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PHILOSOPHICAL
LITERARY
JOURNAL
ISSN 0869-5377
Author: Daston Lorraine

Daston Lorraine

Director Emerita, daston-office@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de.
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPI), 22 Boltzmannstraße, 14195 Berlin, Germany.

Publications

On the Value of Collective Work and Studying Practices: An Interview / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 1-14
annotation:  A conversation with historian of science Lorraine Daston covers the current state of the discipline and Dr. Daston’s own projects. She argues that a history of science is indispensable for understanding contemporary science. She believes that the history of science has the potential to be liberating. By studying the historical variability of science, the discipline shows how science has become what it is — with certain subjects, standards and methods — and points to alternative ways for it to develop. The conversation also turns to whether “big pictures” of the development of science are possible. Although the discipline is trending toward localization with a focus on concrete material practices, historicism, and avoiding generalizations, those big pictures are still possible through collective research projects. Daston cites the efforts of the Working Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin as one example.
The question of the relation between the history of science and philosophy is also discussed. Daston briefly outlines the status of the current interactions between these disciplines and singles out Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Bachelard, Canguilhem, Foucault, and Hadot as some of the key, at least on the European tradition. Speaking about the difference between histories of the natural sciences and the humanities, she suggests that the more interesting optics in their study may be practice-oriented rather than disciplinary. An example of research built around particular practices is her joint research project with Peter Galison on objectivity as a history of the practices for creating and reading scientific images. Daston briefly describes the history and features of their collaboration. In conclusion, she shares her immediate research plans.

Keywords:  history of science; objectivity; observation; collective authorship.
The History of Science and the History of Knowledge / Logos. 2020. № 1 (134). P. 63-90
annotation:  The article examines the state of the history of science as a discipline and its objectives in the context of its origins and current transformations. The establishment of this discipline and its assumptions about the nature of science together with its goals and structure are briefly discussed. The history of science became a discipline only at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, and its start is associated with the work of chemist James Conant, a high-level administrator in Manhattan project who was also president of Harvard University and a high-ranking bureaucrat. It was based also on the narrative developed by Alfred North Whitehead, Edwin Burtt, Alexandre Koyré and other historians of science, which claimed modern science was the creator of modernity and a necessary condition for the geopolitical domination of the West. In that understanding, modern science meant science since the time of Galileo and Newton.
The author provides a critical analysis of this foundation narrative for the discipline and of its consequences while showing how contemporary history of science has overcome it. The contradiction between modernism and historicism has been resolved in favor of the latter. A key role in this was played by the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, which held the potential to undo the presumed monolithic unity of science by rejecting teleology and introducing incommensurability and discontinuities into the historical process. By rejecting explanation of the knowledge of other times and places in terms of modern science, the discipline faced a radical multiplication of independent types of knowledge. This was facilitated by the reorientation to the study of knowledge practices that took place in the 1980s. As a result, the subject matter of the history of science began to erode, and this launched discussion of the prospects for a transition to a history of knowledge based on the study of practices. The sweep of this change of vision is illustrated by the example of classifying sciences according to both their subject matter and the similarities in their research practices. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of the new discipline along with its prospects and the challenges it faces are discussed.

Keywords:  history of science; modernity; Thomas Kuhn; history of knowledge; practice.

Daston Lorraine

Director Emerita, daston-office@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de.
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPI), 22 Boltzmannstraße, 14195 Berlin, Germany.

Publications

On the Value of Collective Work and Studying Practices: An Interview / Logos. 2020. № 2 (135). P. 1-14
annotation:  A conversation with historian of science Lorraine Daston covers the current state of the discipline and Dr. Daston’s own projects. She argues that a history of science is indispensable for understanding contemporary science. She believes that the history of science has the potential to be liberating. By studying the historical variability of science, the discipline shows how science has become what it is — with certain subjects, standards and methods — and points to alternative ways for it to develop. The conversation also turns to whether “big pictures” of the development of science are possible. Although the discipline is trending toward localization with a focus on concrete material practices, historicism, and avoiding generalizations, those big pictures are still possible through collective research projects. Daston cites the efforts of the Working Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin as one example.
The question of the relation between the history of science and philosophy is also discussed. Daston briefly outlines the status of the current interactions between these disciplines and singles out Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Bachelard, Canguilhem, Foucault, and Hadot as some of the key, at least on the European tradition. Speaking about the difference between histories of the natural sciences and the humanities, she suggests that the more interesting optics in their study may be practice-oriented rather than disciplinary. An example of research built around particular practices is her joint research project with Peter Galison on objectivity as a history of the practices for creating and reading scientific images. Daston briefly describes the history and features of their collaboration. In conclusion, she shares her immediate research plans.

Keywords:  history of science; objectivity; observation; collective authorship.
The History of Science and the History of Knowledge / Logos. 2020. № 1 (134). P. 63-90
annotation:  The article examines the state of the history of science as a discipline and its objectives in the context of its origins and current transformations. The establishment of this discipline and its assumptions about the nature of science together with its goals and structure are briefly discussed. The history of science became a discipline only at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, and its start is associated with the work of chemist James Conant, a high-level administrator in Manhattan project who was also president of Harvard University and a high-ranking bureaucrat. It was based also on the narrative developed by Alfred North Whitehead, Edwin Burtt, Alexandre Koyré and other historians of science, which claimed modern science was the creator of modernity and a necessary condition for the geopolitical domination of the West. In that understanding, modern science meant science since the time of Galileo and Newton.
The author provides a critical analysis of this foundation narrative for the discipline and of its consequences while showing how contemporary history of science has overcome it. The contradiction between modernism and historicism has been resolved in favor of the latter. A key role in this was played by the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, which held the potential to undo the presumed monolithic unity of science by rejecting teleology and introducing incommensurability and discontinuities into the historical process. By rejecting explanation of the knowledge of other times and places in terms of modern science, the discipline faced a radical multiplication of independent types of knowledge. This was facilitated by the reorientation to the study of knowledge practices that took place in the 1980s. As a result, the subject matter of the history of science began to erode, and this launched discussion of the prospects for a transition to a history of knowledge based on the study of practices. The sweep of this change of vision is illustrated by the example of classifying sciences according to both their subject matter and the similarities in their research practices. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of the new discipline along with its prospects and the challenges it faces are discussed.

Keywords:  history of science; modernity; Thomas Kuhn; history of knowledge; practice.
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