New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The October issue of History of the Human Sciences has just been released online. The issue features articles on the self, addiction neuropolitics, and an interesting section on why we should read histories of science initiated by Steve Fuller (left), which is followed by several commentaries and a response from Fuller. Article authors, titles, and abstracts follow below.

Oscar Moro Abadía and Francisco Pelayo:” Reflections on the concept of ‘precursor’: Juan de Vilanova and the discovery of Altamira”. The abstract reads:

Considering the case of Juan de Vilanova y Piera, often celebrated as the first scientist to accept the prehistoric antiquity of palaeolithic paintings, we explore some of the problems related to the concept of ‘precursor’ in the field of the history of science. In the first section, we propose a brief history of this notion focusing on those authors who have reflected critically on the meaning of predecessors. In the second section, the example of Vilanova illustrates the ways in which historians of science have created precursors. From the vantage of modern science, precursors have traditionally been defined as those who first indicated or announced ideas or theories later accepted by the scientific community. As a result, they have been represented as ‘heroes’ struggling hard to defeat the ignorance of their time. As the case of Juan de Vilanova illustrates, this traditional view is unsatisfactory in many ways. For this reason we consider in the third section a number of methodological strategies to promote a more adequate approach to pioneers. In particular, we suggest that the best way to surmount hagiographical approaches to past scientists is to put them in their own intellectual and historical contexts.

Gavin Rae: “Alienation, authenticity and the self”. The abstract reads:

While many commentators have held that the concept ‘alienation’ is of crucial importance when attempting to understand human existence, others have held that it is an inherently empty concept that we should abandon. In this article, I refute the latters’ charge by showing that each conception of ‘alienation’ is underpinned by a normative ontological conception of the preferable, or authentic, self and show that the concept ‘alienation’ has ethical, existential and socio-political uses. From this I conclude that, when properly understood, the concept ‘alienation’ can provide us with vital insights into human existence.

Fiona J. Hibberd: “Situational realism, critical realism, causation and the charge of positivism”. The abstract reads:

The system of realist philosophy developed by John Anderson — situational realism — has recently been dismissed as ‘positivist’ by a prominent critical realist. The reason for this dismissal appears not to be the usual list of ideas deemed positivist, but the conviction that situational realism mistakenly defends a form of actualism, i.e. that to conceive of causal laws as constant conjunctions reduces the domain of the real to the domain of the actual. This is, in part, a misreading of Anderson’s philosophy because, contrary to Hume’s constant conjunction account, Anderson viewed causation as pluralistic and non-linear. However, the critical realist charge does point to two important ontological differences between these realist philosophies — a levels-of-reality thesis and the notion of causal powers. Situational realism has always maintained that the arguments for both lead to difficulties that are logically insurmountable. Unfortunately, this is not addressed in the critical realists’ dismissal of Anderson’s philosophy. Regardless of who makes the charge of positivism, it frequently involves inattention to the real character of its target.

Scott Vrecko: “Birth of a brain disease: science, the state and addiction neuropolitics”. The abstract reads:

This article critically interrogates contemporary forms of addiction medicine that are portrayed by policy-makers as providing a ‘rational’ or politically neutral approach to dealing with drug use and related social problems. In particular, it examines the historical origins of the biological facts that are today understood to provide a foundation for contemporary understandings of addiction as a ‘disease of the brain’. Drawing upon classic and contemporary work on ‘styles of thought’, it documents how, in the period between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, such facts emerged in relation to new neurobiological styles of explaining and managing social problems associated with drug abuse, and an alliance between a relatively marginal group of researchers and American policy-makers who were launching the ‘War on Drugs’. Beyond illustrating the political and material conditions necessary for the rise of addiction neuroscience, the article highlights the productivity of neurobiological thought styles, by focusing on the new biological objects, treatments and hopes that have emerged within the field of addiction studies over the last several decades.

Mark Erickson: “Why should I read histories of science?”. The abstract reads:

History of science is, we are told, an important subject for study. Its rise in recent years to become a ‘stand alone’ discipline has been mirrored by an expansion of popular history of science texts available in bookstores. Given this, it is perhaps surprising that little attention has been given to how history of science is written. This article attempts to do that through constructing a typology of histories of science based upon a consideration of audiences who read these texts and writers who construct them. It identifies four ideal types of history of science which describe the opposite poles of two continua running from exoteric to esoteric. The article also examines the content of a sample of history of science texts and finds that often these texts, whether esoteric or exoteric, provide only a chronology of events (often incredibly detailed), avoiding discussion or even mention of wider social, economic and political contexts. Such histories serve to reinforce a ‘standard’ account of science as ‘separate’ from the rest of society, an account that is at odds with almost all contemporary sociology of science and science and technology studies. This prompts the question: why should I read histories of science?

Patricia Fara: “Why Mark Erickson should read different histories of science”

Steve Fuller: “History of science for its own sake?”

Joseph Rouse: “Why write histories of science?”

Mark Erickson: “Why should I read histories of science? A response to Patricia Fara, Steve Fuller and Joseph Rouse”

Book Reviews:

Michael Billig, The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology: Understanding the Impact of Locke, Shaftesbury and Reid. Reviewed by Thomas Teo.

Mark S. Micale, Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness. Reviewed by Jennifer Wallis.

Petteri Pietikainen, Neurosis and Modernity: The Age of Nervousness in Sweden. Reviewed by Simon Pawley.

Francesca Bordogna, William James at the Boundaries: Philosophy, Science and the Geography of Knowledge. Reviewed by Emma Sutton.

Douwe Draaisma, Disturbances of the Mind. Reviewed by Kieran McNally.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.