ALTHUSSER AND BACHELARD?

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Sun Apr 23 21:22:05 MDT 1995


I may have missed the beginning of the Schwartz-Goldstein debate
on Althusser and science, so I can't be sure of what the
definition of science that is being debated.  I think Althusser's
apprenticeship in science and philosophy needs to be pinpointed
precisely, perhaps by reading a biography or even his
autobiography, to determine what he knew of science.  More
importantly, I would like to know to what extent we can blame
Bachelard or Canguilhem for Althusser's appropriation of their
ideas.  Did Bachelard ever have anything to say about the social
sciences?  What did Bachelard himself have to say about the
epistemological break?  It seems to me, though I am even less
familiar with Bachelard's philosophy of science than with his work
regarding the poetic imagination, that Bachelard was impressed by
the fact that modern scientific theory, most obviously in physics,
had finally left the terrain of the familiar, the imaginable, the
visualizable, and the intuitive for systematic formal
mathematical-empiric structures which could no longer be made
comprehensible in pre-formal, intuitive terms.  I fail to see how
this could relate to the social sciences, let alone political
economy.  Did Bachelard apply his notions to every possible
science or to just those few that presented this kind of problem?
Now that I think it of it, what did Bachealrd think of the
scientific status of his own phenomenology of the poetic
imagination?  I know he said that one had to love science and the
poetic imagination with two separate loves.  Beyond that I don't
know much.

Surrationally yours, Ralph Dumain


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