Author: Pisarev Alexander
Junior Researcher, email@example.com. Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Science, 12/1 Goncharnaya str., Moscow 109240, Russia.
“We Are All Post-Kuhnian”: Episodes in the Remarkable Story of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions / Logos. 2020. № 3 (136). P. 135-177
annotation: Book Review
Keywords: scientific revolutions; history of science
In Search of an Evanescent Object: Science and Its History / Logos. 2020. № 1 (134). P. 1-28
annotation: The authors start from the premise that science is an empirical manifold and then
examine different ways of dealing with it. The traditional essentialist approach
would construct a single “essence,” a unique and normative set of distinctive qualities
that is to be found with minor variations in any branch of science. The usual
elements in such a set are the concepts of fact, method, theory, experiment, verification
and falsification, while any social, political and cultural processes or factors
are discounted as external and collateral. This approach would provide a
relatively straightforward account of what science is and reliably distinguish science
from everything that is not science so that its claim to autonomy would be
supported by a normative “strong” image of science. The history of science would
then be reduced to a selection of illustrations of how that essence was formed and
implemented. The most well-known versions of this essence and strong image are
derived from a logical positivist philosophy of science and from the self-descriptions
of many scientists, which are usually considered the authoritative explanation
of science and often referred to when science is popularized. The authors point
out some considerations that cast doubt on this privilege of self-description. Furthermore,
scientificity requires that science itself become an object of specialized research.
Studying the activities of scientists and scientific communities using the empirical
methods of sociology, history and anthropology has exposed a divergence between
the normative “strong” image and the actually observed variety of sciences, methodologies,
ways to be scientists, etc. When those empirical disciplines are applied to science, they do not provide an alternative “strong” image of it, but instead construct a relativized and pluralistic “weak” one. The authors locate the crux of the dilemma of choosing between these images of science at the point where the desire to study science meets the urge to defend its autonomy. The article closes by briefly describing the current state of the history of science and outlining the possible advantages of choosing the “weak” image.
Keywords: science; science studies; history of science; strong image of science; weak image of science.
Pinky and the Brain take over the world again: genealogy and adventures of the cerebral subject / Logos. 2018. № 5 (126). P. 299-311
annotation: The article provides a review of the problems handled by historian of science Fernando Vidal and sociologist Francisco Ortega in their book Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Fordham University Press, 2017). They delve into the anthropological figure of the cerebral subject, a figure which depends upon on the thesis of a connection between the brain and the self (personality): the brain generates personality and defines its behavior. This thesis in a naturalized form is promoted by neuroscience as the cutting edge of research into human nature. At the same time, it has spread far beyond the precincts of science and is generating diverse practices and discourses that have a direct impact on the lives of individuals. Thus, scientific knowledge as the truth about human nature becomes the core of the technologies governing the self. Vidal and Ortega place the thesis about the connection between the brain and the personality in historical context and show that it appeared in the 17th century long before the birth of modern neuroscience and that it has its own history. Neuroscience has inherited it and adopted it as its own premise. The figure of the cerebral subject thus motivates the research into the brain, although it is not a result of it; but this does not negate the fact that its dissemination and entrenchment is due to the stream of scientific facts. On the basis of various materials and recent social research data, Vidal and Ortega trace the ideology of the cerebral subject, analyse the disciplines supporting it that were formed as a result the introduction of neuroscience into the human sciences, and discuss the theoretical and practical consequences of a neuro-essentialism that reduces the nature of a person to the brain. Although this idea has become part of common sense, Vidal and Ortega show that the cerebral subject coexists with other types of self and that individuals pragmatically resort to discourse about the brain only in particular situations.
Keywords: cerebral subject; ideology; brain; neuroscience; self; genealogy
Actor-Network Theory: An Unfinished Assemblage / Logos. 2017. № 1 (116). P. 1-40
annotation: This article outlines the context of two Logos issues, “Anti-Latour,” “UAVs, Elevators, Scallops, Zimbabwe Bush Pump,” and “New Ontologies.” These three issues issues are based on the idea of an atlas meant to map out the intellectual landscape of actor-network theory (ANT) and flat ontologies. Over the course of a few decades of its existence, ANT has evolved from a singular approach in science and technology studies into a transdisciplinary family of theories joined together by a set of basic properties, partial connections, and common references. This article maps out the trajectories of ANT development and reception. Bruno Latour is discussed as one of the main assemblage points of the approach. A one of the founders of the approach, he took part in many of its transformations, as well as in a collective closure and relaunch of the project. However, “Latour” is sometimes a name designating a particular intellectual, sometimes denotes the Paris school of ANT, and is sometimes a reference to a network of research projects, or even the whole actor-network approach. His name conceals differences between these four senses and provides permanent shifts from one to another. Latour’s changeability draws the attention of critics and readers, generating new interpretations of his work. One classic example is the polemic between Bruno Latour and David Bloor, a leader of the Edinburgh school of sociology of scientific knowledge. Their clash is an important event that largely defined which theoretical style would dominate in the field of science and technology studies.
The expansion of ANT across various disciplinary boundaries is discussed in the article through Graham Harman’s proposal to rethink Latour theory in philosophy, connecting the actor-network approach with flat ontologies. This topic is discussed in the third issue (Vol. 27 # 3 2017). This article offers a short description of flat ontologies and highlights the specificity of ANT reception. It finishes with a discussion of the empirical application of the theory, accompanied by commentary on the transformations of vocabulary and of the approach itself.
Keywords: actor-network theory; laboratory; irreductionism; heterogeneity; flat ontology