Barnes, Barry, David Bloor and John Henry. Scientific Knowledge; A Sociological Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1996.
An apologetics for sociology of science, Scientific Knowledge intends to demonstrate
the necessity and centrality of sociology inquiry into the formation of scientific
knowledge. Beginning with observation, the authors argue that "cultural response
is underdetermined by psychological stimuli" (15); in other words, one is not
forced to believe what one sees. Following is a gloss on the norms of interpretation,
and how deciding or knowing what one is looking for in advance allows one to
look for it, and reject data as untrue that does not support the hypothesis.
At the center of the work is a five point definition and explication of finitism, applied to successively to words, to beliefs and to exemplars: 1) the future application of classification/beliefs/exemplars are open-ended; 2) No classification/belief/exemplar is ever indefeasibly correct; 3) All acts of classification/belief/exemplar are revisable; 4) Successive classifications/ beliefs/exemplars are not independent; and 5)The application of different classifications/beliefs/exemplars are not independent of each other. These tenents allow the authors to address key problems in acquiring and establishing knowledge. Clustered beliefs, classifications and exemplars create models (106), and models are used to extend analogies from one body of knowledge to another. "A successful model is a pragmatic accomplishment, something which those who evaluate it take to serve their purposes." (109)
The authors gently refute what they see as Harry Collins's human-centered idealism, and themselves argue for physical and natural causes as part of the historically situated goals, resistances and interests as the "sociologically interesting causes of scientific action." (120) (I think, roughly, they allow for the but it doesn't work reaction that Latour, Pickering and Bijker reject as asymmetrical or "unframed"). The authors review Leviathan and the Air-Pump as support for their goal- and interest-driven picture of the sociology of knowledge, and conclude, setting logic aside, that 2 + 2 equals 4 only in a system where everyone is best served when these symbols have an agreed-upon understanding.