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The Robustness of Science and the Dance of Agency

  • Andrew Pickering
Chapter
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 292)

Abstract

This essay examines the notion of ‘robustness’ from the perspective developed in my book, The Mangle of Practice. The central concept is that of an emergent and decentred dance of agency between scientists and the material world—nature, instruments, machines. The novel argument here is that in science such dances have the telos of extinguishing themselves—of making a clean split between human scientists and ‘free-standing machines’—of making the world dual. That this end is sometimes more or less accomplished points to a degree of nonhuman stability in the material culture of science which is the ontological basis of its robustness. I extend the discussion to include the epistemological components of science and their robustness, and conclude with a consideration of the relation between robustness, uniqueness and contingency. Ontological robustness is the achievement of a specific ‘machinic grip’ on the world, and I argue, with examples at both micro- and macro-scales, that we should not assume that there is one best machinic grip that science is destined to find. My suggestion is that a novel and non-representational sort of ‘machinic incommensurability’ continually bubbles up in science, at all scales, large and small.

Keywords

Scientific Knowledge Material World Bubble Chamber Scientific Culture Interactive Stabilisation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgement

This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2010-330-B00169).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and PhilosophyUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyKyung Hee UniversitySeoulKorea

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