The narrative reconstruction of science

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):179 – 196 (1990)
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In contrast to earlier accounts of the epistemic significance of narrative, it is argued that narrative is important in natural scientific knowledge. To recognize this, we must understand narrative not as a literary form in which knowledge is written, but as the temporal organization of the understanding of practical activity. Scientific research is a social practice, whereby researchers structure the narrative context in which past work is interpreted and significant possibilities for further work are projected. This narrative field displays a constant tension between a need for a coherent, shared understanding of the field and the incoherence threatened by divergent projects and interpretations. The account has three parts. First, a summary of the general account of the narrative intelligibility of action which underlies the proffered view of narrative in science. This account is then applied to understanding how scientific work acquires significance, and how the scientific literature is constructed and read. Finally, it is shown how this account should transform our understanding of the unity of science, and it is suggested how it can help undercut various realist and anti?realist interpretations of scientific knowledge, while also challenging the ironic stance which many recent sociologists adopt toward the global legitimation of science attempted by many philosophers



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Joseph Rouse
Wesleyan University

Citations of this work

On not expecting too much from narrative.Peter Lamarque - 2004 - Mind and Language 19 (4):393–408.
The Practitioner of Science: Everyone Her Own Historian. [REVIEW]Mary P. Winsor - 2001 - Journal of the History of Biology 34 (2):229-245.
How to judge scientific research articles.Hennie Lotter - 2000 - South African Journal for Language Teaching 34.
Postmodernism and our understanding of science.Hennie Lotter - 1995 - In Deon Rossouw (ed.), Life in a postmodern culture. Human Sciences Research Council Press.

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