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A reflection on the alternative philosophy of science

Author(s): Dachun LIU, Yongmou LIU and Mao Xin


Source: Frontiers of Philosophy in China, Vol. 4, No. 4 (December 2009), pp. 576-588
Published by: BRILL
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Front.Philos. China 2009, 4(4): 576-588


DOI 10.1007/sll466-009-0038-x

RESEARCH ARTICLE
LIU Dachun,

LIU Yongmou

A reflectionon the alternative philosophyof science


? Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag2009
A prominent phenomenon in contemporary philosophy of science has
the unexpected rise of alternative philosophers of science. This article
analyses in depth such alternative philosophers of science as Paul Feyerabend,

Abstract
been

Richard Rorty, and Michel Foucault, summarizing the similarities and differences
between alternative philosophies of science and traditional philosophy of science
so as

to unveil

the trends in contemporary philosophy of science. With its


different principles and foundation, alternative philosophy of science has made

breakthroughs in terms of its field of vision, scope, and methodology, and its
relationship with science has become more humanistic and pluralistic. Attention
should be given to alternative perspectives in the contemporary philosophy of
science, and research should be expanded into the fields of the epistemology of
science and cognitive science, the sociology of scientific knowledge
and
scientific anthropology, the scientific cultural philosophy, and scientific ethics.
alternative philosophy of science, traditional philosophy of science,
Keywords
Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault

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Translated byMao Xin fromZhongguo renmindaxue xuebao


A
^^
RenminUniversityofChina), 2008, (3):
32^10_
LIU Dachun (ISI)
School of Philosophy,RenminUniversity ofChina, Beijing 100872,China
E-mail:

? (Journalof

dchliu@263.net

LIU Yongmou (ISI)


School ofHumanities and Social Sciences, Beijing Instituteof Technology,Beijing 100081,
China
E-mail

: liuyongmou74@y

ahoo. com. cn

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A reflectionon thealternativephilosophyof science

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577

ie?^?

Introduction

than 30 years ago, Feyerabend said that the philosophy of science was a
subject with a great past, but no future (Feyerabend 1999, pp. 127-137). From the

More

perspective of traditional philosophy of science, philosophy of science today might


be declining, perhaps even ending. Although philosophy of science is increasingly
introspective,with new perspectives and new themes rising, the traditional study of

philosophy of science is gradually losing its orthodox position, becoming instead


one voice in a pluralistic discussion. New approaches to research, quite different
from the traditional ones in their processes and interests, have broken through
traditional limitations on the scope of problems and of solutions, greatly changing
the basic form of the philosophy of science and increasingly gaining inpower.
?
as compared to the
The rise of the alternative philosophy of science
?
is demonstrated by the attention
traditional or standard philosophy of science

received by the influential alternative philosophers of science and their theories


as
see Carnap, Reichenbach,
and Hempel
If we
circles.
in academic
of science, and Popper, Kuhn, and
representative traditional philosophers
Lakatos as transitional figures representing the shift from the traditional to the

alternative, then Feyerabend, Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, Rorty, Foucault,


Derrida, and Lyotard should be classified as alternative philosophers of science.
Chronologically
speaking, some of them were contemporary with traditional

philosophers of science and some later, but all have stirred up discussion and led
new trends in the field. In addition, there are a group of contemporary scholars
active in the philosophy of science, including Agassi, Haack, and Hess, who do
not belong to the alternative category but who are deeply influenced by the

of science, leaving behind the scientist camp and


alternative philosophers
gradually becoming humanistic, expanding towards new horizons. In this paper,
we will present three of the most typical alternative philosophers of science,
?
whom we may say were essential in the transformation of the field
?
in order to roughly sketch the spirit of the
Feyerabend, Rorty, and Foucault
alternative philosophers of science and to introduce some of their thinking.

