The Scientific Life

Author: Steven Shapin
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 0226750175
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Who are scientists? What kind of people are they? What capacities and virtues are thought to stand behind their considerable authority? They are experts—indeed, highly respected experts—authorized to describe and interpret the natural world and widely trusted to help transform knowledge into power and profit. But are they morally different from other people? The Scientific Life is historian Steven Shapin’s story about who scientists are, who we think they are, and why our sensibilities about such things matter. Conventional wisdom has long held that scientists are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that personal virtue does not necessarily accompany technical expertise, and that scientific practice is profoundly impersonal. Shapin, however, here shows how the uncertainties attending scientific research make the virtues of individual researchers intrinsic to scientific work. From the early twentieth-century origins of corporate research laboratories to the high-flying scientific entrepreneurship of the present, Shapin argues that the radical uncertainties of much contemporary science have made personal virtues more central to its practice than ever before, and he also reveals how radically novel aspects of late modern science have unexpectedly deep historical roots. His elegantly conceived history of the scientific career and character ultimately encourages us to reconsider the very nature of the technical and moral worlds in which we now live. Building on the insights of Shapin’s last three influential books, featuring an utterly fascinating cast of characters, and brimming with bold and original claims, The Scientific Life is essential reading for anyone wanting to reflect on late modern American culture and how it has been shaped.

Never Pure

Author: Steven Shapin
Publisher: JHU Press
ISBN: 0801894204
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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Steven Shapin argues that science, for all its immense authority and power, is and always has been a human endeavor, subject to human capacities and limits. Put simply, science has never been pure. To be human is to err, and we understand science better when we recognize it as the laborious achievement of fallible, imperfect, and historically situated human beings. Shapin’s essays collected here include reflections on the historical relationships between science and common sense, between science and modernity, and between science and the moral order. They explore the relevance of physical and social settings in the making of scientific knowledge, the methods appropriate to understanding science historically, dietetics as a compelling site for historical inquiry, the identity of those who have made scientific knowledge, and the means by which science has acquired credibility and authority. This wide-ranging and intensely interdisciplinary collection by one of the most distinguished historians and sociologists of science represents some of the leading edges of change in the scholarly understanding of science over the past several decades.

Leviathan and the Air Pump

Author: Steven Shapin
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 1400838495
Format: PDF
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Leviathan and the Air-Pump examines the conflicts over the value and propriety of experimental methods between two major seventeenth-century thinkers: Thomas Hobbes, author of the political treatise Leviathan and vehement critic of systematic experimentation in natural philosophy, and Robert Boyle, mechanical philosopher and owner of the newly invented air-pump. The issues at stake in their disputes ranged from the physical integrity of the air-pump to the intellectual integrity of the knowledge it might yield. Both Boyle and Hobbes were looking for ways of establishing knowledge that did not decay into ad hominem attacks and political division. Boyle proposed the experiment as cure. He argued that facts should be manufactured by machines like the air-pump so that gentlemen could witness the experiments and produce knowledge that everyone agreed on. Hobbes, by contrast, looked for natural law and viewed experiments as the artificial, unreliable products of an exclusive guild. The new approaches taken in Leviathan and the Air-Pump have been enormously influential on historical studies of science. Shapin and Schaffer found a moment of scientific revolution and showed how key scientific givens--facts, interpretations, experiment, truth--were fundamental to a new political order. Shapin and Schaffer were also innovative in their ethnographic approach. Attempting to understand the work habits, rituals, and social structures of a remote, unfamiliar group, they argued that politics were tied up in what scientists did, rather than what they said. Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer use the confrontation between Hobbes and Boyle as a way of understanding what was at stake in the early history of scientific experimentation. They describe the protagonists' divergent views of natural knowledge, and situate the Hobbes-Boyle disputes within contemporary debates over the role of intellectuals in public life and the problems of social order and assent in Restoration England. In a new introduction, the authors describe how science and its social context were understood when this book was first published, and how the study of the history of science has changed since then.

The Cultural Logic of Computation

Author: David Golumbia
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674032927
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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In The Cultural Logic of Computation, David Golumbia, who worked as a software designer for more than ten years, argues that computers are cultural "all the way down" - that there is no part of the apparent technological transformation that is not shaped by historical and cultural processes, or that escapes existing cultural politics. The Cultural Logic of Computation provides a needed corrective to the uncritical enthusiasm for computers common today in many parts of our culture.

