Portrait of Herbert Feigl by Louis Safer 1970

The Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science (MCPS) was established in 1953 by Professor Herbert Feigl (assisted by others), who became its first director. Almost immediately it became the leading (and perhaps only) such institution in the world. Although other such centers were later established (at the Universities of Pittsburgh, Virginia at Blacksburg, Chicago, etc.), MCPS remains among the most distinguished. The center's members, fellows, and visitors have included most of the leading philosophers of science in the international community of scholars, and the volumes in its series Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science have from the beginning been essential components of the libraries of philosophers of science.

Feigl retired in 1971, and his associate, Professor Grover Maxwell, was appointed director and continued in this position for the next ten years. During this period MCPS had four philosophers of science as members and was therefore sensitive to the loss of even one. Maxwell died in 1981 and member John Earman began considering a change of university (four years later he moved to the University of Pittsburgh), leaving MCPS with few members and an uncertain future. However, the Department of Philosophy, the Program in History of Science and Technology, and the College supported its continuance.

Consequently, several new members were added. Professors Philip and Patricia Kitcher were hired by the Department of Philosophy; Philip became director of MCPS, and the Center obtained a major NEH grant to fund a two-year institute on consensus in the philosophy of science. There was, in consequence, a reason to hope that MCPS would soon regain its former distinguished position. However, the Kitchers left for the University of California at San Diego in 1986, and it became necessary to launch a second renewal effort. This effort resulted in the appointments of Professors Ronald Giere and Geoffrey Hellman to the Department of Philosophy and MCPS in 1987, and to Giere's immediate appointment as director of the Center. The process of expanding and broadening the MCPS's membership continued with Giere's assumption of the directorship. Over a period of time Professors Geoffrey Hellman, Arthur Caplan, Margaret Morrison, Kenneth Waters, and Helen Longino became members as they joined the University faculty.

During the period of Giere's directorship, MCPS increased its membership and improved its interdisciplinary composition and effort, continued the constitutionally mandated programs that fulfill its stated purpose, continued its major role in the maintenance and improvement of the philosophy of science program of the Department of Philosophy, obtained with the Program in History of Science and Technology an $800,000 five-year NSF research training grant, and became highly visible through the professional activities of its members.

C. Kenneth Waters succeeded Giere as the Center Director in September 1996.

Alan C. Love succeeded Waters as the Center Director in June 2014.

A short historical overview of the links between the Vienna Circle (begun in 1924) and the origins and continued activities of MCPS.