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Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Originally published in German in 1935, this monograph anticipated solutions to problems of scientific progress, the truth of scientific fact and the role of error in science now associated with the work of Thomas Kuhn and others. Arguing that every scientific concept and theory—including his own—is culturally conditioned, Fleck was appreciably ahead of his time. And as Ku ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published August 15th 1981 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1935)
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
No matter what you do in life, you will never be as awesome as Ludwik Fleck. A Jewish Polish doctor most active in the interwar years, Fleck published 120 medical articles in 6 languages, wrote a proto-STS tract, invented a typhus vaccine while imprisoned in the ghetto by the Nazis, survived Auschwitz, testified against Mengele and co at the Nuremburg trials, and finally fled Soviet occupied Europe to Israel in 1957. They were a different breed then.

Fleck traces syphilis from the 16th century to
Nurshafira Noh
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourite
First round of reading Fleck's Genesis. The commentary done by Kuhn was helpful to situate the review on Fleck's Genesis on that time. Fleck's Genesis is recommended to be read for those who are interested to understand the social roots of the scientific fact (a matter of fact, this term 'fact' is also needed to be clarified further) and the relationship between individual scientist, scientific community and the scientific thought. Besides syphilis, Fleck also did mentioned about history of chem ...more
Alex Tham
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable book. On the surface, it is an account of how the scientific diagnosis of syphilis (at least in the early 20th Century) developed out of several pre-scientific ideas such as the religious-moral theory of carnal scourge; the quasi-medical theory of humors, etc. But syphilis is just a case study; what Fleck is actually aiming at is a sociological theory of knowledge that casts doubt on our commonsense understanding of what “facts” are. In doing so, Fleck also issues a radical ...more
Brynley H-W
Oct 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
So brutal to try to get through this one for class.

Reads like this:
"One particular circumstance above all others, namely the astrological constellation, if not father to this thought at least sired one of its constituents."

And this:
"The factuality of the relation between syphilis and the Wassermann reaction consists in just this kind of solution to the problem of minimizing thought caprice, under given conditions, while maximizing thought constraint. The fact thus represents a stylized signal o
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
Where Kuhn got his big ideas. Fleck was also an endlessly fascinating man. I don't think that there has been a better analysis of the history of the germ theory of disease. And he chose syphilis as his main topic to boot. Just great. ...more
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the first book to insist on the fundamentally social nature of scientific fact formation and cognition (certainly the first I'm aware of), and holds up beautifully. Fleck gives a more nuanced version of the social construction of facts than Kuhn does, by not insisting on the drama of scientific revolutions and instead exploring how "normal science" gradually creates its own incommensurability. Analyzing the Wassermann test at a time when its mechanism was still unknown makes the book its ...more
Joshua Stein
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
So, Fleck's book is incredibly important to Science Studies and general humanistic study focussed on the sciences. The book was assigned reading for my introduction to science studies graduate seminar at New York University; bear that in mind as I rattle off my complaints [and there are many] and keep it in context. This is a book that was hugely influential for Thomas Kuhn, perhaps one of the most prominent academics of the 20th century. That said, the book is hugely problematic.

Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Intelligently written and very accessible, Fleck's epistemological theories hold true today just as much as they did in 1935.

Fleck uses the case of Syphilis as a canvas to explicate one of his core arguments; that knowledge is not a result of sudden discovery and transforms into self-evident truth, but rather, that knowledge evolves from previous ideas and is regarded as such solely within certain, competing communities.
For this, Fleck coined the term “Thought collective “ (ger. Denkkollektiv)
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it
My professor is appalled more people have not read this book. Fleck is one of the first people to present scientific facts as socially constructed, so he deserves a lot of recognition, and definitely more than he gets now. That is true. However, it is also true that the scientific fact Fleck uses as a case study is the existence of syphilis. This book contains about a hundred pages of detailed description of one of history's grossest diseases. This was a mistake, from a marketing standpoint, in ...more
Michael Denham
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
By reflecting on the historical background of syphilis, Fleck develops a theory of thought collectives that determine which statements deserve to be canonized as fact. His text is a mentally rigorous exercise at the intersection of science and epistemology and requires a fine attention to detail. At times, I found the text somewhat repetitive; however, Fleck is ultimately successful in building support for a theory that may describe the progression of medicine, science, and general knowledge.
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The groundbreaking work on the epistemology of science and how scientific knowledge is socially constructed, Fleck's book is deeper and more philosophical than Th. Kuhn's later Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In these positivist days, when any doubt of the current scientific orthodoxy is ridiculed and censured, Fleck gives a much-needed dose of perspective. ...more
Sharad Pandian
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1935, this is a spectacular book that anticipates a staggering range of key ideas in the more recent (and independently emergent) traditions of the sociology of scientific knowledge and sociologically-informed history of science.
Sep 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Although his writing style was hard for me to handle, the points of the book are very important and thought provoking.
Jon Wlasiuk
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Contains the germ of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions decades before but meanders in minutiae and loses the thread.
Marcus Lira
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
O Kurwa, Poland can into awesome philosophy of science!

Everything about this book is fascinating. Published in German by a Polish physician/biologist, in what's now Ukraine, this book could've shaken the very foundations of science in 1935... except it didn't. As a matter of fact, Ludwik had to fight for his life (and those of other Jews) during WWII after being pushed into Lviv's ghetto. And then, no one really cared about the book for quite a while. Then Thomas Kuhn, an American philosopher, i
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Das Buch, das Thomas Kuhn den Weg geebnet hat. Ludwik Fleck, ein Mediziner mit offenen Augen, beschreibt übersichtlich, verständlich und äusserst plausibel, was Wissen seiner Ansicht nach ist. Tatsächlich macht er Skeptizismus produktiv, eine Tat, die mich persönlich davor bewahrt hat, den Verstand zu verlieren. Ein Jammer, dass diesem brillanten Kopf nicht schon zu Lebzeiten die verdiente Anerkennung zukam. Obwohl er das wohl mit seiner eigenen Theorie begründen würde...
Edward Fenner
It's a seminal work, but a slog to read. ...more
Timothy Champney
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ground-breaking insight into the thought collectives that drive science.
May 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Where it all comes from.
Kevin Fodness
May 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent introduction to the social construction of scientific knowledge. Fleck was perhaps the first person to lay out the argument that science is socially constructed. An STS classic.
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Ludwik Fleck (11 July 1896 – 5 June 1961) was a Polish and Israeli physician and biologist who did important work in epidemic typhus in Lwów, Poland, with Rudolf Weigl and in the 1930s developed the concept of the "Denkkollektiv" ("thought collective"). The concept of the "thought collective" is important in the philosophy of science and in logology (the "science of science"), helping to explain h ...more

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