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Week 1: Introduction

Tutors: Dr James Poskett and Dr Claudia Stein

This seminar introduces some of the ways in which historians have approached major scientific concepts such as 'truth' and 'objectivity'. What does it mean for 'truth' to have a history? What kind of history is this? And what are the implications for the place of science in society today?

Seminar Questions

  • What does it mean for 'truth' to have a 'social history'?
  • Is the social history of science committed to relativism?
  • Compare and contrast the approaches taken by Daston and Galison (1992) and Shapin (1994)

Essential Readings

Daston, Lorraine and Peter Galison, ‘The Image of Objectivity’, Representations, 40 (1992)

Shapin, Steven, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994), chapter one, pp. 3-41.

Further Readings

Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison, Objectivity (Zone Books, 2010)

Forrester, Katrina, and Sophie Smith, Nature, Action and the Future: Political Thought and the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things (Routledge, 2005)

Golinski, Jan, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2005)

Kuhn, Thomas S, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2012)

Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton University Press, 2013)

Ophir, Adi, and Steven Shapin, ‘The Place of Knowledge A Methodological Survey’, Science in Context, 4 (1991)

Pickstone, John V., ‘Ways of Knowing: Towards a Historical Sociology of Science, Technology and Medicine’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 26 (1993)

Poovey, Mary, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (University of Chicago Press, 1998)

Porter, Theodore M, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton University Press, 1996)

Steven Shapin, ‘History of science and its sociological reconstructions’, History of Science, 20 (1982)