Erkenntnis

, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 377–390 | Cite as

On the Historicity of Scientific Objects

Article

Abstract

The historical variation of scientific knowledge has lent itself to the development of historical epistemology, which attempts to historicize the origin and establishment of knowledge claims. The questions I address in this paper revolve around the historicity of the objects of those claims: How and why do new scientific objects appear? What exactly comes into being in such cases? Do scientific objects evolve over time and in what ways? I put forward and defend two theses: First, the ontology of science is so rich and variegated that there are no universally valid answers to these questions. Second, we need a pluralist account of scientific objects, a pluralist metaphysics that can do justice to their rich diversity and their various modes of being and becoming. I then focus on hidden objects, which are supposed to be part of the permanent furniture of the universe, and I discuss their birth and historicity: They emerge when various phenomena coalesce as manifestations of a single hidden cause and their representations change over time. Finally, I examine the conditions under which an evolving representation may still refer to the same object and I illustrate my argument drawing upon the early history of electrons.

References

  1. Arabatzis, T. (2003). Towards a historical ontology? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 34, 431–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arabatzis, T. (2006). Representing electrons: A biographical approach to theoretical entities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arabatzis, T. (2008). Experimenting on (and with) hidden entities: The inextricability of representation and intervention. In U. Feest, G. Hon, H.-J. Rheinberger, J. Schickore, & F. Steinle (Eds.), Generating experimental knowledge (pp. 7–17). MPIWG preprint 340.Google Scholar
  4. Arabatzis, T. (2009a). Cathode rays. In F. Weinert, K. Hentschel, & D. Greenberger (Eds.), Compendium of quantum physics: Concepts, experiments, history and philosophy (pp. 89–92). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  5. Arabatzis, T. (2009b). Electrons. In F. Weinert, K. Hentschel, & D. Greenberger (Eds.), Compendium of quantum physics: Concepts, experiments, history and philosophy (pp. 195–199). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Arabatzis, T. (2011). Hidden entities and experimental practice: Renewing the dialogue between history and philosophy of science. In S. Mauskopf & T. M. Schmaltz (Eds.), Integrating history and philosophy of science: Problems and prospects (pp. 125–139). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Bensaude-Vincent, B., & Newman, W. R. (2007). Introduction: The artificial and the natural: State of the problem. In B. Bensaude-Vincent & W. R. Newman (Eds.), The artificial and the natural: An evolving polarity (pp. 1–19). Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bloor, D. (2005). Toward a sociology of epistemic things. Perspectives on Science, 13, 285–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buchwald, J., & Franklin, A. (2005). Introduction: Beyond disunity and historicism. In J. Buchwald & A. Franklin (Eds.), Wrong for the right reasons. Archimedes (Vol. 11, pp. 1–16). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canales, J. (2009). A tenth of a second: A history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cartwright, N. (1989). Nature’s capacities and their measurement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  12. Chang, H. (2008). The persistence of epistemic objects through scientific change. Paper presented at the international conference What (good) is historical epistemology?, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.Google Scholar
  13. Daston, L. (Ed.). (2000). Biographies of scientific objects. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Daston, L. (2008). On scientific observation. Isis, 99, 97–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Daston, L., & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  16. del Toro Iniesta, J. C. (1996). On the discovery of the Zeeman effect on the sun and in the laboratory. Vistas in Astronomy, 40, 241–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Galison, P. (1997). Image and logic: A material culture of microphysics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Galison, P. (2004). Specific theory. Critical Inquiry, 30, 379–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Giere, R. (2006). Scientific perspectivism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hacking, I. (1983). Representing and intervening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hacking, I. (1992). The self-vindication of the laboratory sciences. In A. Pickering (Ed.), Science as practice and culture (pp. 29–64). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hacking, I. (2002). Historical ontology. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kaiser, D. (2006). Whose mass is it anyway? Particle cosmology and the objects of theory. Social Studies of Science, 36, 533–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Klein, U., & Lefèvre, W. (2007). Materials in eighteenth-century science: A historical ontology. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Langevin, P. (1904). The relations of physics of electrons to other branches of science. In H. J. Rogers (Ed.), International congress of arts and science: Physics and chemistry (Vol. 7, pp. 121–156). London & New York: University Alliance.Google Scholar
  26. Latour, B. (1996). Do scientific objects have a history? Pasteur and Whitehead in a bath of lactic acid. Common Knowledge, 5, 76–91.Google Scholar
  27. Latour, B. (1999). Pandora’s hope: Essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Latour, B. (2008). A textbook case revisited—knowledge as a mode of existence. In E. J. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch, & J. Wajcman (Eds.), The handbook of science and technology studies (pp. 83–112). Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Maxwell, G. (1962). The ontological status of theoretical entities. In H. Feigl & G. Maxwell (Eds.), Scientific explanation, space and time. Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science (Vol. 3, pp. 3–27). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  30. Messeri, L. R. (2010). The problem with Pluto: Conflicting cosmologies and the classification of planets. Social Studies of Science, 40, 187–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Putnam, H. (1962). What theories are not. (Rep. in idem, Mathematics, matter and method. Philosophical papers (Vol. 1, pp. 215–227). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  32. Rheinberger, H.-J. (1997). Toward a history of epistemic things: Synthesizing proteins in the test tube. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Rheinberger, H.-J. (2005). A reply to David Bloor: “Toward a sociology of epistemic things”. Perspectives on Science, 13, 406–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rheinberger, H.-J. (2010). An epistemology of the concrete: Twentieth-century histories of life. Durham & London: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Staley, R. (2008). Einstein’s generation: The origins of the relativity revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Steinle, F. (2002). Experiments in history and philosophy of science. Perspectives on Science, 10, 408–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thomson, J. J. (1897). Cathode rays. Philosophical magazine, 5th series, 44, 293–316.Google Scholar
  38. Van Fraassen, B. C. (1980). The scientific image. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and History of ScienceUniversity of AthensAthensGreece

Personalised recommendations