Philosophy of Science in Italy
© Giulia Delprato
It would be a next to impossible task that of giving a complete and satisfying description of what happened in Italian philosophy of science in the past 50 years or so. The task would be impossible not only for the time span, but also for the variety of issues and problems Italian philosophers have dealt with, which cannot be considered in details into the length of this paper.
In this paper, hence, I will consider the main movements and schools that have been dominant in Italy from the 70′s onward, with particular emphasis to the interests toward the empirical sciences and its foundational issues. Given the level of generality I have chosen, I will venture in mentioning people and places in a very limited way, where further research can help to individuate further details.
Setting the stage
To set the stage for considering the development that philosophy of science had in Italy, it is worthwhile to consider two main tendencies, present in the early stages of the Italian reflection on science. One was critical rationalism and the other was operationalism.
A number of Italian philosophers, sometimes first or second generations full professors in the discipline, were followers of the so called School of Milan and they were scholars and pupils of Ludovico Geymonat, who held the first chair in philosophy of science, established immediately after the second world war in Milan. They were thinking of science as the product of interaction between empirical results and the theoretical vocabulary. In this sense, Geymonat was initially quite close to the neopositivist. Lately, he considered the relations between science and society, under the pressure of the Italian Marxist movement. However, the pivotal role of reason and an attitude close to Enlightenment has always been present in his thought, which have been elaborated by a number of philosophers and logicians that had positions in Milan, as Giulio Giorello, Cagliari, as Silvano Tagliagambe, Genoa, as Evandro Agazzi. Reflections on the history of science and the political role of science were pursued by Enrico Bellone and Salvatore Veca. Also logic was particularly developed in that school thanks to people such as Marco Mondadori, Corrado Mangione and many others. (Mugnai, Minati, etc.).
An interesting twist to the neopositivist attitude was the operationalist one, as it has been done by people in Genoa, as Evandro Agazzi, and in Rome, mainly Vittorio Somenzi. People in Genoa considered science as crucially based on both an appeal to objectivity and one to a careful methodology. Science is thought to be objective in that in its endeavour, it can attain to the objects of its inquiry, not in themselves, rather through intersubjective verifiable operations. These operations merge together methodological criteria and ontological goals. These operations, were measurements, experiments, controlled data analysis, were thus bringing a realist view on the entities, though mediated thanks to these means. The way in which such operations were enforced in scientific theories was by means of specific sets of predicates, those that gave the theory its specificity and that were devoted to capture the nature of its objects of inquiry.