That newcomers often take up science remains a prominent feature of scientific practice.
Thus, around the established centers of scientific knowledge there grows up a periphery,
consisting of various types of newcomers: self-trained autodidacts, people from different
disciplines as well as researchers from other cultures and other communities. As new
communities join the previously-existing core group, the size of the network increases, setting up
complex relationships of collaboration and competition among members of the community.
Behind most of the scientific communities that today exist in the non-West, there lies this kind of
a complicated history of origin. And yet, within the existing philosophical models of scientific
practice that we have with us today, there seems to be no account that can tell us how such
newcomers—who become scientists mainly through their own individual efforts—function in
science. This seemed remarkable to me when I first started reading the literature of philosophy of
science during my initial years in the graduate school.
Scientists from the non-West constitute one such prominent group of newcomers who
often work from the peripheries of scientific knowledge. In his well-known model of the
expansion of Western science into the locations of the non-West, George Basalla (1967)
considered peripheral science, i.e., science practiced outside of Europe and North America, to be
an instance of diffusion: thus stating, in effect, that those who accept science under such
circumstances, accept it as a recipient. As is well-known, this model has been extensively
criticized and it has also been suggested that science is perhaps a case of a moving metropolis,
that the centers of established knowledge in science shift dynamically over time. However,
precisely how the metropolis of science shifts from one place to another and how the newcomers
who join the practice of science function within it, remained unclear. Thus, Basalla’s model
might have been rejected, but nothing adequate so far has been put into its place.
This dissertation is an attempt to think about this long-neglected topic. It seeks to
understand peripheral scientific communities and peripheral interactions, and the growth of
scientific knowledge within those non-standard contexts. It is about those scientists whose
research take place outside of the main community, and yet who often contribute quite
significantly to the stock of scientific knowledge. It is written in the belief that there is more to
peripheral science than passive acceptance and manifest individual difficulty, that it is
intrinsically interesting, and that it tells us a story about science itself, especially about how
science is socially organized, and the epistemic consequences of such organization.
Hopefully, here is a new topic that can be elucidated by further research—by myself, and by others, who I hope, will join me soon.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2010. Major:Philosophy. Advisor: Ronald Giere. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 175 pages, appendices 1.
On the peripheries of western science:Indian science from 1910 to 1930, a cognitive-philosophical analysis..
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