Tag Archives: Talcott Parson

Interview: Joel Isaac on the Interstitial Academy

The online interview series New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has released an audio interview with historian Joel Issac on his recent book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (right). In Working Knowledge Isaac explores how the human sciences developed at Harvard University in a variety of interdisciplinary spaces in the mid-twentieth century.

As described on the New Books Network website,

In Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard University Press, 2012), Joel Isaac takes readers into the interstitial academy of Harvard University in the middle of the twentieth century. Isaac traces a kind of early history of interdisciplinarity in the American academy in the course of an elegantly wrought argument for situating one of the most pivotal texts of the history and philosophy of science, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, within the emergence of what have become known as the human sciences. Twentieth century philosophers and social scientists sought to replace Kant’s transcendental notions with concepts more firmly rooted in the activities of working scientists and mathematicians, creating an epistemology that was deeply rooted in social practices. Maturing in this context and coming of intellectual age largely in the interstitial academy, Kuhn developed a notion of scientific paradigms that were “revealed in its textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises,” grounding his philosophy in a fundamental concern with pedagogical practices. At the same time, Isaac’s book is about so much more than Kuhn: it treats the history of American universities, the sociology of Pareto, the development of the case method in legal education, the changing disciplinary relationships between philosophy and psychology, the development of an idea of “social sciences,” among many other themes and stories. It is an exceptionally rich and persuasive story, and well worth reading – be it on the beach or elsewhere.

The New Books in Science, Technology, and Society interview with Isaac can be heard online here.

Share on Facebook

Measurement, Psychical Research & More in JHBS

The Spring 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has just been released online. The issue features articles on the role of psychologist William McDougall (left) in the professionalization of psychical research, an investigation of the early twentieth century connections (or the lack thereof) between intitutionalist economics and psychology, as well as the relationship between rational decision making and measurement in the post war years. A further article explores the early critiques of sociologist Talcott Parson’s social theory. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“A nice arrangement of heterodoxies: William McDougall and the professionalization of psychical research,” by Egil Asprem. No abstract provided. Asprem provides the following overview of the article’s aims:

Seeing that there was a growing dissatisfaction with the staunch behaviorism that had swept the American psychology community since Watson’s breakthrough in the 1910s, McDougall would appear as its most vociferous opponent in America. This opposition he would link closely with psychical research. By seeking such entanglements McDougall attempted to heighten the prestige of psychical research and urge its professionalization as a part of the university system. Continue reading Measurement, Psychical Research & More in JHBS

Share on Facebook