Alexandre Koyré: His secret charm

Joseph Agassi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


There are no classics in the natural sciences akin to those in the humanities; Koyré paved the way to getting some connoisseurs to read some old science texts the way they read old classics in the humanities. Historians of science can help that project by debunking the myth that to be a good historian of science one has to be professional. Indeed, it is hard to say whether as a professional Koyré was a historian of science or of religious thought, or simply of culture. The historiographical innovation of Koyré is the idea that (contrary to the traditional view that science is infallible) historians of science should better not ignore their heroes’ errors. Hence, viewing him as a Platonist is highly misleading: whereas Plato deemed science perfect, Koyré used the analysis of scientific mistakes as a tool for understanding the research process in its diverse manifestations. Unfortunately, Koyré did not place sufficient emphasis on scientific controversies, even though, differing from other historians, and opposing Duhem’s views, he did not suppress them and he emphasized the role of metaphysics and of theology as their background, thus recognizing the proper place of metaphysics and of theology in research that Duhem had barred from science so as to exclude controversy from science. Thus, Koyré was an internalist not in the positivist sense but in the sense that he studied the problem situations of researchers, for his greatest charm was that he was consistently problem oriented.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHypotheses and Perspectives in the History and Philosophy of Science
Subtitle of host publicationHomage to Alexandre Koyre 1892-1964
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783319617121
ISBN (Print)9783319617107
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Historiography of science
  • Koyré
  • Popper
  • Scientific classics
  • Scientific controversies


Dive into the research topics of 'Alexandre Koyré: His secret charm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this