This discussion paper proposes that a meaningful distinction between science and technoscience can be found at the level of the objects of research. Both notions intermingle in the attitudes, intentions, programs and projects of researchers and research institutions—that is, on the side of the subjects of research. But the difference between science and technoscience becomes more explicit when research results are presented in particular settings and when the objects of research are exhibited for the specific interest they hold. When an (...) experiment is presented as scientific evidence which confirms or disconfirms a hypothesis, this agrees with traditional conceptions of science. When organic molecules are presented for their capacity to serve individually as electric wires that carry surprisingly large currents, this would be a hallmark of technoscience. Accordingly, we propose research on the ontology of research objects. The focus on the character and significance of research objects makes this a specifically philosophical project. (shrink)
" Façonner le monde atome par atome " : tel est l'objectif incroyablement ambitieux affiché par les promoteurs américains de la " National Nanoinitiative ", lancée en 1999. Un projet global de " convergence des sciences ", visant à " initier une nouvelle Renaissance, incorporant une conception holiste de la technologie fondée sur [..] une analyse causale du monde physique, unifiée depuis l'échelle nano jusqu'à l'échelle planétaire. " Ce projet démiurgique est aujourd'hui au coeur de ce qu'on appelle la " (...) technoscience ", étendard pour certains, repoussoir pour d'autres. En précisant dans ce livre la signification de ce concept, pour sortir enfin du sempiternel conflit entre technophiles et technophobes, son auteur propose d'abord une sorte d'archéologie du terme " technoscience ". Loin d'être un simple renversement de hiérarchie entre science et technique, il s'agit d'un changement de régime de la connaissance scientifique, ayant désormais intégré la logique entrepreneuriale du monde des affaires et mobilisant des moyens considérables. Surtout, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent montre que le brouillage de la frontière entre science et technique n'est que la manifestation d'un tremblement plus général, marqué par l'effacement progressif des distinctions traditionnelles : nature/artifice, inerte/vivant, matière/esprit, homme/machine, etc. Alors que nos sociétés sont silencieusement reconfigurées par les nanotechnologies, Internet, le génie génétique ou les OGM, ce livre montre l'importance de faire enfin pleinement entrer les questions de choix technologiques et scientifiques dans la sphère du politique et dans l'arène publique. Car la technoscience est un processus historique qui engage la nature en la refaçonnant et qui implique la société dans son ensemble. (shrink)
Despite the multidisciplinary dimension of the kinds of research conducted under the umbrella of synthetic biology, the US-based founders of this new research area adopted a disciplinary profile to shape its institutional identity. In so doing they took inspiration from two already established fields with very different disciplinary patterns. The analogy with synthetic chemistry suggested by the term ‘synthetic biology’ is not the only model. Information technology is clearly another source of inspiration. The purpose of the paper, with its focus (...) on the US context, is to emphasize the diversity of views and agendas coexisting under the disciplinary label synthetic biology, as the two models analysed are only presented as two extreme postures in the community. The paper discusses the question: in which directions the two models shape this emerging field? Do they chart two divergent futures for synthetic biology? (shrink)
Synthetic biology, materials chemistry and soft robotics are fast becoming leading disciplines within the field of practices which look to nature for inspiration and opportunities. In this article I discuss how these molecular-scale practices fit within the existing trends of bio-informed design defined at the macro level, that is, bionics, biomimetics and more specifically biomimicry. Based on the metaphysical views underlying bio-informed design practices, I argue that none of them currently fit the biomimicry model, as they are not consistently concerned (...) with environmental sustainability. While biomimetic chemistry loosely belongs to the field of biomimetics, and soft robotics to the field of bionics, both practices have a profound impact on their respective fields, as they question the places of nature and engineers. (shrink)
Between 1869 and 1871, D. I. Mendeleev, a teacher at the University at St Petersburg published a textbook of general chemistry intended for his students. The title, Principles of Chemistry was typical for the time: it meant that chemistry was no longer an inquiry on the ultimate principles of matter but had become a science firmly established on a few principles derived from experiment.
