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Pluralism within Parameters : towards a mature evaluative historiography of science

Historiography of science is in its current self-image a non-evaluative discipline. Its main goal is to understand past processes of knowledge formation on their own terms. In the last few decades this approach has greatly improved our understanding of the phenomenon of science. Yet, something strange in going on.

Bart Karstens
18 November 2015
Full text in Leiden University Repository

Reading present-day historiography of science it is as if no one ever made a mistake. We may wonder why there has been development in science at all, if no mistake has ever stood in need of correction. In this thesis, the author argues that it is possible to add an evaluative dimension to historiography of science without relinquishing the many insights won in the past few decades. Such an evaluative stance requires a radical comparative approach towards assessments of past science. The author argues that this comparativism is not incompatible to relationalism but complementary to it.

Furthermore, this thesis proposes that, if we take the wish to reduce uncertainty as the primary force of change in science, a proper conceptualization of the notion of error, which is now surprisingly lacking, becomes possible. This thesis endows historians of science with a set of analytical possibilities, which, if used, will significantly strengthen the historiographical output of the field.