History of Science and its Sociological Reconstructions

  • Steven Shapin
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 87)


One can either debate the possibility of the historical sociology of scientific knowledge or one can do it. Ludwik Fleck took the latter course of action. In Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache Fleck’s overriding concern was with the interpretation of a particular episode in the history of science, and his focus never strayed from the empirical materials pertinent to that task. His more general theoretical statements always arose out of and referred to the historical particulars and circumstances of that episode. Thus, one way of characterizing Fleck’s book is to regard it as the work of a practising scientist, intimately familiar with the genesis and career of the Wassermann test: and this would not be an incorrect characterization. Another way of appreciating his accomplishment would be to see it as a piece of empirical history, providing a concrete exemplification of the sociology of scientific knowledge. The only wholly misguided approach to Fleck’s work would be to distill his theorizing out of the empirical concerns in which it was grounded.


Scientific Knowledge Social Study Historical Study Social Interest Historical Actor 
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.


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I. Contingency and the Sociology of Knowledge: Observation and Experiment

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II. Professional Vested Interests and Sociological Explanation

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III. Interests and the Boundaries of the Scientific Community

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IV(a).The Use of Cultural Resources

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IV(b). The Social Use of Nature in the Wider Society

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V. Full Circle: Contingency and Wider Social Interests

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VI. Other Sociological Perspectives not Discussed in Text VI(a). ‘Conservative Thought’

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VI(b). Towards a Sociology of Mathematics

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VI(c). Discipline Formation and Research Schools

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VI(d). ‘Grid and Group’: Cultural Bias in the Sciences

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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Shapin

There are no affiliations available

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