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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: January 2010

15 - Freedom Celebrated: The Professional Decline of Philipp Frank and the Unity of Science Movement

Summary

In 1952, Frank's institute sponsored a colloquium on “Science and Human Behavior.” The announcement that Frank posted suggests that the meeting was likely to elicit the heat and bluster of the values debate. It specified that

the group will be composed very largely of those interested in science and the logic of science and who will therefore be inclined to accept the working hypothesis that the methods of science can eventually be adapted to any part of nature, including human nature.

Frank clearly did not want the seminar to become a forum for critics of scientism and took a step to prevent that from happening. “Disagreement with that assumption,” the announcement stated, “can more profitably be presented elsewhere.”

To neo-Thomists, anticommunists, and critics of scientism who exalted human values above the reach of empirical science, Frank was defiant. The goals he pursued with his institute, his campaign to reform and enlighten the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion, his proposals for science education, and his continuing interest in discussing dialectical materialism prevented him from joining the patriotic chorus celebrating the transcendence of American or Western social values over those of the Soviets and over merely empirical, scientific knowledge. Frank was out of step with many of his colleagues in philosophy of science, and, as we saw, many of his friends and colleagues fielded questions about him from FBI agents in the early 1950s. As the decade continued, Frank's fortunes did not improve.

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