- Murakami Yoichiro no kagakuron: Hihan to outou 村上陽一 郎の科学論: 批判と応答 [Yoichiro Murakami's Science Studies: Critiques and Response]
Tokyo, Shin Yo Sha. 2016. pp. 436. ¥3,900.
"For the half a century since he decided to pursue his career in the then young academic discipline of philosophy and history of science, Yoichiro Murakami has undoubtedly been one of the opinion leaders in Japan in the broad area concerned about science"—wrote Yasushi Kakihara and Shigeo Kato, editors of the book Murakami Yoichiro no kagaku-ron: Hihan to outou 村上陽一郎の科学論: 批判と応答 (Yoichiro Murakami's Science Studies: Critiques and Response), in the introduction (3).1 At the beginning of the 1960s Murakami started his career as a philosopher and historian of science, but his work since the 1990s is more sociological in its style and approach. From this perspective, while the book focuses on the work of this individual scholar, it also [End Page 169] provides us with great insight into the historical development of the discipline that is now recognized as science studies in Japan.
The format of this book follows explicitly that of the book series titled the Library of Living Philosophers—starting with a short autobiography and moving on to three summative essays and ten critical pieces written by contributors in philosophy or history of science, each of which engages with the past work of Murakami, followed by a response piece from Murakami himself. The regularly discussed topics in the book are the historiographical methodology that he stresses in his work, the concept of "Secular Revolution" that was presented in his early work, and the "sociological turn" that he underwent in the 1990s. The contributors look at one or two of these topics and discuss them in relation to their own expertise. In the response piece, Murakami categorizes his work under five themes: (1) history of science, (2) philosophy of science, (3) sociology of science, (4) medicine and ethics, and (5) social studies of safety. In doing so, he engages with the critiques of the thirteen contributors. As the editors suggest (3), his ability to move across different themes and engage in discussion with those specialized in each is probably one of the main reasons that he has become an important figure not only within but also beyond the academic discipline of science studies.
When it was suggested that this book deserves to be reviewed in EASTS and introduced to its readers worldwide, we—that is, the editor-in-chief Wen-Hua Kuo, the then-convener of the book review board Honghong Tinn, and myself—decided that, on this particular occasion, we would adopt a new and experimental format of book review for our journal's "Book Review Forum." The idea is simple: instead of inviting a scholar to review a book that would be of interest to our readers, we invite several to share their unique insights on the same book. Our hope is that this new format will allow readers to see how differently the book can be read and evaluated from multiple but equally relevant perspectives. We felt this format was particularly appropriate for the present book partly because of the range of topics and issues discussed in it and partly because of the significance of Murakami and his work in the development of science studies in Japan. Coincidently, his first academic publication was in 1968—exactly half a century ago—making reviewing his work quite timely as well.
In this Book Review Forum, we are pleased to have three local reviewers from Japan, Yuya Shimizu, Akihisa Setoguchi, and Yuki Hagiwara, each representing a subdiscipline of science studies—that is, philosophy of science, history of science, and sociology of science, respectively. We encouraged them to engage critically with the work of Murakami as well as the book itself in their reviews. While each review is informative and enjoyable in its own right, they together represent the vibrant and diverse disciplinary cultures of science studies in the country.
Yoichiro Murakami and the Philosophy of Science