At first glance twentieth-century philosophy of science seems virtually to ignore chemistry. However this paper argues that a focus on chemistry helped shape the French philosophical reflections about the aims and foundations of scientific methods. Despite patent philosophical disagreements between Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard it is possible to identify the continuity of a tradition that is rooted in their common interest for chemistry. Two distinctive features of the French tradition originated in the attention to what was going on in (...) chemistry.French philosophers of science, in stark contrast with analytic philosophers, considered history of science as the necessary basis for understanding how the human intellect or the scientific spirit tries to grasp the world. This constant reference to historical data was prompted by a fierce controversy about the chemical revolution, which brought the issue of the nature of scientific changes centre stage.A second striking—albeit largely unnoticed—feature of the French tradition is that matter theories are a favourite subject with which to characterize the ways of science. Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard developed most of their views about the methods and aims of science through a discussion of matter theories. Just as the concern with history was prompted by a controversy between chemists, the focus on matter was triggered by a scientific controversy about atomism in the late nineteenth-century.Keywords: France; Epistemology; Chemistry; Revolution; Atomism; Realism. (shrink)
Der Denkstil der Chemiker. Der Aufsatz diskutiert die Tragfähigkeit des Begriffes “Denkstil”, wie er von Alistair Crombie eingeführt und Ian Hacking aufgegriffen wurde, für das Verständnis dessen, wie das Fach Chemie historisch seine Identität ausgeprägt hat. Obwohl weder Crombie noch Hacking den Begriff “Denkstil” in Bezug auf einzelne Disziplinen verwendet haben, erscheint im Fall der Chemie seine Anwendung besonders vielversprechend, weil er hier hilft, ein zentrales Problem zu thematisieren – nämlich die Frage, wie es Chemikern trotz wechselnder Gegenstandsbereiche und theoretischer (...) Umbrüche gelang, eine eigenständige und stabile Identität auszubilden. Nach einer Einführung in den Begriff “Denkstil”, argumentiert der Aufsatz, dass die Beständigkeit der Chemie als eines Faches wesentlich in ihren Laborpraktiken gründet, die ihrerseits wiederum die spezifische Art der Fragen bestimmten, die Chemiker in ihren Forschungen stellten bzw. die Form der Antworten, nach denen sie suchten. Folgende Merkmale kennzeichnen diesen “chemischen Denkstil” eine spezifische, im Herstellen begründete Form des Wissens, die Befassung mit einzelnen Stoffen und Materialien statt mit Materie im Allgemeinen und eine Beobachtung von Natur besonders im Hinblick auf Transformationsprozesse.The Chemists' Style of Thinking. This paper discusses the relevance of the notion of “styles of scientific thinking” introduced by Alistair Crombie and revisited by Ian Hacking, for understanding how chemistry shaped its identity. Although neither Crombie nor Hacking applied this notion to individual disciplines, it seems appropriate to use it in the case of chemistry because it helps to address a puzzling issue: how did chemists manage to shape an identity of their own, despite shifting territories and theoretical transformations? Following a presentation of the notion of style, I will argue that the stable identity of chemistry is rooted in laboratory practices, which determined the specific questions that chemists put to nature as well as the answers to their questions. The “chemical style of thinking” is characterized by i) a specific way of knowing through making, ii) the concern with individual materials rather than matter in general and iii) a specific commitment to nature. (shrink)
This paper is a critical assessment of the epistemological impact of the systematic quantification of nature with the accumulation of big datasets on the practice and orientation of ecological science. We examine the contents of big databases and argue that it is not just accumulated information; records are translated into digital data in a process that changes their meanings. In order to better understand what is at stake in the ‘datafication’ process, we explore the context for the emergence and quantification (...) of biodiversity in the 1980s, along with the concept of the global environment. In tracing the origin and development of the global biodiversity information facility we describe big data biodiversity projects as a techno-political construction dedicated to monitoring a new object: the global diversity. We argue that, biodiversity big data became a powerful driver behind the invention of the concept of the global environment, and a way to embed ecological science in the political agenda. (shrink)
Scientific textbooks are often said to deliver a stereotyped kind of knowledge, which conceals rather than reveals the real making of science. They may, however, alternatively be regarded as of peculiar interest for historians of science. An over-mechanical application of the Kuhnian concepts of ‘scientific revolution’ and ‘normal science’ can lead to the neglect of the internal dynamics of ‘normal science’. Scientific textbooks may provide a better understanding of the process of normalization in science.
