SOC483Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Ludwik Fleck, Paradigm Shift, Cognitive Style

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9 Nov 2012
Understand what an episteme is , think about thought style and cognitive style
Foucault will be talking about two ways of thinking in Europe, two epistemes and ways
of thinking in both times is very different. Try to understand… he goes back and forth
What are the basic ways of categorizing stuff, knowledge in both periods, he will talk
about many different disciplines and patterns and ways people classify knowledge, look
for those things, do not get caught up in details. Look for grand patterns
SOC483Y1 November 2, 2011
Ludwik Fleck, “How the Modern Concept of Syphilis Originated,” chapter 1, and
selections from “Epistemological Conclusions from the Established History of a
Concept,” chapter 2 in
Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact
(The University
Chicago Press, 1979), pp.1-19, 20-23, 38-51.
Michael Baxandall, selections from “The Period Eye” in
Painting and Experience in
Fifteenth Century Italy
(Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 29-40, 94-102.
Today: Cognition
Looking at it from different perspectives two studies of one history of science and the other art
The reason we read them is not for the science or art history but they show interesting studies of
more general thinking of shared activities (1) syphilis (2) people appreciating art
They have different approaches but are similar in the way they show people come to think in a
particular way in a given space or time which really shapes their perception of a particular thing
(1) syphilis or (2) art
That come from other activities: everyday life, currencies, measurements,
Fleck from astrology, religion
F and B show a certain cognitive schema is originating somewhere else, not in the particular
under study in particular
Contrast and compare the concepts they use
Fleck uses “thought style or thought collective”
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Baxandall uses notion of cognitive style
= thus they are related
“Paradigm Shift” – Khun developed paradigm shift notions which is a popular idea today to
explain how science changes, how it does not change cumulatively but in growths and spurts
while we come to an understanding… theory of relativity is a paradigm. Until a lot of problems
start arising within that paradigm so when sufficient problems arise there is a paradigm shift.
This was a revolutionary idea and still present today because in past science thought of as always
growing but this paradigm shift shows it grows in spurts. Khun was Fleck’s student and thus
paradigm shift comes from Fleck his book 1935 “Genesis and development of scientific fact”
So idea of paradigm shift is developed in Fleck’s work we read
FLECK 1896-1961 physician and biologist
- Notion of the “thought collective” is a really important concept for the philosophy and
sociology of science so together without thought style, the collective explains how
science changes over time in terms of ideas
- This same idea is present in Foucault, similar way of thinking, when concepts used to
explain ways of thinking “episteme” derive from Fleck’s work
- Thought Collectives: group of people interacting, they share a certain way of thinking
and that thought style
- Thought style: similar to a paradigm (a way of thinking), an idealization structure with
consequences because it demands interpretation
o Ex. Of thought styles Fleck talks about:
o Uses syphilis to explain: understanding has changed because our thought styles
and collectives change. Those within thought style, so long as knowledge
culturally bounded, scientists in different thought styles cannot understand each
other so for ideas to travel from one paradigm to another depend on
understanding so his study of syphilis shows maybe even if new discoveries, they
cannot incorporate new findings if new thought styles
o This way of thinking was revolutionary with Fleck writing in 1930s and
positivism was present back then saying science always growing but something
Fleck overthrew and showed it is not a constant progression
o Fleck also debunks any idea of truth the understanding that any scientific
finding is agreed upon, no truth but Fleck refuses to talk about syphilis but rather
concept of “syphilis” because may not be syphilis after all just how we perceive
it… he shows how much it has changed over time given the thought style of each
time that it kept shifting into different phenomena
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