Feyerabend:

The true meaning

of "farewell to reason"

The critical power and impact of Feyerabend's

so-called

alternative thinking is

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578

LIU Dachun, LIU Yongmou

unmatched. Once a fanatic positivist and later a student of Popper, he


ultimately
came out against both logical positivism and his mentor,
becoming the "the worst
enemy of science."1 The early Feyerabend mainly focused on the problem of
explanation in scientific theory and on the problem of empiricism. After the
1970's, he changed his focus from the study of the history of science to the study
of the relationship between science and society, and also of issues concerning
freedom. Feyerabend advocated a "return to history" (Feyerabend 1978, p. 282),

appreciating the historicist study of science and negating logicism. As a humanist,


criticized scientific chauvinism, pointing out that the standards
Feyerabend
which separated science and non-science were not only man-made but also
harmful to the development of science. Science is not the only possible form of
human knowledge, and he believed we need to break its monopoly. To him,
science was just one tool that people invented to deal with their environment:

primitive witchcraft, mythology, religion, and metaphysics also contained rich


knowledge. He even held that "science is the myth of today, myths were the
science of the past"

(Feyerabend 1999, p. 60). Through his study of science's


criticized
history, Feyerabend
empiricism, pointing out that therewas no theory
in the history of science that could agree with all the facts in its domain: the
the basis of knowledge
could not be
empiricist claim that experience was
justified, and no experience could exist without theorization and subjectivity.
that contemporary empiricism had already gotten into
Feyerabend believed
some
of the methods of modern empiricism which are
trouble; "That is,
introduced by the spirit of anti-dogmatism and progress are bound to lead to the
of a dogmatic metaphysics
which make thismetaphysics

establishment
mechanisms

and to the construction of defence

safe from refutation by experimental


criticized rationalism, pointing out that the

inquiry" (Ibid., p. 78). He also


in science's
showed
that various
instances
traditional
history which
on
reason
were
founded
basis
of
the
methodologies
inadequate for the
even
and
it.
of
He
science,
development
hampered
judged that the concept of
science had gone far beyond the narrow scope of "reason" as explained by most
contemporary rationalists, and was not restricted by the boundaries of "reason".
Feyerabend also criticized the falsificationism advocated by Popper and Lakatos,

mercilessly
rejecting the principle of falsification and holding that "a strict
of
falsification, or a 'naive falsificationism' as Lakatos called it,would
principle
as we know it and would never have permitted it to start"
out
science
wipe
(Feyerabend 1975, p. 176). Feyerabend also strongly opposed political rule by
1

In 1987, Feyerabend
impact on traditional

was

as science's worst enemy. In light of his


listed by Nature magazine
of science, he was not only the suspected
of being an enemy

philosophy

of science, but also of being themost dangerous enemy of the standardizedphilosophy of


science (seeHorgan 1993).

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A reflectionon thealternativephilosophyof science

579

"experts", demanding that intellectuals be cleared out from the centre stage of
social life; he claimed that non-professionals should intervene in the activity of
science, believing that this could lead to a liberal society. Feyerabend also argued
that science should be separated from the government in case science might

intervene in and encroach upon freedom. In fact, the later Feyerabend turned
to pondering human freedom and
criticizing science and philosophy

from

happiness.

Feyerabend is famous for his "against method", and for asserting "anything
goes". Based on careful and rigorous analysis and criticism of the history of
an alternative anarchic epistemology
and
established
science, Feyerabend

an anarchic
pluralistic methodology. He considered science to be essentially
their
have
felt
that
all
and
limitations; we must
methodologies
enterprise
a
therefore abandon methodological monism, adopting
pluralistic methodology
is a free practice and
characterized by divergence and openness. Science

scientific discovery has no absolute laws to follow; science is always utilizing the
and results of non-science to enrich itself.He wrote that "Looking at the
actual historical situation we see that science was advanced inmany different
In
ways and that scientific problems were attacked by many differentmethods.
to seems to be: 'anything
practice the only principle that is constantly adhered
that
statement
His
"anything goes" first
1999, p. 122).
(Feyerabend
goes'"
and a democratic
environment
academic
a
free
and
kind
of
easy
represents
scientific spirit which opposes academic arbitrariness. Feyerabend discovered
that the traditional philosophy of science had changed science into a kind of
of natural science to its special
myth and had attributed the superiority
was
not
good for the development of science. He
system, which
methodological
said that although existing scientific methods have their value, ifwe insist that
science must be done only according to them,we could only obtain the opposite

methods

effect. Of course, the existing theories and methods which have already been
affirmed by the philosophy of science should not be negated altogether; rather,
no methods should be treated as dogmatic and programmable even if they are
effective in scientific practice. For a scientist, the most important thing is to
even negating it.
choose; this includes daring to refute the existing method, and
more the particularity of science, comparing it to the
Feyerabend emphasized
on generality and instrumental
which
tradition
greater emphasis
placed
to the particularity of her or his
attention
characteristics. A scientist should pay
scientific practice; toomuch attention to the instrumental, to abstract features and
science. Therefore, Feyerabend's "against
generality, will harm the progress of
not
the
is
his
discarding of method but rather a demand
contrariness,
method",
Anarchism is not doing whatever
choices.
and
for plural methods
independent
aware
of methodological monism: "I do not say that
you want, but rather being
or the philosophy of science should
epistemology should become anarchic,

