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J. F. Fries' philosophy of science, the new Friesian school and the Berlin group

on divergent scientific philosophies, difficult relations and missed opportunities

Helmut Pulte

pp. 43-66

Jakob Friedrich Fries (1773–1843) was the most prolific German philosopher of science in the nineteenth century who strived to synthesize Kant's philosophical foundation of science and mathematics and the needs or practised science and mathematics in order to gain more comprehensive conceptual frameworks and greater methodological flexibility for those two disciplines. His original contributions anticipated later developments, to some extent, though they received comparatively little notice in the later course of the nineteenth century—a fate which partly can be explained by the unfortunate development of the so-called "First Friesian School," founded by E. F. Apelt, M. J. Schleiden and O. X. Schlömilch. This situation changed temporarily when Leonard Nelson (1882–1927) arrived on the philosophical stage and founded a second, so-called, "New Friesian School" in 1903. In the following two decades, Fries' specific transformation of Kantian philosophy gained influence within the vigorous discussions about "new" foundations of mathematics and, thus, also played a role within the Berlin Group surrounding Hans Reichenbach, though his work had no direct impact on the philosophy of physics being expounded therein.This essay will first outline some characteristics of Fries' development of the Kantian approach. Then it will point out the limited impact of the "New Friesian School" on the Berlin Group, while highlighting some missed chances for fruitful exchange. As the originality of this school and its importance for the development of logic and philosophy of mathematics—by and large merits of its early members Walter Dubislav and Kurt Grelling —is dealt with in separate chapters of this volume, and elsewhere, this article will focus on what Fries called the "mathematical philosophy of nature" (i. e. the philosophical foundations of physics). More specifically, it will show how the New Friesian School reacted to Einstein's theories of relativity, in a way that contrasts with the approach of the Berlin Group. This discussion about relativity will also be used to reveal different understandings of the nature of 'scientific philosophy" in general, as well as different models of how philosophy and the empirical sciences should interact.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-5485-0_3

Full citation:

Pulte, H. (2013)., J. F. Fries' philosophy of science, the new Friesian school and the Berlin group: on divergent scientific philosophies, difficult relations and missed opportunities, in N. Milkov & V. Peckhaus (eds.), The Berlin group and the philosophy of logical empiricism, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 43-66.

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