This is not quite a book on the history of constructivism; rather it is a book that explores the roots of constructivism and its effects on specific aspects of science. Goliski asks: what does a constructivist outlook bring to the history of science? He uses as background Kuhn, SSK and the Strong Programme. He wants to know how constructivism works in practice: this is the justification for the book. It is theory working out in narrative.
Chapter 1: the origins and developments of constructivism and the debates about
It's a useful overview of the field, and I would recommend it alone to someone trying to put the pieces together.
There are three features of Kuhn's analysis that constructivists have followed up on: 1) the forms of scientific practice are learned through authority and maintained through discipline. 2) science is governed by model problem solutions in which theories and instruments are implicit. Science is like a craft 3) values governing scientific practice are local, developed by a small subgroup, and often shaped by controversy. Consequent to 3), historians have written more micro than macronarratives. (loss of nerve, I say!) A lot of folks (Knorr-Cetina, Collins, Lynch) looked at specific labs and lab culture. They have also asked - why do things change if so many are invested in the old?. The Strong Program looked into the question of interests, and how they were used in persuasion. Latour gave new direction by asking for "another turn after the social turn" - to stop explaining science sociologically and ask different questions. What is the rhetoric of science? How are instruments black-boxed to become "just something that works that way"? Humans and non-humans are linked via social and science connections into a heterogenous group of actants. They extend SSK by refusing to privilege not only the "right" over the "wrong" answer, but also the human over the inhuman. Not everyone thinks that this approach supports the symmetry of SSK - in fact, some would say that the "fantasy" elements ruin it. Pickering engages with temporality in his mangle of practice, which grabs humans and nonhumans, shoves them through a dialectic of resistance and accommodation, and ultimately generates a stable configuration (this definition at some violence to Pickering, I may add). In sum: "Constructivist studies of science have helped us to see how understandings of 'nature' are products of human labor with the resources that local cultures make available; but they have also pointed to a need to revise our ideas of 'society.' " (47)
Chapter 2: the social dimension of the scientific life
He glosses some of Merton's writings, pausing on the 4 norms and arguing that they are not really put in practice (this I have discussed elsewhere). He discusses the literature on Boyle/Hooke and on Galileo. How do scientists form their social selves? Who developed traveling disciplinary techniques? The Germans, in universities, and Foucault discusses it in Discipline and Punish. So self-fashioning, concepts of identity and disciplinary structures which constitute subjectivity become science personas. There are those who have fashioned themselves in opposition to disciplines. (Turing, Crick, McClintock)
Chapter 3: the locations where scientific knowledge is produced
He covers private laboratories (Newton), private homes (Darwin) - solitary places. Then there are public spaces - such as the Royal Society. But not too public. He gives floor plans for university lecture labs and amphitheaters. And he notes museums, running from private cabinets of curiosities to organized buildings. Of course, there are also maps as visual displays of conquered spaces. Finally, some sciences must do fieldwork. Latour is helpful here: standardization, inscription, translation are at the heart of fieldwork.
Chapter 4: the language of science in grants and reports and textbooks and
What is scientific rhetoric like? The convention, audience, situation are what? One has to take specific knowledge of conventions to know how they were used, and how they may be being broken. (dialogue, essay, letter .) It's hard, says Golinski, when analyzing rhetoric, not to see rhetoric progressing towards a particular end goal of meaning. Various discussions of scientists like Newton using rhetoric to bolster his claims. Language is local and social, and it is necessary to reconstruct the context to get its full set of meanings. Science papers, which are often translated, have a good chance of being misunderstood. Do metaphors rule their users? Or do writers use them for special purposes? Darwin's work is referenced, as is the work on new chemical claims. A great little history of phrenology (leading one irresistibly to thoughts of emotional intelligence). P. 128.
Chapter 5: how material resources are used to create knowledge: apparatus and
How do scientists use instruments and objects? The dependence of science upon instruments is a new-ish field. Accompanying the new science were new craft workshops. How was each instrument black-boxed? Animals have received much the same treatment - witness the fruit fly. (and note mouse cultures). Science images were also developed - how to make the image meaningful to someone who had never seen it. See first page of Hooke's Micrographia to hear about how he set up the ant to be looked at. How natural is representative? (the problem of bird books) How natural is necessary? "Yeesh!" as regards the fetus drawing p.156. Photographs and microcscopes: nearly unanswerable? It's hard to remember that they, too, are constructed.
Chapter 6: How science gains authority in culture
What's the relationship between culture and construction? C. P. Snow's influential The Two Cultures in 1959 is mentioned and the nasty Leavis controversy. How to enter as an anthropologist outsider into science cultures? Cultures are networks and there are global social networks of science power, (Latour calls metrology) excluding much of the 3rd world. But there are also lowest common denominator languages and maps of information and exploration using the body (Mary Poovey)
Coda: constructivism and historical narrative. What writings to be produced?
Historians tell stories, as do constructivists. How do we tell our stories? Can we ever get away from an ending, or from knowing the ending before the start? (see p. 201)