Although many active scientists deplore the publicity about Drexler's futuristic scenario, I will argue that the controversies it has generated are very useful, at least in one respect. They help clarify the metaphysical assumptions underlying nanotechnologies, which may prove very helpful for understanding their public and cultural impact. Both Drexler and his opponents take inspiration from living systems, which they both describe as machines. However there is a striking contrast in their respective views of molecular machineries. This paper based on (...) semipopular publications is an attempt to characterize the rival models of nanomachines and to disentangle the worldviews underpinning the uses of biological reference on both sides. Finally, in an effort to point out the historical roots of the contrast in the concepts of nanomachines, I raise the question of a divide between two cultures of nanotechnology. (shrink)
"Public engagement in science" is one of the buzzwords that, since 2000, has been used in nanotechnology programs. To what extent does public engagement disrupt the traditional relations between science and the public? This paper briefly contrasts the traditional model of science communication - the diffusionist model - that prevailed in the twentieth century and the new model - the participatory model - that tends to prevail nowadays. Then it will try to disentangle the assumptions underlying the public dialogue initiated (...) about nanotechnology, and conclude that nanotechnology actually develops a managerial model of society. (shrink)
Scientists and engineers who extensively use the term “nanomachine” are not always aware of the philosophical implications of this term. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the concept of nanomachine through a distinction between three major paradigms of machine. After a brief presentation of two well-known paradigms - Cartesian mechanistic machines and Von Neumann's complex and uncontrolled machines – we will argue that Drexler's model was mainly Cartesian. But what about the model of his critics? We propose a (...) third model - Gilbert Simondon's notion of concrete machines – which seems more appropriate to understand nanomachines than the notion of “soft machines”. Finally we review a few strategies currently used to design nanomachines, in an effort to determine which paradigm they belong to. (shrink)
La chimie est délaissée des philosophes et historiens des sciences. Cette discipline ne serait-elle pas bonne à penser? Qu’est-ce que ce silence, ce mépris ou cette méconnaissance nous enseignent sur le régime du savoir en chimie? Inversement, la chimie méprisée, méconnue ou simplement ignorée ne signalerait-elle pas les travers des philosophes et les limites de leur pouvoir de conceptualiser et de penser? Cet ouvrage donne un aperçu de la complexité de ces questions en adoptant un point de vue symétrique où (...) se croisent les regards des chimistes et des philosophes. En abordant les problématiques posées par les théories de la matière et en étudiant la question du corps du chimiste et de son statut social, ce volume s’interroge aussi sur l’image de la chimie et sur le rejet du « chimique » au profit du « naturel » très en vogue aujourd’hui. (shrink)
Over the past decades, self-assembly has attracted a lot of research attention and transformed the relations between chemistry, materials science and biology. The paper explores the impact of the current interest in self-assembly techniques on the traditional debate over the nature of life. The first section describes three different research programs of self-assembly in nanotechnology in order to characterize their metaphysical implications: (1) Hybridization (using the building blocks of living systems for making devices and machines) ; (2) Biomimetics (making artifacts (...) mimicking nature); (3) Integration (a composite of the two previous strategies). The second section focused on the elusive boundary between self-assembly and self-organization tries to map out the various positions adopted by the promoters of self-assembly on the issue of vitalism. (shrink)
The strong opposition of nineteenth-century French chemists to atomism is usually described as a national attitude due to the overarching influence of positivism in France. The explanation sounds plausible, at first glance. However, the idea that a philosophy of science acted as an obstacle to the advancement of science needs further investigation. What is meant exactly by a philosophical influence on a scientific community? In analysing the alleged influence of positivism on the chemists' community it is argued that the common (...) connection established between philosophical views and scientific attitudes leads to a misunderstanding of both philosophy and scientific activity. This paper first stresses the misreading of Auguste Comte's works; then the misunderstanding of scientific debates about atomism in chemistry. Finally it suggests an alternative view: that the atomic debates generated a variety of positivisms. (shrink)
Comment penser les nouvelles technologies? Après avoir enquêté dans plusieurs entreprises, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent met à jour une vérité paradoxale : le meilleur moyen d'élaborer la philosophie des matériaux nouveaux est de reprendre les interrogations fondatrices de la pensée antique et, notamment, la notion de mixte qui permettait de comprendre ensemble, l'unité et la variété, le même et l'autre. En effet, les nouveaux matériaux requièrent des techniques de conception et de fabrication inédites qui mélangent des éléments hétérogènes sur le modèle du (...) monde vivant. Cette originale confrontation entre le monde industriel d'aujourd'hui et la philosophie ancienne invite le lecteur à repenser la nature et l'artifice, à reconsidérer le mixte, au-delà d'une pensée pauvre de l'identique et du différent. (shrink)
Is there still room at the bottom? The question providing the theme for the present issue of Philosophia Scientiæ is, of course, adapted from Richard Feynman’s well-known speech at the 1959 meeting of the American Physical Society. On this occasion he attracted physicists’ attention to the vast potential of working at the scale of the nanometre if not the ångström, using the catchy title: “Plenty of Room at the Bottom” [Feynman 1959]. This hookline from a famous Nobel laureate physicist serve...
