Seminar of Historical Epistemology (SHE)
(Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)
“The Manipulative Hand and the Attentive Eye”
The historical epistemology of lab-science from Bachelard’s applied rationalism to Hacking’s experimental realism
When: Wednesday, May 31, h 14.30
Where: University of Milan, Aula Enzo Paci
Historical epistemology is nowadays a widespread but controversial umbrella term, especially in Anglophone domains, where it is used to name a growing number of different case studies and distant, when not outright incoherent, methodologies for combining history and philosophy of science. My contention is that the field of historical epistemology can be stabilized by means of an a posteriori confrontation with the French tradition of épistémologie historique, better referred to as the “French style in epistemology” (Braunstein 2002). In this presentation, I offer an example of such a stabilization through a comparative analysis of Gaston Bachelard’s basic concept of applied rationalism, phenomenotechnique (Bachelard 1932), and Ian Hacking’s experimental argument from Representing and Intervening (1983) for the realism of unobservable theoretical entities. Despite important differences between their work, both philosophers emphasize that theoretical entities like the electron are the result of scientific « realization » and, more generally, that the sciences progress by producing new phenomena and accumulating ways of reasoning about them. My analysis will highlight how this original account of science, and of technoscience in particular, despite apparent similarities to constructivist histories, fundamentally departs from other contemporary proposals within science studies (especially Latour-Woolgar 1979).
Seminar of Historical Epistemology