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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 57, Issue 3, 2020

Andrei G. Kuznetsov
Pages 105-124

Sociology or Psychology?
On Conceptual Architecture of David Bloor’s Strong Programme in Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

The article is an attempt at the reverse engineering of conceptual architecture and logic of David Bloor's Strong Programme (SP) in the sociology of scientific knowledge via explicating key resources and interpretative techniques for constructing it. To do this I show how problematic is a conventional interpretation of the SP as a radicalization of Kuhn's theory of science and as a sociologization of epistemology. This problematization allows me to put anew three questions concerning the SP. In what sense it is post-positivist? In what sense it is sociological? Does it belong to social epistemology? To answer these questions I set myself four tasks. First, Bloor’s theoretical position concerning the Kuhn-Popper debate is located. Second, I point to and present Mary Hesse’s network model of science (NM) as a crucial theoretical source for the early SP. Third, I analyze in detail how Bloor interpreted and appropriated NM. Finally, I show what theoretical and methodological effects this interpretation had for the SP as presented in 1976. The general layout of the conceptual architecture of SP is modeled on the Hesse’s NM. It combines the principle of correspondence and that of coherence and sees the language of science as a network of predicates and laws segmented by contingent and empirical boundaries and not a priori logical divisions between theory and observation. But Bloor creatively interprets and appropriates NM by the double move of generalization and specification. Whereas Hesse’s NM refers to the functioning of scientific language, in Bloor’s hands, it comes to describe human learning in general inscribed in psychological processes (perception and thinking). As a result, SP is based on a form of psychological empiricism that sees science as a two-storied building. The first floor (perception) ensures correspondence and the second one (thinking) provide conditions of coherence. SP of 1976 is a specific model for the sociological segmentation of the second floor.

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