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580

LIU

become

Dachun,

LIU

Yongmou

I say that both disciplines should receive anarchism as a


is sick; itmust be cured, and themedicine is anarchy"
Epistemology

anarchic.

medicine.

traditional science, which emphasized


1978, p. 127). Unlike
that
believed
accuracy, Feyerabend
ambiguity could better ensure variation. He
out
that
the
pointed
rough dichotomy between right and wrong came at the cost
(Feyerabend

of omitting the special and details. Feyerabend considered himself neither a


rationalist nor an irrationalist because
the division
of rationalism and

irrationalism is extreme; between them there should be many more possibilities,


anarchic epistemology and pluralistic methodology among them.
Feyerabend developed a school of his own in the philosophy of science,
considering himself as a destroyer of the philosophy of science and a critic of all

say, 'He was a rationalist, but his view caused great damage to
was
a realist, but his theory brought great threats on realism; at
he
rationalism;
the same time, he was a relativist, but he never advocated relativism in any form"
theories. Some

(Feyerabend 1990, translator's preface). He was against method and also argued
for pluralistic methods; he was against reason and not in favor of irrationalism;
his style was like the sophist's, but also had elements of postmodernism. In a
word, people have differing views about Feyerabend. His contribution to the
philosophy

of

science was

unique and a breakthrough. For him, all the


in science have nowhere to hide. No one can deny

contradictory characteristics
that he led the philosophy of science to turn away from logicism and incomplete
historicism toward relativism, irrationalism, and even anti-scientism. This

disintegrated the traditional philosophy of science, but also spurred people to


in their thinking about science, creating a
open up various new approaches
broader horizon for inquiry.

Rorty:Promoting the "post philosophical culture"

Rorty also gained his academic maturity in the tradition of analytic philosophy,
?
which is said to be the reason for his
and also turned back to attack it
departure from Princeton's philosophy department. Rorty's rebellion began with
his thinking about the linguistic turn that occurred afterWittgenstein, and ended
with his claim for the end of philosophy and his promotion of a kind of
was not only
"post-philosophical culture". As compared with Feyerabend, Rorty

rebelling against analytic philosophy but also the whole Western philosophical
tradition. This tradition started with Plato, constantly seeking a real sort of
knowledge that transcended the "seeming" and finding absolute reality beyond a

given phenomenon. Rorty believed that the fundamental spirit of traditional


Western philosophy was represented by themetaphor of the "mirror of nature".
to it, human knowledge is an accurate representation of truth, and
According

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reflection

on the alternative

philosophy

581

of science

epistemology is the study of how one may keep this mirror clean and thus
maintain
the accuracy of the representation. Yet for Rorty, the so-called
"mind-body" problem is fundamentally a false one: There is no entity called
"mind" which

is separate from the body. This proposition broke the "mirror of


nature", shaking the basis of epistemology. Rorty pointed out that afterKant, the
development of traditional epistemology started to deviate from fundamentalism,
and after entering the 20th century, Sellars and Quine struck at it again. Following
the clues of the "mirror of nature", Rorty questioned the linguistic turn of
analytic philosophy. He considered it progress that analytic philosophy used
as the medium out of which
"language to substitute 'mind' or 'consciousness'

beliefs and desires are constructed, the third,mediating, element between self
and world"
the
(Rorty 1989, p. 10). They had not completely abandoned
delusive
Platonic
dream
of
absolute
therefore
and
could
non-historical,
reality,
neither solve the fundamental difficulties faced by traditional epistemology nor

break the curse of representationalism. Criticizing the tradition, Rorty advocated


using non-reductive physicalism to replace epistemological fundamentalism, and
also to create a net to replace "the mirror of nature" by weaving together belief
and desire. Rorty emphasized the weaving of the net of metaphor and belief,

