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80 • Science and Its Recent History From an Epochal Break to Novel, Nonlocal Patterns HANS RADDER 7 7 The epochal break thesis comes in several versions. What they have in common is the claim that during a limited period of time, science, as it is actually practiced, has changed substantially or even essentially. Moreover, this change is taken to mark the start of a new age. That is to say, its occurrence is intrinsically related to a wide-ranging, epoch-making sociocultural development and its impact extends far beyond the specialized practices of the sciences. Most advocates of the thesis agree about the dating of the break: the year 1980 is often mentioned as a focal point, even if this dating is as often (and rightly) qualified by pointing to developments in the earlier decades as leading up to the break. Beyond this general characterization, we find different articulations of the thesis. In his contribution to this edited volume, Alfred Nordmann sees the essential change in a transition from a scientific enterprise to a regime of technoscience. The primary focus of this view is on the distinct philosophical status of science as compared to technoscience. The mode-1/mode-2 approach, briefly summarized in Gregor Schiemann’s contribution in this collection, has a much stronger focus on institutional, economic, and policy features. Mode-1 research is claimed to be autonomous, academic, disciplinary, and methodological , while mode-2 knowledge production is characterized by taking place science and its recent history • 81 in application contexts, by being commercialized and transdisciplinary, and by essentially including social criteria of accountability and quality control (see Gibbons et al. 1994). The epochal break thesis constitutes a bold claim with historical, philosophical , social, and moral dimensions. This chapter discusses some aspects of each of these dimensions. First, I argue that the idea of a single “great divide ” between a scientific enterprise and a regime of technoscience is questionable on both historical and philosophical grounds. Yet this does not imply that there are no important distinctions at all between recent and past science. In section 2, I point to two novel patterns that can be distinguished in recent scienti fic practices: a strong focus on the issue of the external validity of scientific methods and claims, and a significant commodification of academic research. In section 3, I conclude that a conception of scientific development in terms of the emergence and reproduction of novel, nonlocal patterns is preferable to an account in terms of an epochal break. Furthermore, using Max Weber’s idealtype approach, I provide a sketch of how nonlocal patterns may be identified and explained, and what is implied, as well as what isn’t, in postulating the existence of such patterns. The chapter closes with an argument for making explicit the normative issues involved in advocating philosophical claims—be they about epochal breaks or about novel, nonlocal patterns. In the present case, this implies highlighting, scrutinizing, explaining, and assessing the implications of the focus on external validity and of the commodification of academic research. 1. No Great Divide between Science and Technoscience Let me start with history. An important part of the arguments for or against an epochal break pertains to alleged or disputed changes in the relationship between science and technology. Obviously, these arguments presuppose some account of the relationship between science and technology before and after the break. Unfortunately, these accounts are often less than adequate. Thus in his chapter in this edited volume Schiemann takes for granted the appropriateness and correctness of the “classical conception of science,” in which scientific knowledge is characterized in terms of generality, necessity, and truth. This classical conception, however, is primarily a creation of philosophers, which is very hard to reconcile with science “as it was actually practiced.” The fact that this conception had a certain impact on the self-understanding of certain scientists (and hence some impact on their practice) by no means implies that it can be taken for granted as a plausible general account of science. Thomas Kuhn (1977) has characterized the development of the physical 82 • hans radder sciences between the seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth century in terms of two, largely independent traditions: a mathematical or classical and an experimental or Baconian tradition. The mathematical tradition was a transformation and extension of ancient sciences that included astronomy, harmonics, mathematics, optics, statics, and the study of motion. The Baconian tradition emerged in...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822977506
Related ISBN
9780822961635
MARC Record
OCLC
830023856
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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