Contemporary sociology of scientificknowledge (SSK) is defined by its relativist trend. Its programme often calls for the support of philosophers, such as Duhem, Quine, and Wittgenstein. A critical re-reading of key texts shows that the main principles of relativism are only derivable with difficulty. The thesis of the underdetermination of theory doesn't forbid that Duhem, in many places, validates a correspondence-consistency theory of truth. He never said that social beliefs and interests fill the lack of underdetermination. (...) Quine's idea of a selective revision of hypotheses, as well as the neat incompatibility between holism and conventionalism, openly challenges the principles of relativism. Wittgenstein's work, which is not presented in book-form but rather as a tree, forces us to avoid aphoristic choices that credit any text-excising. This remark allows us to tackle the passages that sociological relativism is based on.Mathematical conventions are not anthropological objects. When Wittgenstein examines the "language-games," he only speaks of the functioning of natural language, not to be confused with scientific formal languages. We then should render the formula "language-game" by "well-defined, explicit and compulsory rules of communication", which is a much less attractive formula for relativism. Consequently, there does not exist a real continuity between the epistemologies of Duhem, Quine and Wittgenstein, and the recent works of the SSK. (shrink)
Review: 'Half an original interpretation of Heidegger's early work and half an attempt to buttress the sociology of scientificknowledge (SSK) with a more philosophically rigorous grounding, Science as Social Existence will be of interest not only to Heidegger scholars but to anyone engaged in science and technology studies. [...] This is an informative and original book. Kochan should be praised for his clear, pleasant-to-read prose.' (Michael Butler, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, for CHOICE).
This unusually innovative book treats reflexivity, not as a philosophical conundrum, but as a practical issue that arises in the course of scholarly research and argument. In order to demonstrate the concrete and consequential nature of reflexivity, Malcolm Ashmore concentrates on an area in which reflexive "problems" are acute: the sociology of scientificknowledge. At the forefront of recent radical changes in our understanding of science, this increasingly influential mode of analysis specializes in rigorous deconstructions of the (...) research practices and textual products of the scientific enterprise. Through a series of detailed examinations of the practices and products of the sociology of scientificknowledge, Ashmore turns its own claims and findings back onto itself and opens up a whole new era of exploration beyond the common fear of reflexive self-destruction. (shrink)
Several, seemingly unrelated problems of empirical research in the 'sociology of scientificknowledge' can be analyzed as following from initial assumptions with respect to the status of the knowledge content of science. These problems involve: (1) the relation between the level of the scientific field and the group level; (2) the boundaries and the status of 'contexts', and (3) the emergence of so-called 'asymmetry' in discourse analysis. It is suggested that these problems can be clarified (...) by allowing for cognitive factors as independent ('heterogeneous') variables, in addition to and in interaction with (i.e., not only as attributes of) social factors. In the 'sociology of translation', 'heterogeneity' among scientists, cognitions and textual elements has been made a basic assumption. This heterogeneity is bound together in an 'actor network'. However, since the 'actor network' is an empirical category, the methodological problems remain unresolved. This has consequences for the relation between empirical data and theoretical inferences. (shrink)
Recently, many historians of science have chosen to present their historical narratives from the ‘actors’-eye view’. Scientificknowledge not available within the actors’ culture is not permitted to do explanatory work. Proponents of the Sociology of ScientificKnowledge purport to ground this historiography on epistemological relativism. I argue that they are making an unnecessary mistake: unnecessary because the historiographical genre in question can be defended on aesthetic and didactic grounds; and a mistake because the argument (...) from relativism is in any case incoherent.The argument of the present article is self-contained, but steers clear of metaphysical debates in the philosophy of science. To allay fears of hidden assumptions, the sequel, to be published in the following issue, will consider SSK’s prospects of succour from scientific realism, instrumentalism, and a metaphysical system of Bruno Latour’s own devising. (shrink)
In this paper, I show that there are important but hitherto unnoticed similarities between key figures of the Vienna Circle and early defenders of sociology of knowledge. The similarities regard their stance on potential implications of the study of science for political and societal issues. I argue that notably Otto Neurath and Karl Mannheim are concerned with proposing a genuine political philosophy of science that is remarkably different from today’s emerging interest in the relation between science and society (...) in philosophy of science. (shrink)
This volume comprises original articles by leading authors – from philosophy as well as sociology – in the debate around relativism in the sociology of (scientific) knowledge. Its aim has been to bring together several threads from the relevant disciplines and to cover the discussion from historical and systematic points of view. Among the contributors are Maria Baghramian, Barry Barnes, Martin Endreß, Hubert Knoblauch, Richard Schantz and Harvey Siegel.