Chemistry deserves more philosophical attention not so much to do justice to a long-neglected science or to enhance its cultural prestige, but to undermine a number of taken-for-granted assumptions about scientific rationality and more importantly to diversify our metaphysical views of nature and reality. In brief, this paper does not make the case for a philosophy of chemistry. It rather urges philosophers of science to listen to chemists and discuss what they learn from them. Because over the course of many (...) centuries chemists have developed a special access to nature and a special way of investigating and dealing with material substances, they have confronted a number of epistemological and ontological issues that are worth discussing. Following critical remarks about the disciplinary partition of philosophy, a historical section presents the contributions to philosophy of a few French twentieth-century chemists-turned philosophers to emphasize how they have challenged the dominant philosophical categories. The final section develops one of the lessons that philosophers can learn from chemists: to pay attention to things, to their materiality and activity in order to develop new ontological perspectives. (shrink)
In diesem Beitrag lege ich dar, dass in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts das Konzept von Werkstoffen (materials) als charakteristischer ontologischer Typus eines neuen Forschungs- und Wissenschaftsstils aufkam. Das soll nicht heißen, dass Werkstoffe niemals zuvor wissenschaftlich bearbeitet worden wären. Zweifellos hatten sich zahlreiche wissenschaftliche Disziplinen mit den Eigenschaften einer ganzen Reihe von Werkstoffen befasst. Doch wurden dabei Werkstoffe nicht als generische, also alle Arten von Stoffen umfassende, Entität betrachtet.Ziel dieses Aufsatzes ist zu verstehen, wie Werkstoffe als Gattungseinheit entstanden (...) sind und zu Objekten einer Wissenschaft wurden, die so unterschiedliche Dinge wie Papier, Holz, Metalle, Beton, Keramik, Polymere, Halbleiter und Kohlenstoff-Nanoröhren umfasst. Im Bemühen, die historischen Begleitumstände des Auftretens von Werkstoffen zu bestimmen, werde ich diese zunächst in historischer und ontologischer Hinsicht einordnen. Wie war es möglich, all diese Dinge in einer einzigen Gattung zu vereinigen? Dann wende ich mich dem sich verändernden Status von Werkstoffen zu, ein Resultat der erfolgreichen Materialforschung. Werkstoffe sind nicht länger die Vorbedingungen, die dem Entwurfsprozess Beschränkungen auferlegen, sondern werden nun selbst spezifisch entworfen. Solche materials by design sind echte, individuell zugeschnittene Schöpfungen und nicht nur einfach Handelsprodukte. Zudem birgt der Wandel ihres ontologischer Status ein Paradox mit seiner Tendenz zur Entmaterialisierung von Technik. (shrink)
Of all the scientific disciplines chemistry seems to be particularly concerned about its public image. Indeed, popular associations with chemistry range from poisons, hazards, chemical warfare, and environmental pollution to alchemical pseudo-science, sorcery, and mad scientists. Despite repeated campaigns for convincing the public that chemistry would bring health, comfort, and welfare, chemists frequently meet with hostility in popular culture. As student enrollment numbers has been shrinking, chemistry departments have been closed in several countries. Also in humanist culture chemistry has a (...) very low profile; philosophers in particular keep to their traditional neglect of anything related to chemistry. Of course, chemists have always been complaining about their low prestige, the lack of public acknowledgment of their achievements, and the misguiding popular associations with chemistry, such that we now have a long record of complaints of almost two centuries. More recently, in response to their public image, chemists have tried to launch slogans such as ‘green chemistry’ or even dropped the term ‘chemistry’ altogether and adopted more fashionable labels such as ‘materials science’, ‘molecular science’, or ‘nanotechnology’. Surprisingly or not, chemists have never translated their