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The reading of Ludwig Fleck sources and context
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
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 [en]
Ludwig Fleck, Wassermann reaction, thought style, Denkstil
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-611ISBN: 91-7178-158-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-611DiVA: diva2:14606
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101130Available from: 2006-02-08 Created: 2006-02-08 Last updated: 2010-11-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Reading of Ludwik Fleck:: Questions of Sources and Impetus
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Reading of Ludwik Fleck:: Questions of Sources and Impetus
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.

Keyword
Ludwik Fleck; Wassermann Reaction
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6679 (URN)10.1080/02691720600784477 (DOI)2-s2.0-33746791013 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
2. The Reading of Scientific Texts: Questions on interpretation and evaluation, with special reference to the scientific writings of Ludwik Fleck
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Reading of Scientific Texts: Questions on interpretation and evaluation, with special reference to the scientific writings of Ludwik Fleck
2007 (English)In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, ISSN 1369-8486, E-ISSN 1879-2499, Vol. 38, no 1, 136-158 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Ludwik Fleck is remembered for his monograph published in German in 1935. Reissued in 1979 as Genesis and development of a scientific fact Fleck's monograph has been claimed to expound relativistic views of science. Fleck has also been portrayed as a prominent scientist. The description of his production of a vaccine against typhus during World War II, when imprisoned in Buchenwald, is legendary in the scholarly literature. The claims about Fleck's scientific achievements have been justified by referring to his numerous publications in international scientific journals. Though frequently mentioned, these publications have scarcely been studied. The present article discusses differences in interpretation and evaluation of science in relation to the background of the interpreters. For this purpose Fleck's scientific publications have been scrutinized. In conjunction with further sources reflecting the desperate situation at the time in question, the results of the study account for a more restrained picture of Fleck's scientific accomplishments. Furthermore, based on the review of the latter, certain demands characterizing good science could be articulated. The restricted possibilities of those not trained in science or not possessing field specific knowledge, evaluating science are discussed, as are also formal aspects of scientific papers and questions related to research ethics.

Keyword
Ludwik Fleck; Research ethics; Scientific writings; Typhus vaccine
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6680 (URN)10.1016/j.shpsc.2006.12.008 (DOI)17324812 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-33847156355 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
3. Fleck in Context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fleck in Context
2007 (English)In: Perspectives on Science, ISSN 1063-6145, E-ISSN 1530-9274, Vol. 15, no 1, 49-86 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Since its almost serendipitous rediscovery in the late seventies, Fleck's monograph, Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsachee, initially published in 1935, translated into English in 1979 (Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact), has been met with increasing acclaim within the philosophy and the sociology of science. In historizing, sociologizing and relativizing science, Fleck is claimed to have expressed prescient views on the history, philosophy and sociology of science and in deeply influencing Kuhn. Though the neglect of Fleck by his contemporaries has been difficult to account for, the basis of his epistemology has evoked little interest, partly due to the lack of apparent sources. Fleck's philosophical writings, published between 1927 and 1939, indicate, however, a polemic, deeply ingrained in an ongoing debate, on the standing of old established scientific disciplines versus new and emerging ones, occasioned by the rapid changes within the natural sciences. Most obvious to the lay community, and also reflected in the new positivist philosophy, were the revolutionary changes within physics. As a participant in the debate, eagerly striving for recognition, Fleck used modern physic heuristically as the basis of his epistemology. The tracing of his sources, and the voices of other contemporaneous scientists opposing his views, are attempted.

National Category
Philosophy History of Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-6681 (URN)10.1162/posc.2007.15.1.49 (DOI)2-s2.0-34548738966 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100826Available from: 2006-12-22 Created: 2006-12-22 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved

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