The Social Production of Scientific Knowledge

Volume 1 of the series Sociology of the Sciences A Yearbook pp 3-26

The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge

  • Everett MendelsohnAffiliated withHarvard University

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In the closing pages of her remarkable study of Giordano Bruno, Frances Yates set forth the critical problem of modern science:

The basic difference between the attitude of the magician to the world and the attitude of the scientist to the world is that the former wants to draw the world into himself, whilst the scientist does just the opposite, he externalizes and impersonalizes the world… Hence, may it not be supposed, when mechanics and mathematics took over from animism and magic, it was this internalisation, this intimate connection of the mens with the world, which had to be avoided at all costs. And, hence, it may be suggested, through the necessity for this strong reaction, the mistake arose of allowing the problem of mind to fall so completely out of step and so far behind the problem of matter in the external world and how it works… This bad start of the problem of knowledge has never quite been made up (1).