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A social history of truth : civility and science in seventeenth-century England

Author: Steven Shapin
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, ©1994.
Series: Science and its conceptual foundations.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
How do we come to trust our knowledge of the world? What are the means by which we distinguish true from false accounts? Why do we credit one observational statement over another? In A Social History of Truth, a leading scholar addresses these universal questions through an elegant recreation of a crucial period in the history of early modern science: the social world of gentlemen-philosophers in seventeenth-century
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Details

Genre/Form: History
Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Steven Shapin
ISBN: 0226750183 9780226750187
OCLC Number: 29359054
Description: xxxi, 483 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Contents: Notes on Genres, Disciplines, and Conventions --
The Argument Summarized --
1. The Great Civility: Trust, Truth, and Moral Order --
2. "Who Was Then a Gentleman?" Integrity and Gentle Identity in Early Modern England --
3. A Social History of Truth-Telling: Knowledge, Social Practice, and the Credibility of Gentlemen --
4. Who Was Robert Boyle? The Creation and Presentation of an Experimental Identity --
5. Epistemological Decorum: The Practical Management of Factual Testimony --
6. Knowing about People and Knowing about Things: A Moral History of Scientific Credibility --
7. Certainty and Civility: Mathematics and Boyle's Experimental Conversation --
8. Invisible Technicians: Masters, Servants, and the Making of Experimental Knowledge --
Epilogue: The Way We Live Now.
Series Title: Science and its conceptual foundations.
Responsibility: Steven Shapin.
More information:

Abstract:

How do we come to trust our knowledge of the world? What are the means by which we distinguish true from false accounts? Why do we credit one observational statement over another? In A Social History of Truth, a leading scholar addresses these universal questions through an elegant recreation of a crucial period in the history of early modern science: the social world of gentlemen-philosophers in seventeenth-century England. Steven Shapin paints a vivid picture of the relations between gentlemanly culture and scientific practice. He argues that problems of credibility in science were solved through the codes and conventions of genteel conduct: trust, civility, honor, and integrity. These codes formed, and arguably still form, an important basis for securing reliable knowledge about the natural world.

Shapin explains how gentlemen-philosophers resolved varying testimony about such phemonema as comets, icebergs, and the pressure of water by bringing to bear practical social knowledge and standards of decorum. For instance, while "vulgar" divers reported they experienced no crushing pressure no matter how deep into the sea they dived, gentlemen-philosophers preferred the evidence of crushed pewter bottles. Shapin uses richly detailed historical narrative to make a powerful argument about the establishment of factual knowledge both in science and in everyday practice. Accounts of the mores and manners of gentlemen-philosophers illustrate Shapin's broad claim that trust is imperative for constituting every kind of knowledge. Knowledge-making is always a collective enterprise: people have to know whom to trust in order to know something about the natural world.

A Social History of Truth is a bold theoretical and historical exploration of the social conditions that make knowledge possible in any period and in any endeavor.

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