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Sedimentation of Scientific Knowledge: thematic issue of the journal "Theory of Science"
In history and philosophy of science the geological metaphor of “sedimentation” is often used to describe the process of accepting recent innovations as “facts” – unquestioned components of conceptual frameworks that shape all subsequent research – and for the transformation of scientific ideas into popular idiom and wider cultural commonsense.
For Edmund Husserl (Crisis of European Sciences), our present experience of the world depends on past experiences through a process of sedimentation. It functions as a general horizon of the intuitive surrounding life-world, pregiven to all in common, and is the product of sedimented cultural traditions including past scientific praxis. Science deposits material structures and technologies in our environment, which lead to a specific structuring of experience even for those with minimum scientific competence.
Husserl’s younger contemporary, Ludwig Fleck (Genesis and Development of Scientific Fact), describes the various elements of the sedimentation process: “Once a statement is published, it constitutes part of the social forces which form concepts and create habits of thought… Even if a particular statement is contested, we grow up with its uncertainty which, circulating in society, reinfluences its social effects. It becomes a self-evident reality, which, in turn, conditions our further acts of cognition.” Sedimentation increases when we move from the esoteric scientific centre to the exoteric peripheries of general public (for Fleck, the spectrum is differentiated into journal science, handbook science, textbook science, and popular science).
The importance of secondary genres in the development of science was also recognized by Thomas Kuhn, for whom they establish and perpetuate disciplining paradigms of normal science by recording the stable outcome of past revolutions and displaying the bases of the current normal-scientific tradition. They also systematically distort its history since always begin by truncating the scientist’s sense of his discipline’s history and then proceed to supply a substitute for what they have eliminated.
For the thematic section of Theory of Science 2011/2 we are seeking articles dealing with some of the sedimentation scientific genres (of any scientific field): textbooks, handbooks, readers, anthologies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and secondary and popular accounts.
Analyses of particular examples are most appreciated, however, reflections on the process of sedimentation of scientific knowledge and its various aspects are also welcome.
Articles in Czech or English must be submitted by 31st January 2011 (prior queries welcome) and comply with the journal’s standards.
For more information see http://teorievedy.flu.cas.cz