thatwithout various beliefs and desires being interwoven, there is no


independent mind; themind itself is nothing but a huge net formed by a large
number of beliefs and desires (Rorty 1991, p. 116). Cognition
is not the
believing

representation of mind to the things outside it; judgment as to the authenticity of


a certain belief and whether a certain belief is right or wrong is actually decided
by the relationship between the different beliefs and theway they are related to
one other. This is a coherent and holistic conception of truth.
a step further, Rorty extended the scope of his
Going

research from
was
to
ethics
and
the
result
of
his
which
epistemology
promotion of
politics,
culture. Rorty believed that contemporary philosophy was
post-philosophical
some philosophers
such as
very different from traditional philosophy;

Wittgenstein, Dewey, and Heidegger maintain a common historicist stance in


order to reject the trend of non-historicism which eternalizes history. Rorty
suggested that philosophers should merge American and continental philosophy
together under the theme of pragmatism, and that this combination would finally
culture; the construction of this post-philosophical
produce a post-philosophical

and
essentialism,
destroy
finally
representationalism,
fundamentalism, break themonopoly held by philosophical truth,and finally take
philosophy off its throne, allowing it to find its own place again (Rorty 2004,
culture

would

author's preface). According to Rorty, in post-philosophical culture, it is not that


can solve the problem of traditional philosophy, but rather thatwe adopt an
culture is
indifferent attitude towards it and set it aside. The post-philosophical

we

not constructive, but is rather a kind of therapy, or a kind of dialogue. We

cannot

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582

LIU

Dachun,

LIU

Yongmou

get to know theworld itself nor its essence through philosophical research, and
we also cannot use it tomaster the essence of the activity of cognition and the
culture is
people who engage in it. Therefore, philosophy in post-philosophical
no longer a foundation which can reveal epistemological
views offered by
science, morality, art, or religion. In this culture, neither priest, physicist, poet,
nor party would be considered more rational, more scientific, or more profound
than the others (Rorty 2004,

special sector of culture has


and
certain other sectors are all
privilege; philosophy, science, culture, politics,
no
"We
treat nothing as a
longer worship
equal.
anything, where we
?
we
our
treat
where
quasi-divinity,
everything
language, our conscience, our
?
as
a
of
time
and
chance"
community
product
(Rorty 1989, p. 22). Of course,
there are no so-called "capitalized
'Philosophers'," for no one can preside over
pp.

14-15). No

the court of reason. Only the lower-case "philosophers"


understand how things connect to one another.

exist as experts who

can

of
science
into his
construction
of
philosophy
was
He
his
of
culture"
and
scienticism.
"post-philosophical
critique
against
scienticism which blindly worshipped
science, and was also against treating
of culture ?
science as the foundation for the whole
especially against
Rorty

integrated

in
attributing the success of science to its unique methods. He believed,
accordance with Quine, Sellas, and Davison, that analytic philosophy had already
the failure of the
transcended and negated
itself, and finally announced

scientification of philosophy and of the pursuit of certainty. Therefore, science is


no longer themodel for all sectors of culture to imitate, nor is it the only way to
get in touch with reality. Rorty believed that in traditional ideology, science was
basically equal to truth; thus science obtained a sublime position that no other

sector of human knowledge could reach. Science thus turned out to be the
foundation of all the human knowledge; however, all of these assertions were
misunderstandings. Rorty considered themythicizing effect of natural science as
one of the ideas which

contemporary Western philosophy should try to extirpate


seem to be forming a new priesthood, although
Scientists
(Rorty 2003, p. 15):
not
scientists should
occupy such unique status. No one should: all the people

engage in different sectors of culture should be equal. Rorty advocated the


adoption of the "Baconist scientific viewpoint", emphasizing science as the guide
for and foundation of technology, focusing on technological function, scientific

who

pragmatism, and the social


pragmatism and advocated

this basis, Rorty turned to


science" which transcended

influence of science. On

a kind of "dialogue
scienticism and opposed both fundamentalism and the pursuit of certainty in the
philosophy of science; he tried to eliminate the opposition between science and
the humanities, and to integrate them. Thus, as one critic put it, "the features of
science were
of natural
completely
sociological,
Rorty's
explanation
psychological, and pragmatic, refusing all 'deep' explanation. He never wanted

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A reflectionon thealternativephilosophyof science

583

to explore why natural science was so successful" (Jiang 1998, p. 146). All in all,
Rorty's philosophy of science was a counter-revolution against the "strong
reason" of science which

seeks universality and necessity; it reflected the revival


of holism and organism, and also the strong desire for communication between
two great culture traditions?
science and the humanities.

