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Biography of Gaston Bachelard

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The thought and scientific enterprise 27 June 1884
October 6, 1962

Who is Gaston Bachelard?


Gaston Bachelard, born on 27 June 1884 in Bar-sur-Aube, in the French region of Champagne-Ardenne. Epistemologist distinguished, he is the author of a vast sum of thoughts related to knowledge and research. Each line of his work looks like a potential citation, as well as an open door to knowledge.

Born into a family from modest social conditions, completed the first studies is forced to work for a living. From 1903 and for ten years he worked as clerk at the post office, leading at the same time high school and getting a degree in mathematics in 1912. Participated in the first world war, which will get them even a medal for valor. Follows then the b.a. and from 1919 he became Professor of physics and chemistry in the schools of his native city, work that will keep for another ten years.

During the same period he devoted himself to the study of philosophy: in 1920 the license, in 1922 the "agrégation" and in 1927 his doctorate, presenting the thesis Essai sur la connaissance approchée ", which will be immediately published. Thus began teaching philosophy at the University of Dijon. Later, Professor, Professor of history of philosophy of science at the prestigious Sorbonne University until 1954.

Philosopher and critic of science, Bachelard studies the methods and principles, while at the same time attentive to the world of poetry and imagination. His most important work is "the new scientific spirit" (1934), in which he reaches an overcoming of the debate between empiricism and rationalism, which he did even Karl Popper, in which French is often contrasted.

To Bachelard, rational materialism is at the center of a Wraith epistemological whose two ends are the idealism and materialism. Bachelard derives from the study of the history of science as an incentive for its epistemological reflection, which contrasts sharply to the neo-positivism, claiming greater attention to historical, social, cultural and psychological factors that influence inevitably scientific thought. From this perspective rejects (as already happens with Hanson, Feyerabend and Popper) the myth of the given immediate basic scientific knowledge as empirical, because the empirical fact is always linked to the theoretical systems.

According to the mind of Bachelard you will come to find out that there is no science, but "the sciences", i.e. a plurality of knowledge and specific techniques. The French positivist critic vision of science as a linear process and cumulative, trying to highlight as scientific progress takes place through the "epistemological breaks".

Its conclusions are the result of a radical questioning of categories and previous theoretical schemes. From Galileo to Darwin, from Einstein to quantum mechanics, from non-Euclidean geometry to genetics, science shows to advance only through repeated modifications of previous theories — such as denial of some key aspect that distinguishes them.

According to the French philosopher of science to make progress must get past what he calls "epistemological obstacles", i.e. psychological obstacles that block the human spirit by keeping it pegged at prejudices and opinions strongly rooted, which impede the development of new ideas and new theories.

The idea is that philosophy is lagging behind the science and would welcome the development of a philosophy of "not", I say "no" to the past and to absolute and all-encompassing concepts, for catching up with advancing scientific enterprise.

Awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1951 as an officer and in 1959 as Commander, Gaston Bachelard dies in Paris on October 6, 1962.

Essential bibliography

"Le nouvel esprit scientifique" (the new scientific spirit, 1934)
"La formation de l'Esprit scientifique" (the formation of the scientific spirit, 1938)
La philosophie du non "(1940), (the philosophy of not)
"L'eau et les rêves" (1942)
"La terre et les rêveries du repos" (1946)
"La terre et les rêveries de la volonté" (1948)
"Activité rationaliste de la physique contemporaine" (Rationalist activity of contemporary physics, 1951)
"La Flamme d'une chandelle" (the flame of a candle, 1961)

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