The ghost of Wittgenstein: Forms of life, scientific method, and cultural critique

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (2):139-174 (2005)
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Abstract

In developing an "internal" sociology of science, the sociology of scientific knowledge drew on Wittgenstein’s later philosophy to reinterpret traditional epistemological topics in sociological terms. By construing scientific reasoning as rule following within a collective, sociologists David Bloor and Harry Collins effectively blocked outside criticism of a scientific field, whether scientific, philosophical, or political. Ethnomethodologist Michael Lynch developed an alternative, Wittgensteinian reading that similarly blocked philosophical or political critique, while also disallowing analytical appeals to historical or institutional contexts. I criticize these Wittgensteinian sociologies and argue for the historical and contemporary significance of methodological criticisms of scientific practice that conjoin epistemological and political categories. I consider two such cases briefly: the Baconian criticism of Scholastic science in the early Royal Society and the criticism of AIDS drug testing protocols by activists. Key Words: Wittgenstein • sociology of scientific knowledge • ethnomethodology • scientific method • interpretive sociology.

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