(Draft copy published as “Science Made Up: Constructivist Sociology of ScientificKnowledge.” In P. Galison and D. Stump (eds.) The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996, pp. 231-54.).
SummaryThe early writings of Barry Barnes, as the co‐founder of the Edinburgh School of sociology of scientificknowledge, are explored to bring out and to evaluate his main presuppositions and arguments. Barnes is highly critical of anthropologists' conception of scientificknowledge, rationality, truth, and their asymmetrical explanatory approach towards different belief‐systems. Likewise he rejects the prevalent View of science among sociologists of knowledge, and also their approach to explanation of knowledge or belief‐adoption. His (...) proposal is based on a Kuhnian model of science, and offers his own socio‐causal explanatory scheme applicable to all beliefs and knowledge‐claims. I have challenged the basis of his model of science and have tried to show that his use of Kuhn's concepts of normal practice and paradigm is problematic, and that his idea of social causation of beliefs is highly problematic.“new paradigms may gain support not because of any demonstrable superiority over the old but simply because scientists welcome the opportunity of a new try at explanation” Barry Barnes “all belief‐systems, scientific or preliterate, ‘true’ or ‘erroneous’, are most profitably compared and understood within a single framework” Barry Barnes. (shrink)
The main theme of this dissertation is to explore how to establish a better relationship between sociological and philosophical investigations of science; how should epistemological considerations be used in sociological studies of scientificknowledge, and how should sociological findings be used in epistemological studies? To answer these questions, I review both sociological and social epistemological literatures on scientificknowledge, with more emphasis on the latter. On the sociological side, I point out that a large part of (...) SSK literature is, contrary to what some philosophers believe, totally compatible with the idea of scientific rationality. Given that, I propose the 'even stronger' program of SSK that can better utilize the philosophical literature on scientific rationality. ;On the philosophical side, I review works of four philosophers in detail. I classify them into two general categories, the descriptive approach and the normative approach . After critical analyses of each of them, I apply their insights to a concrete case study, namely the issues related with diversification of Post WW II American sociology. These analyses and applications aim to show that all of them have some interesting things to say. One interesting observation in terms of the case study is that the diversity in theory and methodology in American sociology may be a good thing for various philosophical reasons, offered by these authors. ;Finally, the general characteristics of descriptive and normative approaches are compared. Some seeming incompatibilities between two approaches can be resolved by introducing some meta-epistemological notions. Especially the notion of WRE is important in identifying different roles played by two approaches. In any case, a good philosophical analysis cannot ignore sociological findings on actual scientific practices. To say the least, when there are two epistemological views, one of them does better than the other in accounting for actual scientific practices, this is a prima facie reason to prefer the one to the other. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper the basic aim of the so?called ?strong programme? in the sociology of knowledge is examined. The ?strong programme? is considered (and rightly so) as an extreme version of the anti?realist view of science. While the problem of scientific realism has normally been dealt with from the point of view of the ?context of justification? of theories, the paper focuses on the issues raised by law?discovery. In this context Herbert Simon's views about the existence (...) of a ?logic of scientific discovery? are discussed and criticized. The main thesis of the paper is that if the structure of both discovery and prediction is properly understood, then the basic anti?realist claims become untenable. A fortiori, the ?strong programme? appears to be unable to explain some basic features of the structure of science. (shrink)
Dascal’s position on scientific controversies is submitted to a critical examination. It is pointed out that his distinction between knowledge and understanding, between ‘hard rationality’ and ‘soft rationality’ is unlikely to survive sustained critical probing. What is egregiously missing in his approach is a recognition of the role of so-called ‘sociology of knowledge’ in the way scientific controversies play out. It is argued that, insofar as they constitute pragmatic events, scientific controversies cannot be studied (...) properly without taking into account their inalienable sociological dimension. (shrink)
