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Chapter 8

PHIL 2180 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Bruno Latour, Laboratory Life, Conceptual System

Course Code
PHIL 2180
Karyn Freedman

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Chapter 8: The Challenge from Sociology of Science
Robert Merton and Old Sociology:
Sociology: The general study of human social structures.
Sociology of Science: Developed in the middle of the twentieth century. The founder of the field is
Robert Merton.
Maertonian Sociology of Science: Is basically mainstream sociology applied to the structure of science
and to its historical development. In 1940, Merton developed a set of basic values that value scientific
communities, which are a part of Merton’s account of science:
Universalism: The idea that the personal attributes and social background of a person are
irrelevant to the scientific value of the person’s ideas.
Communism: Invokes the common ownership of scientific ideas and results. Anyone can make
use of any scientific idea in his or her work.
Disinterestedness: Idea that scientists are supposed to act for the benefit of a common scientific
enterprise, rather than personal gain.
Organized Skepticism: Is a community-wide pattern of challenging and testing ideas instead of
taking them on trust.
Merton would sometimes add humility to the list of norms; however, that one is less important.
Reward System:
Merton’s big idea developed in 1957.
Merton believed that basic currency for scientific reward is recognition, especially for being the
first person to develop the idea. The ideal scenario is having an idea named after yourself.
The reward system mostly functions to encourage original thinking.
The main deviant behaviour of scientists, when their desire for reward overcomes everything
else is; fraud, plagiarism, libel and slander.
The main type of slander, is the accusation of plagiarism.
If real ‘idea making’ recognition cannot be attained, scientists will mainly aim for publication.
Merton’s norms describe a structure of social behaviour, and the reward system is what motivates
people to participate in these activities.
The Rise of the Strong Program:
The New Sociology of Science: Tries to use sociological methods to explain;
Why scientists believe what they do.
Why they behave as they do.
How scientific thinking and practice change over time.
Supported Kuhn’s view of theories.
The Strong Program:
A project headed by Barry Barnes and David Bloor.
A central idea of the program is the “Symmetry Principle.” The principle holds that all forms of
belief and behaviour should be approached using the same kinds of explanations.
Beliefs are established within communities based on their local norms; therefore, norms vary
between different communities, but the general belief is the same.
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