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Research in Science Education

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 2349–2366 | Cite as

Not Just a “Fleck” on the Epistemic Landscape: A Reappraisal of Ludwik Fleck’s Views of the Nature of Scientific Progress and Change in Relation to Contemporary Educational and Social Issues

  • James Carifio
  • Rocco J. Perla
Article

Abstract

In contrast to Thomas Kuhn, the work of Ludwik Fleck, a Polish-born physician, microbiologist, and epistemologist, is conspicuously absent from the science education literature. His originally obscure monograph first published in German in 1935, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, anticipates a number of views explicated by contemporary philosophers of science, cognitive psychologists, and learning theorists, and Fleck’s main thesis is, is many respects, strikingly similar to the oft-cited thesis developed later by Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Fleck’s work is perhaps the best example of the social influence on scientific commitment and thinking and is one of the first works to suggest different scales or varieties of change in science. At the same time as Fleck’s work gains recognition, momentum, and force in philosophical circles, some educators are calling for a critical appraisal of Kuhn’s impact on science education. This climate provides an ideal opportunity to assess (or perhaps in some cases reassess) the value of Fleck’s work in a science education context. The primary aim of this article, therefore, is to introduce educators in general, and science educators in particular, to the main ideas developed by Fleck in his Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Throughout this article, Fleck’s ideas are compared and contrasted to those of Thomas Kuhn—arguably one of the most popular referents in nature of science studies over the past decade. As will be discussed, many of the ideas developed by Fleck anticipate central issues and perspectives in philosophy, epistemology, sociology, education, and cognitive psychology.

Keywords

Fleck Kuhn Nature of science Nature of scientific change History of science History of NOS Fleck's influences on science and science education Teaching NOS and the history of science Developmental epistemological standards and thinking styles 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Massachusetts–LowellLowellUSA
  2. 2.University of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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