The relationship of science with the philosophy of science has had a long history, going back at least to Aristotle. For much of this history, the philosophy of science attempted to determine how science should be done. Thus, for the ancient and medieval world, the search for the four causes listed by Aristotle became a major function of "science"; in the 17th century, a mechanical explanation became the norm. Even in the 20th century, the logical positivists argued that science had to be in a "nomological-deductive" framework. By the mid-20th century, however, the normative force of philosophy of science had lost much of whatever power it ever had to determine how science should be carried out. Today, philosophers of science tend more to study how science actually works, not how it should perform. Yet it remains important to know and understand the changing relationship of science and philosophy of science. Professor Williams, under this research grant, is investigating a critical period in this changing relationship: the role of philosophy of science in the work of Andre-Marie Ampere, one of the foremost scientists of the first half of the 19th century. At the end of the 18th century, there occurred a revolution in philosophy that altered the philosophical landscape for the 19th century. Two elements in this revolution are central to Professor Williams' project: the new epistemology and the philosophy of science that could be drawn from this epistemology. In both areas, the original impetus for philosophical revision came from Immanuel Kant. Kant had a fundamental influence on the thought of Ampere. Professor Williams will study in detail the origins, evolution and results of Ampere's philosophy of science. The project has three parts. In the first, Professor Williams will examine the introduction of Kantian philosophy into France by way of a channel hitherto ignored, namely from Geneva to Lyon. It was at Lyon that Ampere first encountered Kant and plunged into the study of his thought. In the second, he will examine a whole mass of manuscripts, hitherto unstudied, containing Ampere's ideas on epistemology and the nature of science. This section will include a study of Ampere's theoretical chemistry in which his philosophy of science was most clearly expressed. In the third, he will examine Ampere's attempts to map the mind and to fit a taxonomical system to this may. This work culminated in his Essai sur la philosophie des sciences.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Ronald J. Overmann
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Cornell University
United States
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