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Publication Details

Bachelard’s Endeavor at a Neorationalistic Epistemology

(Original title: Bachelardovo úsilie o neoracionalistickú epistemológiu)
Filozofia, 24 (1969), 6, 627-640.
Type of work: Papers and Discussions
Publication language: Slovak
The aim of the present study is to determine the main features of the Bachelard’s neorationalistic epistemology. The author takes for impossible to comprehend all aspects of this epistemology; therefore, he focuses his attention on that one which he considers, from the standpoint of the tradition of French philosophy of science, as the most clean-cut: the endeavor to understand rationalism itself in a new way. In this respect, Bachelard, facing the new science (particularly modern physics and chemistry) achieves significant success. This is quite evident if we compare Bachelard with his immediate predecessor, Brunschvicg. Bachelard not only succeeded in maintaining his rationalistic and, at the same time, dynamic conception of knowledge, but unfolded it and, in addition to it, managed to avoid his teacher's idealism. The elaboration of the concept of a dialectical and (in the basic intention) nonidealistic rationalistic epistemology which is in line with modern science, can be considered as the most significant contribution of Bachelard to the philosophical theory of knowledge. The present author does not deal with the question of whether this epistemology is worked out systematically enough, whether its nonidealistic orientation is consistent, what is the character of Bachelard’s dialectics etc. As far as the basic object of the present study is concerned, the author states that Bachelard’s investigation of the history of science, of the changes in the contents and form of contemporary science as well as his study of the psychology of scientific creation resulted in a formulation of many new concepts and characteristic which were to express particularities of this new rationalism. Two of these characteristics can be considered as basic: 1) that it is an open rationalism, 2) that it is an applied rationalism. The former characteristic refers, on the one hand, to the openness of the theoretical knowledge — towards experience, on the other hand, to the opennes of knowledge in the sence of its historicalness. The author underlines that Bachelard does not understand processualness as a smooth evolution but as discovering in a full sense of the term, as creation with inevitable moments of discontinuity. It is an achievement of the new rationalism is that it makes it impossible for irrationalism or agnosticism to take advantage ofthe very moments of discontinuity. The latter characteristic expresses Bachelard’s emphasis on the necessity of respecting the specificities of various fields of knowledge (regional rationalisms), his refusal of the universalizing tendencies of the old rationalism which were always connected with an endeavor at reduction and summarization on the basis of the a priori forms. Both the fundamental characteristic of the new rationalism (to which Bachelard adds a lot of additional, more concrete characteristics) are closely connected, they condition each other. In their very basis, Bachelard’s idea lies of the inseparableness of theory from experience, of theoretical science from technology, of a theoretician from a technician.
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