Global Heritage Assemblages

Author: Christoph Rausch
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISBN: 1315414961
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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UNESCO aims to tackle Africa’s under-representation on its World Heritage List by inscribing instances of nineteenth- and twentieth-century modern architecture and urban planning there. But, what is one to make of the utopias of progress and development for which these buildings and sites stand? After all, concern for ‘modern heritage’ invariably—and paradoxically it seems—has to reckon with those utopias as problematic futures of the past, a circumstance complicating intentions to preserve a recent ‘culture’ of modernization on the African continent. This book, a new title in Routledge’s Studies in Culture and Development series, introduces the concept of ‘global heritage assemblages’ to analyse that problem. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork, it describes how various governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental actors engage with colonial and post-colonial built heritage found in Eritrea, Tanzania, Niger, and the Republic of the Congo. Rausch argues that the global heritage assemblages emerging from those examples produce problematizations of the modern’, which ultimately indicate a contemporary need to rescue modernity from its dominant conception as an all-encompassing, epochal, and spatial culture.

A Social History of Truth

Author: Steven Shapin
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226750187
Format: PDF
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Shapin explains how gentlemen-philosophers resolved varying testimony about such phemonema as comets, icebergs, and the pressure of water by bringing to bear practical social knowledge and standards of decorum. For instance, while "vulgar" divers reported they experienced no crushing pressure no matter how deep into the sea they dived, gentlemen-philosophers preferred the evidence of crushed pewter bottles. Shapin uses richly detailed historical narrative to make a powerful argument about the establishment of factual knowledge both in science and in everyday practice. Accounts of the mores and manners of gentlemen-philosophers illustrate Shapin's broad claim that trust is imperative for constituting every kind of knowledge. Knowledge-making is always a collective enterprise: people have to know whom to trust in order to know something about the natural world

Fashionable Nonsense

Author: Alan Sokal
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 1466862408
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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In 1996 physicist Alan Sokal published an essay in Social Text--an influential academic journal of cultural studies--touting the deep similarities between quantum gravitational theory and postmodern philosophy. Soon thereafter, the essay was revealed as a brilliant parody, a catalog of nonsense written in the cutting-edge but impenetrable lingo of postmodern theorists. The event sparked a furious debate in academic circles and made the headlines of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad. Now in Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Sokal and his fellow physicist Jean Bricmont expand from where the hoax left off. In a delightfully witty and clear voice, the two thoughtfully and thoroughly dismantle the pseudo-scientific writings of some of the most fashionable French and American intellectuals. More generally, they challenge the widespread notion that scientific theories are mere "narrations" or social constructions.

Writing about Lives in Science

Author: Paola Govoni
Publisher: V&R unipress GmbH
ISBN: 384710263X
Format: PDF, Kindle
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Following discussions on scientific biography carried out over the past few decades, this book proposes a kaleidoscopic survey of the uses of biography as a tool to understand science and its context. The authors belong to a variety of academic and professional fields, including the history of science, anthropology, literary studies, and science journalism. The period covered spans from 1732, when Laura Bassi was the first woman to get a tenured professorship of physics, to 2009, when Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider were the first women's team to have won a Nobel Prize in science.

The Emergence of Organizations and Markets

Author: John F. Padgett
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 1400845556
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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The social sciences have sophisticated models of choice and equilibrium but little understanding of the emergence of novelty. Where do new alternatives, new organizational forms, and new types of people come from? Combining biochemical insights about the origin of life with innovative and historically oriented social network analyses, John Padgett and Walter Powell develop a theory about the emergence of organizational, market, and biographical novelty from the coevolution of multiple social networks. They demonstrate that novelty arises from spillovers across intertwined networks in different domains. In the short run actors make relations, but in the long run relations make actors. This theory of novelty emerging from intersecting production and biographical flows is developed through formal deductive modeling and through a wide range of original historical case studies. Padgett and Powell build on the biochemical concept of autocatalysis--the chemical definition of life--and then extend this autocatalytic reasoning to social processes of production and communication. Padgett and Powell, along with other colleagues, analyze a very wide range of cases of emergence. They look at the emergence of organizational novelty in early capitalism and state formation; they examine the transformation of communism; and they analyze with detailed network data contemporary science-based capitalism: the biotechnology industry, regional high-tech clusters, and the open source community.

Darwin Meets Einstein

Author: Frans W. Saris
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
ISBN: 9089640584
Format: PDF, Mobi
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A witty, hard-hitting exploration of the ultimate aims of science in a dramatic form.