Outsiders enabling scientific change: learning from the sociohistory of a mathematical proof

Social Epistemology 31 (2):184-191 (2017)
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It has been a common belief among scientists, including mathematicians, that young scientists are especially good at bringing about scientific change. A number of studies suggest, however, that older scientists are not more resistant to change than young scientists are. It is nonetheless worth examining why a scientist’s or mathematician’s outsider status – due to age, educational background, or something else – can sometimes be effective in enabling scientific change. This paper focuses on the case of the solving of the Four Color Problem by Wolfgang Haken and Kenneth Appel. Building on Donald MacKenzie’s paper ‘Slaying the kraken: The sociohistory of a mathematical proof’, I argue that Haken’s outsider status is central to understanding his success with the problem. On this basis, I offer an argument against Margaret Gilbert’s account of why a scientist’s outsider status can be effective in enabling scientific change.



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Line Edslev Andersen
Aarhus University

References found in this work

Modelling collective belief.Margaret Gilbert - 1987 - Synthese 73 (1):185-204.
Collective Belief And Acceptance.K. Brad Wray - 2001 - Synthese 129 (3):319-333.
Remarks on collective belief.Margaret P. Gilbert - 1994 - In Frederick F. Schmitt (ed.), Socializing Epistemology: The Social Dimensions of Knowledge. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 235-56.
Group Justification in Science.Kristina Rolin - 2010 - Episteme 7 (3):215-231.

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