Friday, February 17, 2012 – 10:00 a.m.
Alan Richardson, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The theme statement of this year’s AAAS meeting enjoins speakers to think about complex global issues within a global knowledge society. The theme is explicated within the language of “electronic communication” and “information resources.” This suggests a model of human communication as simply the sharing of information. We have a long history, going back at least to the 18th-century French Enlightenment, if not indeed to the medieval university, of sttempts at creating an international knowledge society. Such efforts can, in the spirit of empirical inquiry, be mined for resources for the one envisioned in the AAAS conference theme. This talk looks at a key moment in the effort to create a global knowledge society that occurred in the first half of the 20th century in the Unity of Science movement, especially in the work of Otto Neurath. The successes and failures of the movement help to delineate areas in which philosophy of science can provide aid to science, most notably in helping to refine our models of human communication and to delineate with precision the conditions for use of scientific language in real communication within science and with the public.