Schaffer and Shapin 1985

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1. Understanding Experiment

"We need to play the stranger" to experimental culture of academia (6)

examine sites of controversy (7)

social context: "We intend to display scientific method as crystallizing forms of social organization and as a means of regulating social interaction within the scientific community." (14)

  • Wittgensteinian "language-game" and "form of life"
  • "We mean to approach scientific method as integrated into patterns of activity." (15)
"We shall suggest that solutions to the problem of knowledge are embedded within practical solutions to the problem of social order, and that different practical solutions to the problem of social order encapsulate contrasting practical solutions to the problem of knowledge." (15)

reading Hobbes' Leviathan as natural philosophy and epistemology:

"As a treatise in civic philosophy Leviathan was designed to show the practices that would guarantee order in the state. That order could be, and during the Civil War was being, threatened by clerical intellectuals who arrogated to themselves a share of civic authority to which they were not entitled. Their major resources in these acts os usurpation were, according to Hobbes, a false ontology and a false epistemology. Hobbes endeavoured to show the absurdity of an ontology that posited incorporeal substances and immaterial spirits. Thus, he built a plenist ontology, and, in the process, erected a materialistic theory of knowledge in which the foundations of knowledge were notions of causes, and those causes were matter and motino. An enterprise entitled to the name of philosophy was causal in nature. It modelled itself on the demonstrative enterprises of geometry and civic philosophy. And, crucially, it produced assent through it demonstrative character. Assent was to be total and it was to be enforced." (19)

Hobbes wrote before Boyle's experiments; immediately used his writing to attack the experiments

"These attacks ammounted to the assertion that, whatever Boyle's experimental programme was, it was not philosophy. Philosophy was a causal enterprise and, as such, secured a total and irrevocable assent, not the partial assent at which Boyle aimed. Hobbes's assault identified the conventional nature of experimental facts." (20)

2. Seeing and Believing: The Experimental Production of Pneumatic Facts

matters of fact seem solid; "What men make, men may unmake; but what nature makes no man may dispute." (23)

  • "Boyle and the experimentalists offered the matter of fact as the foundation of proper knowledge." (24)
  • "Matters of fact were the outcome of the process of having an empirical experience, warranting it to oneself, and assuring others that grounds for their belief were adequate."
  • "both an epistemological and a social category" (25)

physical integrity of the air-pump: "was vital to the perceived integrity of the knowledge the machine helped to produce" and its lack "was a strategy used by critics, particularly Hobbes, to deconstruct Boyle's claims" (30)

experimental display as "both edifying and spectacular" (31)

"The power of new scientific instruments, the microscope and telescope as well as the air-pump, resided in their capacity to enhance perception and to constitute new perceptual objects." (36)

invisible world given visible manifestation; instruments "also served as a warning that the senses were inherently fallible and required such assistance as the experimental philosopher could offer." (37)

"The space where these machinse worked -- the nascent laboratory -- was to be a public space, but a restricted public space, as critics like Hobbes were soon to point out. If one wanted to produce authenticated experimental knowledge -- matters of fact -- one had to come to this space and to work in it with others.If one wanted to see the new phenomena created by these machines, one had to come to that space and see them with others. The phenomena were not on show anywhere at all. The laboratory was, therefore, a disciplined space, where experimental, discursive, and social practices were collectively controlled by competent members." (39) -- ruling out secretists, alchemists, and knowledge that can't be observed by others (39)

Boyle's paper gauge, used to measure change in mercury height in Torricellian space inside air-pump (43)

Boyle not "a vacuist" -- or a "plenist" -- but "endeavouring to create ... a natural philosophical discourse in which such questions were inadmissible" (46)

"Boyle's New Experiments did not offer any explicit and systematic philosophy of knowledge. It did not discuss the problem of justifying inductive inference, propose formal criteria for establishing physical hypotheses, nor did it stipulate formal rules for limiting causal inquiry. What New Experiments did do was to exemplify a working philosophy of scientific knowledge. In a concrete experimental setting it showed the new natural philosopher how he was to proceed in dealing with practical matters of induction, hypothesizing, causal theorizing, and the relating of matters of fact to their explanations. Boyle sought here to create a picture to accompany the experimental language-game and the experimental form of life. He did this largely by ostension: by showing others through his own example what it was like to work and to talk as an experimental philosopher." (49)

Boyle distinguished between actual experiments and thought experiments (55)

witnessing -- "Boyle insisted that witnessing was to be a collective act" (56)

  • legal analogy
  • "The multiplication of witness was an indication that testimony referred to a true state of affairs in nature. Multiple witnessing was accounted an active licence rather than just a descriptive license." (57)
  • performing experiments in a social space (57)

making sure experiments could be replicated (59) -- virtual witnessing (60)

  • "What was required was a technology of trust and assurance that the things ahd been done and done in the way claimed." (60)

visual representations acted as "mimetic devices" (62)

display of modesty by using "the form of the experimental essay" instead of "the natural philosophical system" (65)

confining dispute within safe boundaries (72); tone to be civil and liberal (76)

