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The Role of Skill in Experimentation: Reading Ludwik Fleck's Study of the Wasserman Reaction as an Example of Ian Hacking's Experimental Realism

David Stump
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1988, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1988), pp. 302-308
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192997
Page Count: 7
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The Role of Skill in Experimentation: Reading Ludwik Fleck's Study of the Wasserman Reaction as an Example of Ian Hacking's Experimental Realism
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Abstract

While Ludwik Fleck's Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact is mainly concerned with social elements in science, a central argument depends on his case study of the development of a serum test for syphilis, the Wasserman Reaction, which Fleck argues was the product of skill and of laboratory practice, not a simple discovery. Ian Hacking interprets the creation of new phenomena in science very differently, arguing that it can seen as an argument for scientific realism. Hacking's argument shows that Fleck's case study does not lead to the conclusion Fleck expects, and may solve one of the main problems in Fleck's work, how to define an objective element of knowledge.

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