We Have Never Been “New Experimentalists”: On the Rise and Fall of the Turn to Experimentation in the 1980s

Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 13 (1):91-119 (2023)
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The 1980s, it is often claimed, was the decade when experimentation finally became a philosophical topic. This was the responsibility, the claim continues, of one particular movement within philosophy of science, called “new experimentalism.” The aim of this article is to complicate this historical narrative. We argue that in the 1980s, the study of experimentation was carried out not by one movement with one particular aim but rather in a diverse and open-ended way by people with different aims and backgrounds. We then argue that from the late 1990s onward, this diversity disappeared and made room for disciplinary divisions—questions concerning experimentation became philosophical, others sociological, and so on. The reason for this, we claim, was that science and technology studies, philosophy of technology, and philosophy of science took over aspects of the 1980s study of experimentation. In this way, we argue, these elements became institutionalized, whereas others were forgotten. The importance of this process of institutionalization is illustrated by means of a discussion of other, similar approaches to the philosophy of experimentation that have not been able to ensure continuity because they did not find an institutional home.



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Author Profiles

Jan Potters
University of Antwerp
Massimiliano Simons
Maastricht University

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Laboratory Life. The Social Construction of Scientific Facts.Bruno Latour & Steve Woolgar - 1982 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 13 (1):166-170.

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