The Perspective of the Instruments: Mediating Collectivity

Bas de Boer*, Hedwig Te Molder, Peter Paul Verbeek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Numerous studies in the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and philosophy of technology have repeatedly stressed that scientific practices are collective practices that crucially depend on the presence of scientific technologies. Postphenomenology is one of the movements that aims to draw philosophical conclusions from these observations through an analysis of human–technology interactions in scientific practice. Two other attempts that try to integrate these insights into philosophy of science are Ronald Giere’s Scientific Perspectivism (2006) and Davis Baird’s Thing Knowledge (2004). In this paper, these two approaches will be critically discussed from the perspective of postphenomenology. We will argue that Giere and Baird problematically assume that scientific instruments (a) have a determined function, and (b) that all human members of a scientific collective have immediate access to this function. However, these assumptions also allow them to offer a clear answer to the question how scientists can collectively relate to scientific phenomena. Such an answer is not yet (explicitly) formulated within the postphenomenological perspective. By adding a postphenomenological touch to the semiotic approach in Actor-Network Theory, we offer an account of how different individual human–technology relations are integrated into larger scientific collectives. We do so by showing that scientific instruments not only help constitute scientific phenomena, but also the intersubjectivity within such collectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739–755
JournalFoundations of Science
Volume23
Issue number4
Early online date13 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Keywords

  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Postphenomenology
  • Scientific instruments
  • Scientific Perspectivism
  • Technological mediation
  • Thing knowledge

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