The Natural History of Ideas

in The Meaning of Evolution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 1992 | ISBN: 9780226712024
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226712055 | DOI:
The Natural History of Ideas

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This chapter focuses on the job of historians of science, the staid and minute practices of whom have become more troubled and indefensible. These historians have to first understand, with some intimacy, the scientific theories, ideas, and observations for which an explanation is sought. He or she must be careful from mistaking analogies for homologies and from assuming one set of ideas to have descended from the other just because the two sets are similar. The historians must demonstrate that a particular scientist met with, corresponded with, or read the books of the person whose ideas seem to be the progenitors. This must be done to establish the firmer ground of probability for real genealogical relations. Moreover, the historian must try to isolate the intellectual exigencies and other social and psychological pressures, which render comprehensible the selections made by a scientist from the range of possible ideas.

Keywords: historians of science; scientific theories; analogies; homologies

Chapter.  1342 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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