Fleck and the social constitution of scientific objectivity History of Philosophy of Science 2008 (Parallel Session II) University of British Columbia, Vancouver June 19, 2008 Melinda Bonnie Fagan Department of Philosophy Rice University
Outline of talk: I. Introduction: Fleck’s life, work and (delayed) reception II. The ‘thought style of modern science’ III. Social constitution of scientific objectivity IV. Critique: genesis and development of Fleck’s scientific objectivity V. Conclusion: renewing Fleck’s social epistemology
Ludwik Fleck (1896-1961) Ludwik Fleck: life and work 1896 b. 11 July, Lwów, Poland 1921-3 assistant to Weigl, Przmysl & Lwów universities (typhus) 1923-41 bacteriology and serology laboratories, Lwów (routine analysis) 1935 Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache 1941 bacteriology lab, Lwów ghetto (typhus diagnosis and vaccine) 1942 serology lab, Auschwitz Hygiene Institute (typhus, syphilis diagnosis) 1943-5 serology lab Buchenwald Hygiene Institute (typhus vaccine) 1945-57 professor of Microbiology, Marie Curie Sklodowska University, Lublin 1957 emigration to Israel (professor of Experimental Pathology, Ness-Ziona) 1961 d. 5 June, Ness-Ziona, Israel
1927 ‘Some specific features of the medical way of thinking’ 1929 ‘On the crisis of reality’ 1934 ‘How did the Bordet-Wassermann reaction originate and how does a scientific discovery originate in general?’ 1935 ‘On the foundations of medical knowledge’ 1935 Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact 1936 ‘Scientific observation and perception in general’ 1936 ‘The problem of epistemology’ 1939 ‘Science and social context’ 1946 ‘Problems in science of science’ 1947 ‘To look, to see, to know’ 1960 ‘Crisis in science’ (ms., published 1986) Fleck’s comparative epistemology: Main features: • historical • tripartite • social (interactive) • thought-style constraint • facts develop (as ‘resistance’) • truth relative to thought-style • comparative replaces evaluative epist. Treponoma pallidum
Fleck’s delayed reception: • Lwów-Warsaw School of philosophy of science - Ajdukewicz X - Chwistek (1936) - Dambska (1937) • logical empiricists (Vienna Circle) - Schlick X - Reichenbach (1938) • Polish school of philosophy of medicine - Bilikiewicz (1939) • Sociology of science: - Shapin (1982), Bloor (1986) - Harwood (1986), Golinski (1998) - Freudenthal and Löwy (1988) - Latour (2008)
exoteric exoteric esoteric general experts specialists The thought-style of modern science: “We have defined thought style as the readiness for directed perception and appropriate assimilation of what has been perceived. We have already mentioned the particular mood which produces this readiness for any particular thought style. An exhaustive investigation of thought styles cannot be assigned to this book, for it would take up the working capacity of a lifetime. There is but one element of the thought-style of modern science that ought to be discussed, namely the specific intellectual mood of modern scientific thinking, especially in the natural sciences. This mood stands in direct relation to the specific structure of the thought collective of science as has already been described” (142; italics mine). journal vademecum popular
ideal of modern science public general experts specialists Thought-collective of modern science:
exoteric general experts specialists The thought-style of modern science: “…There is but one element of the thought-style of modern science that ought to be discussed, namely the specific intellectual mood of modern scientific thinking, especially in the natural sciences. This mood stands in direct relation to the specific structure of the thought collective of science as has already been described” (142; italics mine). The intellectual mood of modern science is “expressed as a common reverence for an ideal – the ideal of objective truth, clarity, and accuracy” (142). It is “put into effect” by an obligation, a tendency, and a belief of members of the thought collective of modern science. journal vademecum popular
Norms of scientific objectivity: 1) obligation of each scientist to “withdraw his or her own individuality to the background” 2) tendency to objectivize (reify) results of scientific inquiry 3) “reverence for number and form,” closed system of relations among elements, “maximal information” Scientific objectivity is constituted by the social epistemic structure of modern science.
Comparative epistemology as ‘science of sciences’ “Thus, a structure is created step by step. Starting as a unique event or discovery, as seen from the history of thought, this is developed by extraordinary forces of the thought collective into what seems to it to be a necessarily recurrent and thus objective and real finding. The disciplined, shared mood of scientific thought, consisting of the elements enumerated, connected with the practical means and effects, yields the specialized thought style of science. Good work done according to style, instantly awakens a corresponding mood of solidarity in the reader…Only later does one examine the details to see whether they can be incorporated into a system, that is, whether the realization of the thought style has been consistently achieved… These determinations legitimize the work so that it can be added to the stock of scientific knowledge and convert what has been presented into scientific fact” (1979/35, 145).
Genesis and development of Fleck’s social epistemology Löwy:Fleck’s “vision of science and his attitude toward nature both deriv[e] from his professional experience” in immunology and microbiology, in particular his “outsider status” (1986, 421; 1988). Polish School of philosophy of medicine (late 19th-early 20th c) • medical construction of diseases, classifications • philosophical significance of immunology (Biernacki) • cases in history of medicine show observer bias as to the ‘facts’ (Kramsztyk ‘A Clinical Fact,’ 1898) • historical relativism about medical truth and influences of ideology (Trzebinski) Tytus Chalubinski (1820-1889)
Rejected: • etiological theory of disease • fixity of bacterial species • strict specificity & chemical characterization of antibody Favored: • holistic view of disease as host-pathogen interaction in environmental context • context-dependent bacterial variability • continuum of specificities, physico-chemical-cellular account of immune phenomena From Ehrlich (1882) Fleck’s scientific views: holism, history, complexity Leukocyte inflammation (400x, hemoxylin eosin)
Fleck’s experience: social transitions 1) medical student to research assistant at university laboratory (1920) 2) from university lab assistant to city hospital serologist (1923) 3) establishes private laboratory for personal research (1923) 4) from serologist to head of hospital serology lab (1925) 5) co-founds History of Medicine Society (1925) 6) visits scientific center for serotherapy (Vienna) (1926) 7) from head of hospital lab to head of Sick Fund lab (1928) 8) from head of Sick Fund lab to private lab only (1935) Fleck’s social epistemology develops as a scientific fact.
public general experts specialists Is Fleck’s scientific objectivity socially constituted? “ideal of objective truth, clarity, and accuracy” put into effect by: 1) obligation of each scientist to “withdraw his or her own individuality to the background” 2) tendency to objectivize results of scientific inquiry 3) progress toward a closed system of “maximal information” detailing relations among elements Fleck’s account of objectivity undermined by social studies of science
Conclusion: renewing Fleck’s social epistemology • Fleck’s life, work and (delayed) reception • ‘thought style of modern science’ directly related to social structure of scientific thought collective • social constitution of scientific objectivity • assessment - reflexively coherent, but not grounded in actual scientific practice Modification: refocus norms for scientific objectivity on interaction, disunity, complexity in scientific practice