Conversing Seriously with Sociologists

N. David Mermin

in The One Culture?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226467221
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226467245 | DOI:
Conversing Seriously with Sociologists

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This chapter reexamines exchanges with sociologists on relativity, with a view to identifying avoidable ways in which they misunderstood each other, seeing what residual disagreements remain, and noting the many similarities with a more recent exchange had with Barry Barnes and David Bloor about their textbook Scientific Knowledge. The sociologist or historian clearly must distinguish what was known at the time under study from what is currently known. It is all too easy for late-twentieth-century knowledge to induce anachronistic misinterpretations of how knowledge developed in the early twentieth century. All the historic folklore physicists tell each other suffers from such distortion. But preventing such contamination by prohibiting any use of or reference to contemporary knowledge has its own risks.

Keywords: academic exchanges; relativity; folklore physicists; contemporary knowledge; sociologists; David Bloor

Chapter.  6790 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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