Foucault: Dedicated to the "deconstructionof the subject"

Among these three alternative philosophers, Foucault is the most famous. His
behavior was often eccentric and unreasonable; his subjects of study were often

"out of theway"; and his thoughtswere often shocking to the public. He fully fit
its
the label "alternative"2. The main thrust of Foucault's
philosophy was
deconstruction of the subject. The reason why Foucault chose this stance was that

that contemporary philosophy's emphasis on and pride in the subject


was superstitious, and that all the problems faced by the contemporary Western
?
the
world could find their origins in this superstition. Theoretical problems
?
are
in
these
included
and
in
chaos
problems.
thought
contemporary philosophy
So too are practical problems, that is, the contemporary viewpoint of practice, the
he believed

in contemporary ethics, and the historical situation inwhich individuals are


formed by the discipline of the contemporary world. Foucault
homogeneously

mess

that there was

no independent subject (Foucault 1997, p. 19) and that


the concept of human nature related to this was not a scientific one (Foucault
2003a, p. 217): Both were constructed at the beginning of the 19th century
(Foucault 2001, p. 430). The archeology of knowledge and genealogy of power

believed

and methodological
of the subject an epistemologica!
of
method
the
foundation, especially
micro-analyzing power. Foucault used this
archeology and genealogy to deconstruct the subject and subjective philosophy
from both their historical and social aspects. The historical critique of the subject
ismainly embodied in Foucault's theory of the "knowledge prototype". Foucault
the deconstruction

gave

to analyze more than 400 years of the history of Western


a historical notion that
thinking, pointing out that the concept of the subject was
birth and
only emerged in contemporary times and relating the history of the
death of the subject: he concluded that the subject was bound to die, and already
archeology

applied

2
We

need

showed

not

suicidal

see

it as

taboo

to note
and

in promiscuous
used drugs, engaged
sex,
clinic. The themes of Foucault's
in a psychiatric
and crime.
sexual experiences,
prisons,
hospitals,

that Foucault
time

tendencies,
spent
concern madmen,
psychiatric
mainly
can we find the truth about human nature: For example,
that only in the darkness
He believed
?
individuals were more authentic and even more normal than the sane
he held that disturbed

works

people who were disciplined by knowledge-power in themodern world. Another example of


thisbelief is his advocacy for theabolishmentofpunishment.

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584

LIU Dachun, LIU Yongmou

was

dying. Foucault pointed out that all of his research was aimed at revealing
the history of the process in our culture that turned human beings into subjects
(Foucault 1992, p. 271); this process was in fact the process through which

modern

introduced the
knowledge-power
produced modern people. Foucault
?
method of origin analysis from genealogy
that is, themicro-analysis of power

and also turned the subject of research from knowledge to power, revealing the
profound relationships between the subject, knowledge, and power. According to
Foucault, modern people are the result of the process which turns human beings
into subjects, and modern people are essentially the slaves of knowledge and
power. There are three elements in the process of "turning a human being into a
science and
subject": differentiation, discipline, and subjectification. Modern

knowledge have changed society into a sort of controlling machine, and made
modern people voluntarily accept the rule of science and knowledge. It ismodern
and power which construct non-diversified, subjectified modern
knowledge
Therefore, Foucault advocated
anti-discipline and anti-subjectification,
fight" and an "aesthetics of survival".
people.

