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The Reading of Ludwik Fleck:: Questions of Sources and Impetus
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2006 (English)In: Social Epistemology, ISSN 0269-1728, E-ISSN 1464-5297, Vol. 20, no 2, 131-161 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The rediscovery in the mid1970s of Ludwik Flecks initially neglected monograph, Entstehung und Entwicklung einer Wissenschaftlichen Tatsache, published in 1935 and translated in 1979 as Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, has resulted in extensive, still ongoing, secondary writings, mainly within the humanities. Fleck has been interpreted as furthering a relativistic conception of science. Nowadays, he is often viewed as an important contributor to contemporary sociology of science and a forerunner to Thomas Kuhn. Flecks account of the Wassermann reaction, which forms the basis of his epistemology, has been praised as developed by a scientist well acquainted with the field in question. Because of the scarcity of available material on Fleck, however, the question of his sources has remained an unsolved issue. In the present article, an alternative reading is suggested. By focusing on the scientific content of the monograph, mainly neglected in the modern interpretations of Fleck, and on the so far overlooked sources of his writings traced back to their German origin, a better understanding of Flecks account of the Wassermann reaction can be given. The consequences of this alternative reading for the conception of Flecks monograph and for the impetus of his mission are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 20, no 2, 131-161 p.
Keyword [en]
Ludwik Fleck; Wassermann Reaction
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6679DOI: 10.1080/02691720600784477Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-33746791013OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-6679DiVA: diva2:11456
Note
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2010-11-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Reading fleck: Questions on philosophy and science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reading fleck: Questions on philosophy and science
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The present thesis is based on a scientifically-informed, contextualized and historicized reading of Ludwik Fleck. In addition to his monograph, the material studied includes his additional philosophical writings, his internationally-published scientific articles and two, thus-far-unstudied postwar Polish papers related to his Buchenwald experiences. The sources provided by Fleck have been traced back to the time of their origin. Based on the above material, it is argued that, rather than relativizing science and deeply influencing Kuhn, Fleck, attempting to participate in the current debates, is an ardent proponent of science, offering an internal account of its pursuit that accords with his oft-contested epistemic concepts, e.g., Denkzwang, Sinnsehen and Kopplungen. The exposure of his description of the Wassermann reaction discloses a highly selective reading of the sources available at the time, but also reveals its relation to the current debate on Einzelwissenschaften, or the standing of new emerging disciplines versus age-old ones, all occasioned by the remarkable progress of science that has also affected philosophy. The divide between philosophers and scientists on the philosophical implications of modern physics is exposed, as is Fleck’s heuristic use of the latter topic in his epistemology. A more realistic account of his often-valued scientific accomplishments is provided. It is argued that the modern interpretation or received humanist view of Fleck is based on the opposition, at the time Fleck’s monograph was rediscovered, of STS writers to a scientifically-informed reading of his texts. An additional corrective to the received view of Fleck is found in some of his postwar Polish papers related his Buchenwald experiences. The latter might also provide an answer to some of the contradictions inherent in the modern mythology surrounding Fleck. In amply exposing the precarious situation of the time, and the complexity of the ethical issues at stake, Fleck’s papers in fact generate age-old philosophical questions still worth contemplating.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2006. 26 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword
Ludwik Fleck, Wassermann reaction, Informed consent, Buchenwald studies, Human experimentation
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4250 (URN)91-7178-471-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-01-15, Sal F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2010-08-26Bibliographically approved
2. The reading of Ludwig Fleck sources and context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The reading of Ludwig Fleck sources and context
2005 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The present thesis is based on a scientifically informed reading of Fleck. In addition to the monograph, the material includes his additional philosophical writings and also his internationally published scientific articles. The sources provided by Fleck have been traced back to the time of their origin. Based on the above material, it is argued that rather than relativizing science, and thereby deeply influencing Kuhn, Fleck, attempting to participate in the current debates, is an ardent proponent of science, offering an internal account of its pursuit that accords with his often-contested epistemic concepts. The exposure of his description of the Wassermann reaction discloses a highly selected reading of the, at the time, available sources, but also its relation to the current debate on Einzelwissenschaften, or the standing of new emerging disciplines versus age-old ones, all occasioned by the remarkable progress of science that also affected philosophy. The divide between philosophers and scientists on the philosophical implications of modern physics is exposed as well as Fleck’s heuristic use of the latter topic in his epistemology. A more realistic account of his scientific accomplishment is provided that includes the unfeasibility of the manufacturing of an anti-typhus vaccine based on urine. It is finally argued that the modern interpretation, or the received humanist view of Fleck, is based on the, at the time of the rediscovery of the monograph, already endorsed program of STS writers opposing a scientifically informed reading of his texts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2005. 21 p.
Keyword
Ludwig Fleck, Wassermann reaction, thought style, Denkstil
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-611 (URN)91-7178-158-7 (ISBN)
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101130Available from: 2006-02-08 Created: 2006-02-08 Last updated: 2010-11-30Bibliographically approved

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