History of the Association

A History of the PSA Before 1970

Heather Douglas

The Philosophy of Science Association was first announced in the Journal of Philosophy, December 1933: "We welcome the first number of a new philosophical quarterly, entitled Philosophy of Science. It is the 'chief external expression' of the Philosophy of Science Association." (vol. 30, no. 25. p. 700) The first editorial board for the new journal was composed of William Malisoff (as editor), Eric T. Bell, Albert E. Blumberg, Rudolf Carnap, Morris R. Cohen, W. W. Cook, Herbert Feigl, K. S. Lashley, Henry Margenau, H. J. Muller, L. Susan Stebbing, Dirk J. Struik, and Alexander Weinstein. The first issue of Philosophy of Science appeared in January 1934, and was shepherded not just by the editorial board, but also by more than 40 other advisory board members, including P.W. Bridgman, R.A. Fischer, M. Polanyi, H. Reichenbach, George Sarton, E. A. Singer, jr., H. Urey, and E. Wigner.

In addition to publishing the journal, early activities of the newly formed PSA included co- sponsorship of the Fifth International Congress for the Unity of Science, held at Harvard in September 5-10, 1939. Other sponsors included the International Committee of the Congresses for the Unity of Science, the International Institute for the Unity of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Symbolic Logic, and the American Philosophical Association.

After World War II, the PSA began to meet annually at December AAAS meetings, in conjunction and cooperation with Section L (History and Philosophy of Science) of the AAAS. In addition to organizing symposia on philosophy of science at AAAS, the PSA began to conduct its business of governance at these meetings. It passed its first set of by-laws at the 1946 meeting, which would be revised in 1947, and then finally published in 1948 in Philosophy of Science.

According to those by-laws, the PSA was dedicated to "furthering of the study and discussion of the subject of philosophy of science, broadly interpreted, and the encouragement of practical consequences which may flow therefrom of benefit to scientists and philosophers in particular and to men of good will in general." (Phil. Sci. 1948, vol. 15, p. 176) In addition, the 1947 by- laws state that the PSA was to meet annually. For the next fifteen years, notices of the annual meetings were placed in "News and Notices" in Philosophy of Science every October for the meeting that was held in December, in conjunction with Section L of AAAS.

With Malisoff's unexpected death in 1947, the governing structures put in place in 1946 took on the difficult task of replacing Malisoff. At the 1947 meeting, officers of PSA were elected for the first time, with physicist-philosopher Philipp Frank taking on the role of PSA's first elected president. C. West Churchman became the PSA's secretary-treasurer. Churchman also became the journal's editor-in-chief, a position he would hold until 1959.

PSA meetings at AAAS continued through the early 1960s. The annual meetings at AAAS grew in size and complexity such that by 1953 six different PSA symposia were on the program, held over three days. During the 1950s, Section L meetings served as a home not only for PSA, but also brought about collaboration with the History of Science Society, the American Philosophical Association, and the Institute for the Unity of Science, and saw the origination of the Society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory (1955) under the auspices of Section L.

The late 1950s were a tumultuous time for the PSA. By the end of 1956, the PSA was nearly broke and in rather desperate need of funds. The publication of the journal was moved from Baltimore, Maryland, to Bruges, Belgium by 1959 in order to aid the PSA's bank balance.

In addition, at the December 1956 annual meeting, governing board member Ernest Nagel raised a range of criticisms concerning the quality of the journal. Nagel made several proposals, including "that the association be more active in running the journal," "that the journal should be run in a more business like manner," and "that we should make a greater effort to attract activity into our association, other groups interested in the philosophy of science, e.g., the unity of science movement." (Richard Rudner archives, Washington University, St. Louis, minutes of PSA governing board meeting, Jan. 4, 1957, from Secretary Lewis Zerby to President Henry Margenau). In response, then-President Margenau appointed a committee to re-examine the by-laws of the PSA. (Phil. Sci. 1959 vol. 26, no. 3, p. 171) New by-laws were adopted by PSA members at the December 1957 meeting. Nagel’ s expression of discontent with the journal and with the PSA as whole led to a serious revision of PSA by-laws and a major change in the focus of the society and its journal. (Nagel would be elected the PSA's first vice-president at the 1957 meeting, and would be elected president in the 1960 elections.)

The changing nature of the PSA in the late 1950s is most readily apparent in the change of the organization's stated purpose in the 1957 by-laws. Unlike the 1946 by-laws, the new by-laws were more focused on philosophy of science for its own sake:

The objects of this Association shall be the furthering of studies and free discussion from diverse standpoints in the field of philosophy of science, and the publishing of a periodical devoted to such studies in this field. (Philosophy of Science, 1959, vol. 26, p. 63)

Finally, Churchman resigned as editor of the journal in May 1958, and the search for a replacement began. In the end, Richard Rudner was selected to run the journal at the age of 37. He quickly expanded the editorial board of the journal to assist with the recruitment and refereeing of papers, and Carl Hempel, May Brodbeck, and Adolf Grünbaum joined the editorial board in late 1959. Rudner would be the longest-serving editor-in-chief in the journal's history, resigning from the post in September 1974, but continuing in the position through 1975, when Kenneth Shaffner took the reigns.

During the early 1960s, cooperation with AAAS began to drop off, and by 1963, PSA had no detectable presence on the AAAS program. It appears that PSA did not meet for much of the 1960s, until PSA president Adolf Grünbaum organized the first stand-alone biennial meeting of PSA in 1968, held in Pittsburgh. This began the tradition of biennial meetings which continues to the present, and became enshrined in PSA by-laws in 1970. The next meeting was held in Boston in October 1970, and because of the death of Rudolf Carnap in September 1970, it was held in Carnap's honor. Those proceedings were published by the Boston Studies Series in Philosophy of Science (vol. VIII), edited by Roger Buck and Robert Cohen, and were the first published PSA proceedings.