"In the official formulation fo the RS, the production of experimental knowledge commenced with individuals' acts of seeing and believing, and was completed when all individuals voluntarily agreed with one antoher about what had been seen and ought to be believed. This freedom to speak had to be protected by a special sort of discipline. Radical individualism -- the state in which each individual set himself up as the ultimate judge of knowledge -- would destroy the conventional basis of proper knowledge, while the disciplined collective social structure of the experimental form of life would create and sustain that factual basis. Thus the experimentalists were on guard against 'dogmatists' and 'tyrants' in philosophy, just as they abominated 'secretists' who produced their knowledge-claims in a private and undisciplined space. No one man was to have the right to lay down what was to count as knowledge. Legitimate knowledge was warranted as objective insofar as it was produced by the collective, and agreed to voluntarily by those who comprised the collective. The objectification of knowledge proceeded through displays of the communal basis of its generation and evaluation. Human coercion was to have no visible place in the experimental form of life." (78)

3. Seeing Double: Hobbes's Politics of Plenism before 1660

no incorporeal spirits; "the world is full of body" so there can be no vacuum (99)

  • "The arguemtn proving this was not developed within the discourse of natural philosophy that we described earlier in this chapter. Instead, the argument against vacuum was presented within a political context of use. In the cause of securing public peace Hobbes elaborated and deplooyed an ontology which left no space for that which was not matter, whether this was a vacuum or incorporeal substance." (99)

Hobbes: knowledge different from belief; "The methods used in generating knowledge [namely, reason] ensured that it was not private believe. Such private belief could never underwrite the universal assent at which philosophy was aimed." (101)

factual knowledge gathered through sense "did not have an epistemologically privileged position"

  • Hobbes called it history (102)

no right for private interpretation of religious belief; would fragment the state (103)

"For Hobbes, the rejection of vacuum was the elimination of a space within which dissension could take place." (109)

7. Natural Philosophy and the Restoration: Interests in Dispute

during Restoration, communities of knowledge "had to be shown how knowledge was connected with public peace; it had to be shown how such knowledge might be produced; and it had to be shown that such communities would not threaten existing authorities such as the clergy or the power of the restored regime." (284)

Boyle et al. argued for toleration of debate within a particular (303)

"If a writer provided no clear experimental warrant for a claim to knowledge, then 'if he be mistaken in his Ratiocination, I am in some danger of erring with him.' But within the rules of the collaborative experimental community, and through the use of the technology of witnessing, it was possible to act freely and yet grant unconditional assent: 'I am left at liberty to benefit myself,' even if the author's opinions were 'never so false.' The rulse of the experimental community offered this solution to the fundamental political problem of liberty and coercion." (304) -- quotes from Power, Experimental Philosophy
"the experimental form of life was presented as a means of winning assent from otherwise unruly subjects. The autonomy of that form of life was necessary for the authority claimed by the experimenters. The godly could use this authority if they respected the integrity of experiment." (314)
"At the Restoration, Hobbes claimed the social reality of experimental philosophy was also that of a confederacy. As such, it could not present itself as an ideal community,. Hobbes had his own ideal commonwealth, and in the realm of learning that was geometry." (320)

for Hobbes, the experimental confederacy was:

  • too exclusive
  • too open, in that nothing special to experimenters
  • "The experimenters were just another conspiratorial group whose interests were in obtaining power over citizens, and whose devious confedearcy sought an illegitimate autonomy from the state." (320)

Hobbes wanted strong personality dictating/overseeing knowledge

  • "Hobbes said that no independent group of intellectuals could avoid constituting a threat to civil society. On the contrary, such groups were themselves a danger. This was a general account of the link between civil strife and the implications of privileged disciplinary skills."
  • "Witnesses gave no authority; they were still private and fallible. This stood in contrast to the practices that experimenters and their allies used to make authority in the 1660s." (327)

for Hobbes, geometry was the exemplar

  • no special skill needed
  • no sectarianism
  • "the laws of geometry compelled in the same sense as the laws of civil society. Both geometry and the commonwealth were artifactual." (329)

8. The Polity of Science: Conclusions

"We have had three things to connect: (1) the polity of the intellectual community; (2) the solution to the practical problem of making and justifying knowledge; and (3) the polity of the wider society. We have made three connections: we have attempted to show (1) that the solution to the problem of knowledge is political; it is predicated upon laying down rules and conventions of relations between men in the intellectual polity; (2) that the knowledge thus produced and authenticated becomes an element in political action in the wider polity; it is impossible that we should come to understand the nature of political action in the state without referring to the products of the intellectual polity; (3) that the contest among alternative forms of life and their characteristic forms of intellectual product depends upon the political success of the various candidates in insinuating themselves into the activities of other institutions and other interest groups. He who has the most, and the most powerful, allies wins." (342)