz.
   Main charges raised by Fleck's opponents referred to his alleged epistemological relativism, incommensurability, overestimation of theory-ladeness of test-statements and overall dependency of scientific images of the world on thought-styles ('paradigms').
   The aim of this paper is twofold. Firstly, it is to present and evaluate Fleck's answers within the context of aforementioned debates. Here it seems Fleck rebutted all counter-arguments quite successfully—even if his own book (Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache: Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv, 1935) left many questions open.
   Yet this kind of critique reappeared many years later only in a stronger form. The critics depicted Kuhn's views as anti-scientific what never really happened to Fleck; his book, however, was unearthed when the quarrel over paradigms was almost deadened. Would they, being in Bilikiewicz's or Dąmbska's shoes, call Fleck's theory anti-scientific as well? And would Kuhn's replies satisfy Fleck's earliest critics? Kuhn, while he admitted Fleck's influence on his own theory, also stressed its limits. Thus, secondly, this paper will compare solutions given by Fleck to those of Kuhn.

Alfred Tarski's Philosophy of Science
22nd World Congress of Philosophy. Round Table
08.2008, Seoul

Artur Koterski (Poland), Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin
Jari Palomäki (Finland), Tampere University of Technology, Pori
Manuel de Piñedo (Spain), Universidad de Granada
Michael Shaffer (USA), St. Cloud State University in Minnesota
Jan Woleński (Poland), Jagiellonian University, Cracow


There is hardly a need to promote Tarski as a logician. His achievements in that field granted him a pre-eminent position in logic many years ago. However, being an analytical philosopher he was also interested in developments in and analysis of empirical science. But unlike other giants in the field, such as Carnap, Tarski touched on that topic only in his private talks and correspondence and not in his published works. There are, however, enough traces of his views therein to reconstruct much of his stance about scientific methodology. The Round Table gives us the opportunity to present and discuss results relevant to this issue. Under the heading for the Round Table there are three main closely connected discussions planned: "Tarski's Conception of Truth and Physicalism", "Tarski and Die Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung", as well as "Tarski and Some Detailed Questions in Philosophy of Science".

(1) Tarski's Conception of Truth and Physicalism. In 'Semantic Conception of Truth' (1944) Tarski declares his willingness to bring semantics into accordance with physicalism. Physicalists maintain that all meaningful sentences and concepts are reducible to a thing language enriched by logic and mathematics. It is feasible, Tarski claims, to build semantic theory without assuming the existence of any entity that would not be already presupposed by physics (broadly understood). All semantic concepts are—to use the Vienna Circle parlance again—reducible to those of science: they (with the exception of Truth) are definable in terms of the concept of truth, truth is then defined by satisfaction, and satisfaction is in turn defined in purely logico-mathematical terms. The aim of this part of the round table is to discuss different interpretations of this approach, as well as counterarguments, and ascertain whether Tarski was successful.

(2) Tarski and Die Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung. The second part is more historically oriented and it aims to ascertain Tarski's position in the development of philosophy of science. His views will be depicted against the background of the most influential position of that time, i.e. logical positivism. He expressed his views on many questions crucial for neo-positivistic conception(s) like analyticity, testability, idealization, unity of science or the question of metaphysics. The outcomes obtained in the first part would serve here, among other things, to help to judge if Tarski's approach could be reconciled with the (radical) physicalism entertained by the left wing of the Vienna Circle (R. Carnap, Ph. Frank, O. Neurath). It is also worth noting that Tarski—in the spirit of scientific world conception—stressed the role of science in democratic societies.

(3) Tarski and Some Detailed Questions in Philosophy of Science. Because of extensionality problem Tarski had doubts if it was possible to interpret probability in terms of many valued logic. He saw essential difficulties in inductive logic in general. He was also not convinced whether many valued logic (perhaps with exception of quantum logic) had any application in science. On the other hand, he believed that logic and semantics should essentially contribute to the development of science.

The Rise and Fall of Falsificationism
2nd Workshop of The Philosophy of Science in a Eropean Perspective
10.2009, Utrecht.


