Thoughts on a Possible Rational Reconstruction of the Method of "Rational Reconstruction"
ABSTRACT: Rational reconstructions standardly operate so as to transform a given problematic philosophical scientific account-particularly of a terminological, methodological or theoretical entity-into a similar, but more precise, consistent interpretation. This method occupies a central position in the practice of analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, we encounter-even if only in a very few specific publications-a vague image of it. This is due on the one hand to the problem of the intentions of application, i.e., of the normativity of rational reconstruction (descriptive/prescriptive-ambivalence). It is also due on the other hand to the problem of the significance of the method in the field of history of philosophy (systematic/historical-dichotomy). The varied usage within analytic philosophy, as well as the increasingly inflationary and interfering usage outside, contribute to make rational reconstruction somehow appear a Proteus in contemporary philosophical methodology. This paper attempts to administer first aid and to close a bit of the theoretical gap and thus to reach a more exact image for the interests of analytic philosophy. Self-application of the method appears to be the right remedy. A graduating rational reconstruction of a standard concept of rational reconstruction will be suggested, differentiating the concept of rational reconstruction according to normativity, and explicating the method of rational reconstruction into two such variants.
The method of rational reconstruction occupies a central position in the practice of Analytical Philosophy. Andreas Kamlah once has dealt with it in an article under the indicative title "Wie arbeitet die analytische Wissenschaftstheorie?" or, in English, "How does Analytical Philosophy of Sciene operate?" (see Kamlah ). Nevertheless, we encounter-even in the specific publications-only a vague image of it. Surprisingly, there are comparatively few specific publications. Historically they concentrate in the phase of Logical Empiricism. On the other hand we record a quite extensive literature on the latest variant of rational reconstruction, the "structuralist reconstruction." Besides Kamlah's article, Poser  is to be mentioned. Further, for Analytical Philosophy directly relevant material includes mainly brief remarks in preliminaries and digressions, particularly in works of Wolfgang Stegmller, who established the method in German postwar philosophy. I want to point out his well-known article on Kant (Stegmller ), which I followed when choosing a title for this paper, as well as his introduction to the fourth volume of his great series on philosophy of science and Analytical Philosophy with its section "Neue Betrachtungen ber die Ziele und Aufgaben der Wissenschaftstheorie" (Stegmller , pp. 1-64). Jrgen Mittelstra has commented for German Constructivism in...