DOUBLE
REFRACTION
Looking twice at the history of science

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Holmes, Porter and Hacking on the Experimental Turn

Frederic L. Holmes
(1932-2003)
In my previous post I discussed Jonathan Rée's view that many late-twentieth century intellectuals over-reacted to the excesses of their modernist predecessors. In this post I suggest that something similar may have happened with respect to experiment in the history of science. It is said that past historians studied the ideas of science rather than its materials, its software rather than its hardware. But these claims are overblown, and partly because their authors take a small number of recent idealists as representative of the discipline. I want to flesh out these assertions by looking at a book by the philosopher Ian Hacking and at papers by the historians Frederic Holmes and Roy Porter. Expand post.

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