29 May 2012

When something looks like science we assume it is....

In an essay describing Leonardo's self-fashioning, Darin Hayton has this smart observation:
The identity of science and the authority it enjoys in our modern world often inform how we categorize past activities. In a sophisticated version of Collingwood’s scissors-and-paste history when something looks like science to us we assume it is science. Here the historian in the present decides what was science in the past and then goes off in search of it. The historian then compiles a story to support those decisions. The historian determines both the appropriate questions or topics and the legitmate answers or accounts. Such an approach seems to work fine, giving us histories populated with names like Copernicus, Vesalius, Kepler, Harvey, Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, Newton, etc.
And he follows it up with some fascinating reflections.