a program of emancipation including


articulated as such things as a "local

studies by studying the history of science,


began his philosophical
and his philosophy of science grew around the issue of the subject. The problem
Foucault

of knowledge was just the starting point for Foucault; his philosophy ultimately
aimed at the real historical situation of the modern people behind knowledge.
research was different
Aiming at the deconstruction of the subject, Foucault's
from both scientific epistemology and also the traditional study of the history of
science. According to Foucault's expression of his views, his study of knowledge
was aligned along the discourse-axis of practice-knowledge-science,
not that of
(Foucault 2003b, p. 204). Unlike proponents
consciousness-knowledge-science
of scientific epistemology, Foucault viewed knowledge and science from a

practical angle; that is, he saw them as a kind of historical activity unfolding in
reality, paying attention to how knowledge got its name without paying attention
to its legitimacy. Unlike students of the history of science, Foucault treated
science and knowledge from a discursive perspective; that is, he treated them as
to certain
formed according
among the group of discourses which

one

regulations. He never paid attention to how science was born (from pre-science
or non-science), but rather focused on the formation of its discourse. Foucault
used the archeology of knowledge to eliminate the distinction between science

non-science,
denying scientific progress and also the corresponding
the incommensurability of science from
of
truth,
emphasizing
conception
and

different ages. Since he introduced themicro-analytical method of power from


genealogy to the study of knowledge, he destroyed the traditional view that
science was value-neutral, pointing out the autonomous aspect of knowledge
practice for the subject, with special emphasis on the relationships among

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A reflectionon thealternativephilosophy of science

585

knowledge, power, and politics.


As a post-modern theory of knowledge which opposed the subject, Foucault's
philosophy had many unique views. Foucault believed that truth should be
pluralistic, that knowledge should be a subject corresponding to an object; and
that science was

not progressing towards objective truth. The standards of


are historical. Knowledge
is a discursive practice, and the
and
science
knowledge
an
of
is
social
of
practice in its entirety;
integral part
knowledge
practice
knowledge is not just defined in the process of demonstration, but can also be

in its story, thinking, narration, administrative system, and political


(Ibid.). There is no ranking of different subjects according to their
is not a product of the process
objectivity and how scientific they are. Knowledge

defined

decisions

of subjective cognition; rather, it is a process of historical practice, and the


subject and object have often been influenced, changed, and constructed by
knowledge practice (Foucault 2003c, preface, pp. 4-5). Foucault believed there
a relatively stable structure behind science and knowledge which decided
them, free of the human or subjective control which constructed the subject. This
structure is also historical, and as such will change along with the transitions of

was

history; knowledge archeology is focusing on revealing this "construction".


Foucault also believed that inmodern society, knowledge and power are more
entangled with one other,
intimately integrated, supporting and becoming
In
modern
society, knowledge and
forming a kind of symbiotic relationship.
power have formed a kind of complex symbiotic relationship and have finally
formed an institutionalized truth system as a kind of practice.3 This truth system
possesses a very important position in the overall operation of modern society,

institutions. Truth is the result of struggle between


different powers, and science functions as a kind of ideology. The history of
The
knowledge is also the history of war, the history of battling amongst powers.
a
was
of
of
modern
of
the
process
disciplinizing
knowledge
process
development
on power) (Foucault
knowledge (creating a hierarchy of knowledge centered
2004, p. 172). After World War Two, a rebellion of repressed knowledge was
and is the core of social

research into "repressed knowledge"4 was an effort to oppose


of science
disciplinizing knowledge. All in all, Foucault's alternative philosophy
the
traditional
and
overthrew
the
of
frame
the
subject-object dichotomy
opposed
as
Of
"anti-science".
itself
of
science, presenting
epistemology and viewpoints
rising; genealogical

3
the truth system was
In Foucault's
genealogy,
in other places.
and a deployment

also

called

a machine,

an institution, a strategy,

The repressed knowledge mentioned by Foucault mainly falls into two types: one is
about disturbed
long-neglectedmarginal knowledge, such as the historical knowledge

individuals,

prisons,

sex, and massacres.

The

other has been

deprived

of its qualification

to be

in the
knowledge and is considered as inadequate and imprecise; it is naive knowledge, low
hierarchy

and beneath

the level of recognized

knowledge

and science.

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LIU Dachun, LIU Yongmou

586

course, Foucault 's philosophy of science went against the subject and used
to replace
historicism
it, raising many
important issues, but it faced
contradictions it could not resolve.

The enlightenment triggeredby the emergence of the

alternative

philosophers

of science

analyzing the implications of alternative philosophy of science and


comparing the similarities and differences between it and traditional philosophy

Deeply

are

important for unveiling the trends in and direction of the


of
contemporary philosophy of science. From the thoughts of
development
Feyerabend, Rorty, and Foucault, we find that alternative philosophy of science
is different from traditional philosophy of science in its aims and foundations; it
of science

through the scope of traditional philosophy of science's views,


and
methods. Alternative philosophy of science has also changed its
discussions,
with
science. In general, alternative philosophy of science is
relationship
more
tolerant, egalitarian, and pluralistic characteristics. The emergence
showing
of this new force is in fact representative of a major change that has occurred in

has broken

contemporary philosophy of science.


