Tentative Transgressions

Tentative Transgressions. Gaston Bachelard's Experimental Epistemology

Sandra Pravica

This project was concerned with tentativity as a philosophical concept. Exploring the works of Gaston Bachelard, it aimed at determining an epistemology that is “tentative” or “experimental.” In the 1930s Gaston Bachelard chose experimentation as the key topic for epistemological reflection. Sandra Pravica aimed to demonstrate that he focused on experimentation in a way that renders epistemology “experimental” in itself. Explicitly inspired by the upheavals of quantum physics and the theories of relativity in the early twentieth century, Bachelard relocated traditional problems in the philosophy of science to the realm of means and instruments of scientific research. In doing so he accentuated a concept of transgression that the project especially attended to. It was compared with similar concepts such as in art, literature, and science of that time. As Bachelard also adopted a broad range of notions from biology, evolutionary theory, experimental psychology, and musicology, further conceptual implications in discourse besides philosophy of science were examined. Sandra Pravica argued that Bachelard’s approach enables a philosophy that is flexible and “tentative” in the sense that its principles, concepts, and vocabulary are deeply engaged in and inspired by the particularities of its objects of reflection. Resulting is an epistemology that—in comparison to other philosophical approaches of that time—does not offer a fixed and normative corpus of concepts and formalities but admits uncertainties and regional characteristics of the respective domain of scientific knowledge. Thus a consideration of the connections of Gaston Bachelard and his work to the movement of Logical Empirism was of particular interest for this thesis. Moreover, Sandra Pravica's historical examinations of the epistemological discourse of the 1930s showed that the common view of the formation of a “continental” strand of philosophy on the one hand and an “analytical” strand on the other is to be challenged.