complaints into serious research programs to understand the public image of chemistry in its cultural and historical contexts. To be sure, chemical societies and, particularly, the chemical industry have commissioned many reports for promotional or marketing purposes. Yet, such reports usually scratch only on the surface and may well have recommended one or the other camouflage tactics. Even the recent boost of academic research in Public Understanding of Science (PUS) has virtually excluded chemistry and, instead, focused on topics such as ‘Frankenfood’ and genetic engineering. The failure to deal with chemistry in PUS studies is more serious than the traditional neglect in the humanities, because stereotypes of chemistry have dominated the popular image of science in general.. (shrink)
ABSTRACTEven though Émile Meyerson is rightly seen as an opponent of Comte's positivism, analyzing passages of his works with the help of his correspondence shows the ambiguity of his relation to Comte's philosophy. Drawing on Meyerson's remarks about his relation to Comte's philosophy, this article offers a new perspective on the notion of influence, which is too often perceived as passive or unassimilated reception of a stream of ideas. I argue that Meyerson treated Comte's ideas as a sort of raw (...) matter he transformed into a finished product. (shrink)
It is now widely accepted that Research & Development in nanotechnology and biotechnology should be accompanied by research programs in ethics. This paper first critically assesses the initiatives that characterize this “ethical turn” by clarifying its underlying philosophical assump-tions and its consequences. Current trends in nanoethics enhance the concern for responsibility and develop an attitude of prudence. However nanoethics focused as it is on designers’ responsibility, reinvigorates the anthropocentric modern ideal of man as the lord of nature and master of (...) the future. Technological objects are viewed only as means for human needs and sources of profit. An alternative approach to nanoethics considers artefacts as individual entities with a life of their own and takes into account the specificities of the nanoworld. (shrink)
This paper describes the French initiative in materials research against both a national and an international background, in an attempt to disentangle the local circumstances, which prompted this governmental initiative, and to characterize the specific profile of materials research in France. In presenting a biography of the interdisciplinary program in materials research (PIRMAT), we argue that: i) the PIRMAT denotes a failure of the French science policy in materials research; ii) the leadership of the CNRS led to a specific style (...) of research, quite different from the engineering approach of Materials Science and Engineering, and characteristic of a French style in materials research. (shrink)
RÉSUMÉ: Émile Meyerson est, à juste titre, perçu comme un adversaire du positivisme d'Auguste Comte, mais une analyse de quelques passages de ses æuvres étayée par sa correspondance montre combien est ambivalente sa relation à Comte. Nous proposons de poursuivre les réflexions qu'ébauche Meyerson sur sa relation à Comte, pour repenser la notion d'influence, trop souvent perçue comme un flux d'idées passivement reçues et plus ou moins digérées. On montrera que l'æuvre de Comte fut pour Meyerson une sorte de matériau (...) d'idées auquel il fait subir un traitement, tout comme un industriel transforme des matières premières pour élaborer un produit fini.ABSTRACT: Even though Émile Meyerson is rightly seen as an opponent of Comte's positivism, analyzing passages of his works with the help of his correspondence shows the ambiguity of his relation to Comte's philosophy. Drawing on Meyerson's remarks about his relation to Comte's philosophy, this article offers a new perspective on the notion of influence, which is too often perceived as passive or unassimilated reception of a stream of ideas. I argue that Meyerson treated Comte's ideas as a sort of raw matter he transformed into a finished product. (shrink)