PhilSci Archive

Science and the Social Contract in Renouvier

Schmaus, Warren (2010) Science and the Social Contract in Renouvier. In: [2010] HOPOS 2010: The International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (Budapest, 24-27 June 2010).

[img] Microsoft Word (.doc)
Download (40Kb)


    Charles Renouvier (1815-1903) regarded normative questions in epistemology and philosophy of science as analogous to those in moral and political philosophy and proposed similar ways of dealing with both. He argued that it was not possible to achieve certainty or even complete consensus in either morality or science. In the social and ethical realm, people should deal with these problems through their voluntary agreement to a social contract that consists of what he called “positive conventions and laws.” This social contract has no normative force unless it is entered into voluntarily. Once it is agreed upon, it provides the basis for civil liberties. It should always remain open to criticism and revision. Denying Kant’s distinction between theoretical and practical reason, Renouvier held that knowledge also depends upon freedom of the will and individual liberty. Just as rules that one is forced to obey have no moral authority, propositions one is forced to accept have no epistemic authority. Renouvier also drew an analogy between the ways in which the social contract and science develop over time through the critical examination of accepted views, thus suggesting that scientific theories were conventional in the same way as the social contract. Science then appears to depend on two sorts of social contract for Renouvier: one that governs society at large and guarantees freedom of inquiry and another that is shared among the scientific community and consists in theories and methods that are conventionally held and subject to critical evaluation and modification.

    Export/Citation:EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
    Social Networking:

    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Keywords: Renouvier Kant social contract
    Subjects: General Issues > Science and Society
    General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
    General Issues > Values In Science
    Conferences and Volumes: [2010] HOPOS 2010: The International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (Budapest, 24-27 June 2010)
    Depositing User: Warren Schmaus
    Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2010
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:19
    Item ID: 5417

    Actions (login required)

    View Item

    Document Downloads