The emergence of alternative philosophy of science marked the eclipse of
the
fundamentalism and essentialism, and the rise of pluralism. Following
insist that natural
waning of science chauvinism, the fundamentalists who

science has an objective foundation and the essentialists who insist that natural
of objects via external observation of
the essence
science can master
now
are
being questioned about their beliefs. The viewpoint that
phenomenon
sees natural science as objective truth,and science as a linear accumulation with
continued progress, is being shaken. Research methods are changing from an
emphasis on construction toward one on deconstruction of fundamentalism and

tendencies. Alternative philosophers of science do not just


beliefs
and find new ones to replace them, but rather believe
question existing
that theory and method are developing to towards no certain end. The direction
all other absolutist

temporarily, through continued negation. As pluralism


the
philosophy of science, natural science ismore and more
gradually permeates
treated as one element of a plural culture, and epistemological scientific research
can only be decided

ismore and more one approach among many. The general posture of science has
to moderate
turned from pan-scientism
scientism, and has led to various

it later turned to anti-scientism, it gained


of views. When
considerable diversity.
The important change brought about by the alternative philosophers of science
is the propagation of the phenomenological method, the hermeneutic method,

reconciliations

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A reflectionon thealternativephilosophyof science

587

and the post-modern "deconstruction" method; at the same time, the aim of
research has turned away from a preference for action and has sought operability
to question scientific culture and make social criticisms. Since 1970, some
scholars have begun to apply themethods of phenomenology and hermeneutics
towards resolving the problems in the philosophy of science; structuralism and

post-modernism have gained power. The permeation of the philosophy of science


by the deconstruction method has changed science's philosophical basis and its
mainstream viewpoints greatly, as well as changing the traditional understanding
and technology. Traditional philosophy of science treated the
of
natural science as themodel of human knowledge, emphasizing
knowledge
not only its truthbut also its emphasis on operation and operability. Traditional
of

science

philosophy of science not only demanded the scientific reconstruction of nature


but also promoted the practice of themodel based on natural science, not only
scientifically reforming nature but also scientifically reforming society and even
human beings. Yet along with the popularizing of deconstruction, there ismore
and more questioning of natural science. The philosophy of science is no longer a
subject which defends natural science; rather, it gradually turns, seeking to keep a
distance from science and to act as a bystander. Since people already confirmed

that the systematic approach could not resolve all problems, preference for action
and pursuit of operability cannot override everything else. On the contrary, the
questioning of certain scientific cultural systems and the criticism of society has
become something of a fad.
alternative philosophers of science make contemporary philosophy of
scope of views and discussion
increasingly pluralistic; the aim of
research thus turns towards the integration of science and the humanities. In
alternative philosophy of science, science is first understood as an ontological
The

science's

introduced into the


decides human essence. Pragmatism was
a
which
made
of
science,
unity integratedwith its context;
philosophy
philosophy
are necessarily
and
its
thus,
application
understanding,
explanation,
to
traditional
the
philosophy of science
scenario-dependent. Second, compared
on
and
its focus on nature
the neutral value of natural science
with its emphasis
thing which

regard for human beings, the alternative philosophers of science have


revived science as a humane science, and see the scientific world as a part of the
human world. The relationship between the scientific world and the living world

without

the centre of the study of the philosophy of science. Third, science is


more and more seen as a kind of practice and as a culture phenomenon. Last but
not least, at the turn of the century, natural science has been thrust from its throne,
has become

and people are calling for science to be integrated with the humanities. How to
close the gap between them is a very important problem in contemporary
philosophy of science.
Of course, the expansion, transition, and transformation of such study should

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588

LIU

LIU

Dachun,

Yongmou

insist on theoretical courage ?


the belief that "anything is possible" ?
and on
the spirit of innovation, following the latest trends in the development of

contemporary philosophy. We also need to remember the time and space in


which we carry on our studies, staying in step with reality.With the alternative
philosophy of science, the important thing is not to follow itblindly, nor to reject
itblindly, but rather to try to respond to itproperly.

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