A New History and Philosophy for the Exact Sciences: The Case of the Second Scientific Revolution


This project offers a new theory of revolutionary change in modern science that draws on and brings together current debates in history and philosophy of science and key insights from contemporary philosophy. Thoroughly grounded in detailed case-studies drawn from the exact sciences, the theory is established as the result of an original historical and philosophical investigation of the largely unexplored Second Scientific Revolution: the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century event that founded modern physics and mathematics.

The project commences by showing that the approaches to scientific rationality of the two dominant schools in twentieth-century philosophy of science arose from two major Kantian notions: the framework dependency of knowledge and normative self-criticism. Where the ‘Kuhnian’ school, today advocated most prominently by Michael Friedman, upholds the framework dependency of science, while resisting the idea that frameworks are rational because of their normative hold, the ‘Popperian’ school concedes the centrality of normative self-criticism in science, but rejects the constitutive role of frameworks.

The project then proceeds to demonstrate that, in order to fully explain revolutionary scientific change, the grounding notions of these two schools must be combined into one comprehensive theory. This fundamental challenge is met in two steps. Firstly, by putting forward the case of the Second Scientific Revolution to expose the limits of Friedman’s highly influential approach to the rationality of scientific revolutions. Secondly, by drawing on insights from contemporary philosophy to supplement this approach with an account of the rational agency of the scientists responsible for the Second Scientific Revolution.


Scientific article


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. L.M. Verburgt

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Departement Wijsbegeerte

Team members

Dr. L.M. Verburgt


15/11/2017 to 31/08/2020