“The Strong Programme” is put forward as a metaphysical theory of sociology by the Edinburgh School (SSK) to study the social causes of knowledge. Barry Barnes and David Bloor are the proponents of the School. They call their programme “the Relativist View of Knowledge” and argue against rationalism in the philosophy of science. Does their relativist account of knowledge present a serious challenge to rationalism, which has dominated 20th century philosophy of science? I attempt to answer (...) this question by criticizing the main ideas of SSK and defending rationalism theories in modern philosophy of science. (shrink)
In this essay, I respond to Tim Lewens's proposal that realists and Strong Programme theorists can find common ground in reliabilism. I agree with Lewens, but point to difficulties in his argument. Chief among these is his assumption that reliabilism is incompatible with the Strong Programme's principle of symmetry. I argue that the two are, in fact, compatible, and that Lewens misses this fact because he wrongly supposes that reliabilism entails naturalism. The Strong Programme can fully accommodate a reliabilism which (...) has been freed from its inessential ties to naturalism. Unlike naturalistic epistemologists, the Strong Programme's sociologistic reliabilist insists that all scientific facts are the product of both natural and social causal phenomena. Anticipating objections, I draw on Wittgenstein's rule-following considerations to explain how the sociologistic reliabilist can account for standard intuitions about the objective elements of knowledge. I also explain how the Strong Programme theorist can distinguish between a belief's seeming reliable and its being reliable. Ich setzte den Fu in die Luft, und sie trug. (Hilde Domin). (shrink)
In this essay, I address a novel criticism recently levelled at the Strong Programme by Nick Tosh and Tim Lewens. Tosh and Lewens paint Strong Programme theorists as trading on a contrastive form of explanation. With this, they throw valuable new light on the explanatory methods employed by the Strong Programme. However, as I shall argue, Tosh and Lewens run into trouble when they accuse Strong Programme theorists of unduly restricting the contrast space in which legitimate historical and sociological explanations (...) of scientificknowledge might be given. Their attack founders as a result of their failure to properly understand the overall methodological concerns of Strong Programme theorists. After introducing readers to the technique of contrastive explanation and correcting the errors in Tosh and Lewens’ interpretation of the Strong Programme, I argue that it is, in fact, Tosh and Lewens’ own commitment to scientific realism which places an unacceptable restriction on the explanatory space open to historians and sociologists of science. The happy ending is that the Strong Programme provides more freedom for analysis than does scientific realism, and that careful attention to the methodological benefits of contrastive explanation can help lighten the burden on historians and sociologists of science as they go about their explanatory business. (shrink)
This paper provides a conceptual analysis of the notion of interests as it is used in the social studies of science. After describing the theoretical background behind the Strong Program's adoption of the concept of interest, the paper outlines a reconstruction of the everyday notion of interest and argues that this same notion is used also by the sociologists of scientificknowledge. However, there are a couple of important differences between the everyday use of this notion and the (...) way in which it used by the sociologists. The sociologists do not use the term in evaluative context and they do not regard interests as purely non-epistemic factors. Finally, it is argued that most of the usual critiques of interest explanations, by both philosophers and fellow sociologists, are misguided. (shrink)
In previous decades, a regrettable divorce has arisen between two currents of theorizing and research about knowledge and science: the Mannheimian and Wittgensteinian traditions. The radical impulse of the new social studies of science in the early 1970s was initiated not by followers of Mannheim, but by Wittgensteinians such as Kuhn, Bloor, and Collins. This paper inquires whether this Wittgensteinian program is not presently running into difficulties that might be resolved to some extent by reverting to a more traditional (...) and broader agenda of research. A social theory of knowledge (or social epistemology) along Mannheimian lines would not only reinstate the "magic triangle" of epistemology, sociology, and ethics, and hence revive the vexed problem of "ideology critique," but would also need to reincorporate the social analysis of science into a broader macrosocial theory about the "knowledge society.". (shrink)
