Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 15, 1981 - Philosophy - 203 pages
Originally published in German in 1935, this monograph anticipated solutions to problems of scientific progress, the truth of scientific fact and the role of error in science now associated with the work of Thomas Kuhn and others. Arguing that every scientific concept and theory—including his own—is culturally conditioned, Fleck was appreciably ahead of his time. And as Kuhn observes in his foreword, "Though much has occurred since its publication, it remains a brilliant and largely unexploited resource."

"To many scientists just as to many historians and philosophers of science facts are things that simply are the case: they are discovered through properly passive observation of natural reality. To such views Fleck replies that facts are invented, not discovered. Moreover, the appearance of scientific facts as discovered things is itself a social construction, a made thing. A work of transparent brilliance, one of the most significant contributions toward a thoroughly sociological account of scientific knowledge."—Steven Shapin, Science
 

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User Review  - JFBallenger - LibraryThing

An absolutely essential book in the philosophy and sociology of science. Originally published in 1935, this truly remarkable book seems to anticipate major arguments and concepts from some of the most ... Read full review

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Contents

How the Modern Concept of Syphilis Originated
Epistemological Conclusions from the Established History of a Concept
2
Section 2 Protoideas as Guidelines for the Development of any Finding
5
Section 3 The Tenacity of Systems of Opinion and the Harmony of Illusions Viewpoints as Autonomous StylePermeated Structures Gebilde
9
Section 4 Introduction to Thought Collectives
20
The Wassermann Reaction and Its Discovery
34
Epistemological Considerations Concerning the History of the Wassermann Reaction
64
Section 2 Observation Experiment Experience
66
Section 3 Further Observations Concerning Thought Collectives
80
Section 4 Some Characteristics of the Thought Collective of Modern Science
93
Section 5 Thought Styles
107
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About the author (1981)

Thomas S. Kuhn's work is best described as a normative historiography of science. He was educated at Harvard University, where in 1949 he completed a doctorate in physics. As a student, he was impressed by the differences between scientific method, as conventionally taught, and the way science actually works. Before moving to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979, he taught at Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University. Kuhn's most celebrated contribution to the philosophy of science is his controversial idea of paradigms and paradigm shifts. A paradigm is understood as a widely shared theoretical framework within which scientific research is conducted. According to Kuhn, science normally develops more or less smoothly within such a paradigm until an accumulation of difficulties reduces its effectiveness. The paradigm finally breaks down in a crisis, which is followed by the formation of a radically new paradigm in a so-called scientific revolution. The new paradigm is accepted, even though it might neither resolve all of the accumulated difficulties nor explain the data better than the older paradigm that it replaces. We find examples of paradigm shifts in the work of Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and others. Since its original publication in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions undoubtedly has been the single most influential book in the philosophy of science.

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