Looking twice at the history of science

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why do they do it if there's something wrong with it?

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If it is broke, why not fix it?
In previous posts on Will's picture I have said what historians do now according to that picture, and what is wrong with what they do now.

If something is wrong, why don't things change? Some answers are predictable: the situation makes historians feel good, and at any rate it can be rationalised. Others are deeper, arising from two entrenched habits. Firstly, our lack of methodological reflection means that we do not recognise the problem. Secondly, our poor record-keeping means that we forget aspects of our own past work, the work of past historians, and the past in general. Expand post.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's wrong with what historians of science do now?

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According to Will's picture, there are fairly serious problems with the current practices of historians of science, practices I summarised in the previous post. The problems are not self-evident. As a comment-writer asked recently on EWP, “How does the idea of historians seeking “the invisible” differ from what, I think, we all hope to produce in our scholarship, that is, the new?” Likewise, it is not obvious what is wrong with writing case studies, focusing on the sociological aspects of science, and trying to enlighten the public. In this post I'll try to say what WT thinks is wrong with each of these practices. But first, a note and a clarification. Expand post.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What do historians of science do now?

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The short answer to the question in the title, according to Will's picture, is that historians of science use case studies to display the evils that ideologies have caused and the people and events that ideology has hidden. In doing so they prefer sociological over philosophical explanations. They also hope to use the resulting insights to enlighten the public. I'll deal in turn with ideologies, case studies, anti-philosophy, and public enlightenment. Expand post.