For a little more than twenty years, the terminology used in the economics of science has changed significantly with the development of expressions such as ?new economics of science? (NES) and ?economics of scientificknowledge? (ESK). This article seeks to shed light on the use of these different terminologies by studying the work of the economist of science Paul David. We aim to use his work as a case study in order to argue for a difference between NES (...) and ESK and to show, in a concrete way, the sociological ambiguities now going on in the economics of science. (shrink)
Verisimilitude theorists (and many scientific realists) assume that science attempts to provide hypotheses with an increasing degree of closeness to the full truth; on the other hand, radical sociologists of science assert that flesh and bone scientists struggle to attain much more mundane goals (such as income, power, fame, and so on). This paper argues that both points of view can be made compatible, for (1) rational individuals only would be interested in engaging in a strong competition (such as (...) that described by radical sociologists) if they knew in advance the rules under which their outcomes are to be assessed, and (2), if these rules have to be chosen "under a veil of ignorance" (i.e., before knowing what specific theory each scientist is going to devise), then rules favoring highly verisimilar theories can be prefered by researchers to other methodological rules. (shrink)
Verisimilitude theorists assume that science attempts to provide hypotheses with an increasing degree of closeness to the full truth; on the other hand, radical sociologists of science assert that flesh and bone scientists struggle to attain much more mundane goals . This paper argues that both points of view can be made compatible, for rational individuals only would be interested in engaging in a strong competition if they knew in advance the rules under which their outcomes are to be assessed, (...) and , if these rules have to be chosen "under a veil of ignorance" , then rules favoring highly verisimilar theories can be prefered by researchers to other methodological rules. (shrink)
Part of the work for this paper was done during the tenure of a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. I am grateful for financial support provided by the National Science Foundation, Grant #BNS-8011494, and for the assistance of the staff of the Center. I also want to thank David Bloor, Stephen Downes, David Hull and Andy Pickering for offering good advice and criticism, some of which I have heeded.
The focus on discourse and communication in the recent sociology of scientificknowledge offers new perspectives for an integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches in science studies. The common point of interest is the question of how reflexive communication systems communicate. The elaboration of the mathematical theory of communication into a theory of potentially self-organizing entropical systems enables us to distinguish the various layers of communication, and to specify the dynamic changes in these configurations over time. For (...) example, a paradigmatic discourse can be considered as a virtual communication system at the supra-individual level. Communication systems, however, cannot be directly observed. One observes only their instantaneous operations. The reflexive analyst is able to attribute the observed uncertainty to hypothesized systems that interact in the events. The implications of this perspective for various programmes in the sociology of scientificknowledge are discussed. (shrink)
This paper considers the charge that—contrary to the current widespread assumption accompanying the near-universal neglect of his work—Wilhelm Jerusalem (1854–1923) cannot count as one of the founders of the sociology of (scientific) knowledge. In order to elucidate the matter, Jerusalem’s “sociology of cognition” is here reconstructed in the context of his own work in psychology and philosophy as well as in the context of the work of some predecessors and contemporaries. It is argued that while it (...) shows clear discontinuities with the present-day understanding of the sociology of (scientific) knowledge, Jerusalem’s sociology of cognition was not only distinctive in its own day but also anticipated in nuce a much-discussed theme in current history of science. (shrink)