Fleck’s Style

  • Anne-Marie Moulin
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 87)


As Fleck himself encouraged us to do, I shall attempt a survey of his main work through one of his own methodological concepts. This concept which he applies in a sometimes loose but always stimulating way is the concept of style (Denkstil).


Medical Discourse Germ Theory Strict Specificity Immunological Specificity Latent Syphilis 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    So far, the word’ specificity’ was frequently used by some authors for ‘disease’: for instance, “La seconde observation concerne une femme qui niait toute spécificité2026;. On désire ětre fixé sur la spécificité du rejeton.” (C. Levaditi et J. Roche: La syphilis, Paris, 1909, pp. 127-129.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Lamarckian point of view on evolution was very strong at the time among Pasteur’s colleagues. On attempts to present the attenuation of virus as a Lamarckian procedure, see A.-M. Moulin: Pasteurisme et Lamarckisme, Bull. Institut Pasteur, Paris, 1985, in press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    To compare with the bold text of the Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Sciences: “J’ai passé sous silence une question ardue dont l’étude m’a pris un temps considérable. Je m’étais persuadé, à vrai dire je ne sais pourquoi, que tous les faits d’atténuation que j’observais s’expliqueraient d’une manière plus conforme aux lois naturelles dans l’hypothèse de mélanges en proportions variables et déterminées, de deux virus, l’un très virulent, l’autre très atténué, que par l’existence d’un virus à virulence progressivement variable. Après m’ětre, pour ainsi dire, acharné à la recherche d’une démonstration expérimentale de cette hypothèse de seuls virus, j’ai fini par acquérir la conviction que ce n’était pas la vérité.” (L. Pasteur: C. R. Acad. Sci. 1880, in Oeuvres, Tome VI, p. 331.) For the debate on attenuated virus, cf. P. Mazumdar: Landsteiner and the Problem of Species, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1976, part I.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    A System of Bacteriology in Relation to Medicine, Medical Research Council, London, 1931, Vol. VI.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Phagocytosis referred to the ability of white blood cells to engulf any sort of particle.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Bordet: Traité de l’immunité dans les maladies infectieuses, Masson, Paris, pp. 443–444.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    L. P. Rubin: ‘Styles in Scientific Explanation, Paul Ehrlich and Svante Arrhenius on Immunochemistry’, Journal of the History of Medicine (October 1980), pp. 397–425.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    K. Landsteiner: ‘On the Specificity of Agglutinins and Precipitins’, Journal of Experimental Medicine 40 (1924), 91–107. Pauline Mazumdar has very nicely focused her main work on Landsteiner and specificity, cf. op. cit.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    E. G. Clark et al.: ‘The Oslo Study of the Natural History of Untreated Syphilis’, J. Chronic Diseases 2,3 (1955), 311–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    The first paper written in the USA was an editorial in the JAMA of 1907. (H. Hecht: ‘Half a Century of a Serodiagnosis of Syphilis’, Archives of Dermatology 4 (1956), 433.) In the latter part of 1909, there were only three English papers on the subject of the Wassermann test (L. W. Harrison: Half a Life-time in the Management of Venereal Diseases, op. cit., p. 444.)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    J. Kolmer: ‘Serological Tests for Syphilis’, Archives of Dermatology op. cit., p. 457.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    The famous syphilologist Alfred Fournier suggested the term ‘parasyphilis’ for late manifestations known as neurosyphilis: for him, they were not caused by the syphilitic ‘virus’ since they were resistant to mercury. The Wassermann reaction linked parasyphilis, primary lesions and latent syphilis in the newborn, before Noguchi demonstrated in 1913 active treponema in the brains of general paralytics. Cf. E. Lomax: ‘Infantile Syphilis as an Example of XIXth Century Belief in the Inheritance of Acquired characteristics’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 34, 1 (1979), 23-39.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    P. A. Richmond: ‘The Germ Theory of Disease’, in A. M. Lilienfeld (ed.), Aspects of the History of Epidemiology. Times, Places and Persons, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1978, p. 87.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    On the success of the word’ style’ as an analytic term for the history of science, cf. Ian Hacking, ‘Language, Truth and Reason’, in Martin Hollis and Stevens Lukes (eds.): Rationality and Relativism, Oxford, 1982, p. 51.Google Scholar

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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

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  • Anne-Marie Moulin

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