June 2002


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Philosophically Speaking I

My colleagues in the Center for Philosophy of Science and I do appreciate that you marked its 40th anniversary by publishing Jason Togyer’s article “Paving the Way” in your March 2002 issue. Alas, it contains a number of statements that call for correction.

At universities, academic departments offer instruction to students working for degrees, and their faculty members produce published research, which is the principal basis of their academic reputation and the ranking of their graduate programs. At Pitt, centers do not offer instruction toward degrees, but are devoted entirely to research. In our Center for Philosophy of Science, that research is carried out by resident fellows, who are faculty members drawn from various Pitt departments, as well as by the visiting fellows selected from an international pool of applicants. Naturally, the faculty of our History and Philosophy of Science Department is an integral part of our center’s resident fellowship, and that department’s renowned research contributes to the reputation of the center. Unfortunately, the article muddies the waters by mistakenly depicting teaching as the touchstone of the department’s reputation (p. 28): “While the history and philosophy of science department is nationally known for its instruction, the Center for Philosophy of Science is a unit for research, not teaching.”

It is a truism that scientific experiments are conducted to test hypotheses empirically, and that such hypotheses provide criteria of relevance in the search for factual evidence, pro or con. But it is untutored and even demagogic to characterize such antecedent hypotheses derogatorily as “biased,” if only because that label obfuscates the commendable self-corrective nature of scientific inquiry. Hence it was a disservice to your readers to be told, apropos of the “belief [that] science is impartial and without bias,” that the physicist Ted Zaleskiewicz scoffed “Hokum” and declared: “If they [scientists] were completely unbiased, they’d have no motivation to start the experiment” (p. 30).

Your article attempts to give a one-sentence summary of my critique of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, as set forth in my two books and numerous articles on the subject. Distressingly, the purported summary (p. 30) is sheer fiction.

Yet these shortcomings do not lessen the value of the genuinely informative and generous content of the bulk of Jason Togyer’s article for which I feel indebted to him.

Adolf Grünbaum
A.W. Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science
Chairman, Center for Philosophy of Science

Philosophically Speaking II

Many thanks to Pitt Magazine’s Jason Togyer for his feature on the Center for Philosophy of Science. I trust it won’t seem ungracious if I point out that without the generous support of the Harvey and Leslie Wagner endowment, University endowment, and grants from foundations such as Sarah Scaife, RK Mellon, Latsis, and Bayer, many of the programs richly described in his article would not have been possible. The same is true for the creative vision of two previous center directors not mentioned in your feature, Larry Laudan and Gerald Massey. Mr. Togyer’s warm tribute to the center is also an implicit tribute to them.

I would also like to clarify and correct some points made about the center’s international and local activities. On the international front, Mr. Togyer speaks of our hosting conferences in Europe and South America. It would be more accurate to say our partners in these other countries are our hosts. It is also important to distinguish our formal, multi-lateral co-operations with Konstanz and Athens, engineered under Massey’s leadership, from occasional international conferences that the center has helped to organize in other countries.

Locally, the article’s last paragraph might mislead readers regarding some of our community activities. It reports a connection with the Carnegie Library that we do not have, though the center did collaborate last year with the Carnegie Museum of Art, co-sponsoring two lectures as part of their internationally acclaimed Light! exhibition. That same paragraph also describes our very successful Carnegie Science Center lecture series, co-sponsored by the Bayer Foundation, as if it were a part of this year’s 40th anniversary celebration. It is not. In fact this April marks the fourth season of this wonderful collaboration with our friends at Bayer and the Science Center.

I appreciate being allowed to add these points of clarification to Mr. Togyer’s most informative feature.

James Lennox
Director, Center for Philosophy of Science
Professor of History and Philosophy of Science

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