Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Gaston Bachelard began his career as a philosopher with writings about the philosophy of science. In these early writings, he maintained that scientific thinking had entered a new phase following Albert Einstein’s work on relativity. The scientific understanding of things had moved beyond seeing the world as composed of concrete objects or as things perceived by the senses. Instead, the new scientific mind had become a matter of comprehending the world as mathematical measurements. Knowledge was no longer knowledge of things or of the perception of things by the senses. Knowledge was a relationship between the empirical results of experimentation and the rational formulation of experiments and interpretation of results.

Because the world is known by the way the mind formulates and tests questions, Bachelard maintained, understanding processes of thought is critical to engaging in scientific activity. Even though science had entered a new era in the early twentieth century, older ways of thinking still influenced people and shaped the types of questions that people asked. In order to move beyond these older ways of thinking, the philosopher of science must be continually analyzing the commonly accepted images of the world that shape the thinking of scientists. This meant that philosophy of science should be a form of psychoanalysis.