In his review of Logik der Forschung Neurath (1935) formulated a variety of severe objections. Assuming a version of Lakatosian taxonomy I ask if any stage of falsificationism was able to meet this oldest criticism. The answer is positive, however, there was quite significant price to pay if Popper's teaching was to overcome the difficulties already pointed out by Neurath. The changes introduced by 'sophisticated Popperians' reached the very core of this doctrine forcing its followers to reject the central tenets and aims of Logik der Forschung.

The Unimportance of Quine's Two Dogmas
14th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science
07.2011, Nancy


Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1951) has quickly become a classic of analytical philosophy and has invoked the since lasting discussion about possibility of the analytic/synthetic distinction. It has been also considered a nail to the coffin of logical positivism. Accordingly, Quine tried to show that logical positivism was possible solely due to assumptions taken without justification in terms of standards preached by neopositivism itself. Quine aimed to point out that since they functioned as dogmas, the rescuing of empiricism was possible only if another approach, the one characterized as holism, was accepted.
   The results obtained by Quine are still presented as an argument for the internal decay of logical positivism. However, though they may indeed be turned against some views held by some logical empiricists in some moments of their philosophical carriers, Quine's article was anachronistic already at the time of its publication. It was years before 'Two Dogmas' appeared that leading representatives of 'scientific philosophy' (1) rejected both dogmas, and (2) advanced holistic version of empiricism.
Empiricism got de-dogmatized with co-operation of philosophers from the Vienna Circle and Lviv-Warsaw School. Already in 1930, i.e. during his first visit in Vienna, Tarski started convincing Carnap that the analytic/synthetic distinction must be relativised. Further argumentation was presented by Tarski in one of his speeches delivered in Paris at Congres international de philosophie scientifique (1935). Carnap, who seemed to agree with Tarski before Paris encounter, found his remarks 'very deep.' Tarski went even further allowing a possibility that the dichotomy was unworkable at all. Carnap, nevertheless, never gave up the distinction, but he was aware since then that it could not be absolute and how problematic it was (especially in face of difficulties pointed out by Mac Lane (1938) in his review of Logical Syntax (1934/1937)). It may be argued as well that relativised analyticity would be the only option for Neurath's encyclopedism if he happened to need this notion.
   It must be noted that besides synonymity plus verificational theory of meaning Quine considered also the notion of 'analytic for a language L," and—in the revised version of his paper (1961)—the proposal to account for analyticity by meaning postulates, i.e. relativised version of analyticity. He admitted that it was possible to explain 'analytic-for-L0' but he rejected such a solution for its arbitrariness and narrowness. Neither of them was an issue for Carnap in his attempts to establish the analytic/synthetic division. If, however, Quine required 'behavioral criteria' for analyticity, its relativization would not be enough to overcome the first dogma. What would be sufficient, however, was Neurath's late encyclopedism or Tarski's empiricism.
   With relativised analyticity logical positivists did not need to ground synonymity in a verificational theory of meaning. Therefore, they were not forced to accept reductionism either. Carnap, whom Quine accused of 'radical reductionism,' abandoned the Aufbau (1928) theory altogether with its alleged reductionism at the very beginning of the thirties. His newly accepted physicalism did not admit strict verificationism either. This view, as well as his conventional approach to analyticity was reinforced in his Logische Syntax der Sprache. Within Neurath's radical version of physicalism both reductionism and verificationism were classified derogatorily as metaphysical theories. The 'dogmas' were plainly disapproved.
   In the mid-thirties Neurath's physicalism started turning into a more sophisticated conception, labeled 'encyclopedism.' It was a holistic and naturalized theory of science, strongly opposed to older or 'dogmatic' types of positivism. Although in some respects different from Quine's own proposal, it is its equivalent. Thus, the postulate of 'empiricism without the dogmas' was put forward in the Vienna Circle long before Quine. (Neurath, however, is not even mentioned in Quine's paper. Moreover, Quine knew well that in Logical Syntax Carnap explicitly endorsed holism; in the eighties Quine even admitted that holism was also present in the Aufbau.)
   Neurath's turn to encyclopedism was catalyzed by a Poznański-Wundheiler paper, 'The Notion of Truth in Physics' (1934). The paper was published in Polish but Rose Rand translated its substantial part, so the content was known to logical empiricists (as documented mainly by unpublished materials, at least to Carnap, Neurath and Hempel). The main task of the paper written by Poznański and Wundheiler, both Lviv-Warsaw School members, was to examine the possibility of retaining the notion of truth in science and the results they got were later used by Neurath in his fight against semantics.
   To convince the readers that the 'operational' account was the only acceptable theory of truth for empirical science and its methodology, Poznański and Wundheiler sketched a theory depicting scientific knowledge in terms of radical fallibility, anti-foundationalism, and holism. Their standpoint was clearly a counterpart of Neurath's later encyclopedism. Because science had encyclopaedic structure there, they could opt solely for relativised analyticity; being physicalists they obviously could not accept reductionism. Thus, they realized Quine's postulate and advanced empiricism or theory of science without the dogmas. It is important to notice that such views were developed independently of the Vienna Circle or the Berlin School—therefore, by no means did they appear just as reaction to logical positivists' own errors.
   The above events date back to the early and mid thirties, that is more than fifteen years before 'Two Dogmas'. The conclusion is, therefore, that if Quine's paper was intended as the ultimate criticism of logical empiricism (as once rightly pointed out by Hylton: even fifty years later it is not generally agreed what the actual claims of 'Two Dogmas' were), then it was redundant. Moreover, if such interpretation is right, Quine's article volens nolens participated in falsifying history of philosophy of science, and perhaps it should be considered harmful.
   The aim of this paper is to illustrate these theses in the following fashion. Firstly, I am going to sketch Quine's argument against the background of the views held by Carnap and Neurath at the peek of the Vienna Circle activities; they will be supported by philosophers from the Lviv-Warsaw School (Alfred Tarski, Edward Poznański and Aleksander Wundheiler). I will claim that Quine's criticism was more than fifteen years late. Secondly, I am going to examine Quine's postulate of empiricism without the dogmas and compare it with theories advanced by Neurath, Poznański and Wundheiler. I will claim that it came to its realization and that Quine was late again.

