The anthropology of science: Ludwik Fleck et al.


The philosophers discussed in this chapter share the common emphasis of the notion that scientific knowledge is acquired by the undertakings of human beings who act as part of social environments such as academic colleges or laboratory groups. Although Ludwik Fleck was ignored for a long time, most contemporary philosophers concerned with the social conditioning of cognition now agree that his contributions are among the most pioneering and pivotal in this field. Fleck, a Polish medical microbiologist, wrote his main work in German. It was published in 1935, the same year as Popper’s Logik der Forschung, by a Swiss publisher in Basel, under the title Entstehung und Entwicklung einer Wissenschaftlichen Tatsache with the subtitle Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv 1. Fleck’s book remained virtually unnoticed and it took until 1979 for an English version to appear, entitled Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, but without the subtitle, which could have been translated as Introduction to the Doctrine of Thought-Style and Thought-Collective 2. It was edited and translated by F. Bradley, T.J. Trenn and R.K. Merton, and includes a foreword by Thomas Kuhn. Indeed, it was Thomas Kuhn who had first discovered Fleck for the western philosophical world. In his foreword Kuhn writes that, when he was about to switch from physicist to philosopher around 1949, he came across a quotation of Fleck when reading Hans Reichenbach’s Experience and Prediction 3.


Scientific Fact Anthrax Vaccine Etiological Definition German Soldier Wassermann Reaction 
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Chapter 4 References

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    Fleck L (1935) Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissensachaftlichen Tatsache; Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv. Benno Schwabe und Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung, BaselGoogle Scholar
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    Trenn TJ, Merton RK (eds) (1979) Ludwik Fleck — Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. University of Chicago Press, Chicago/LondonGoogle Scholar
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    Reichenbach H (1938) Experience and Prediction. An Analysis of the Foundations and the Structure of Knowledge. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
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Further reading

  1. Knorr Cetina K, Mulkay M (eds) (1983) Science Observed: Perspectives on the Social Study of Science. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Latour B (1996) On Actor Network Theory. A Few Clarifications. Soziale Welt 47: 369–381Google Scholar

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