The Silhouette of ISOTYPE
Culture, Communication, Cognition
05.2012, Lublin


In 1925 Otto Neurath started the Social and Economic Museum of the city of Vienna. The aim of this institution was to expose the social and economic facts and relationships in the city, in the country and worldwide. Because its target was a wider and mostly uneducated public, the museum employed the so-called Viennese Method of Pictorial Statistics to fulfill its mission. This visionary approach was successfully developed in the 30s and 40s under the name of ISOTYPE. The originators of ISOTYPE hoped they would turn it into a 'complete pictorial language.' Such an auxiliary language would supplement other educational means (like BASIC) and become a most important tool to materialize the ideas of Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung.
   The first task of this paper is to present the rules of ISOPTYPE, its history and applications. The second one consists in a brief examination whether Neurath and his collaborators succeeded in turning the Viennese Method into a language. The outcome will reveal (another) unexpected feature of Neurath's philosophy.

Laudan vs. Lakatos: Historical and Pedagogical Morals from the Final Assessment of Demarcationism
2a Conferencia Latinoamericana del International History, Philosophy, and Science Teaching Group
10.2012, Mendoza


El artículo reconstruye y examina el metacriterio de demarcación entre ciencia y pseudociencia propuesto por Laudan (1983). Este análisis demuestra que el metacriterio de Laudan pasa por alto los requisitos cruciales que debería cumplir cualquier criterio aceptable. Lo que a su vez posibilita una modificación no ad hoc de la propuesta de Laudan. Cuando finalmente el metacriterio incluye un requisito para que cualquier criterio de demarcación aceptable posibilite la comparación de dos teorías científicas cualesquiera considerando su grado de progresividad, entonces es posible mostrar al menos una teoría avanzada que dé una definición aceptable de ciencia, concretamente la metodología de los programas de investigación científica de Lakatos — extrañamente no mencionado por Laudan en su artículo. Por esto también son rechazadas las conclusiones escépticas del artículo de Laudan; y lo que es más, tras la modificación, el metracriterio de demarcación adquiere una forma homogénea que lo hace estable, tal y como Laudan pretendía originariamente. En esta historia debe subrayarse asimismo una lección pedagógica, ya que muestra lo que ocurre cuando se adopta un acercamiento despreocupado y/o instrumental a la historia y la metodología de una disciplina dada, especialmente cuando se trata de personalidades tan destacadas como Lakatos o Laudan.