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Most historians of science share the conviction that the incorporation of the corpuscular theory into seventeenth-century chemistry was the beginning of modern chemistry. My thesis in this paper is that modern chemisty started with the concept of the chemicl compound, which emerged at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, without any signifivant influence of the corpuscular theory. Rather the historical reconstruction of the emergence of this concept shows that it resulted from the reflection on the chemical operations in the sixteenth-century metallurgy and seventeenth-century pharmacy. I argue that the reversibility of these operations and their understanding as crafts (metallurgy) or chemical arts (pharmacy) were decisive factors for the emergence of the first ideas about chemical compounds in the seventeenth-century pharmaceutical works written by pharmaceutically trained authors, influenced by the Paracelsian image of nature. There is a direct line of descent from these authors to E.F.Geoffroy (1675–1742), who integrated the first scattered ideas of chemical compound into a general concept comprising chemical artefacts as well as natural bodies.
This essay describes the emergence and stabilization in French and English experimental accounts, in second half of the seventeenth century, of the narrative sequence: X did (some process in the laboratory) and X saw (something happen), where X stands for a pronoun, I or we in English, je, nous or on in French. Focussing on the French case, it shows how the use of the collective pronoun on in the experimental accounts registered in the files of the Académie des Sciences is directly related to the will of this newly created institution to assert a collective authority on the production and legitimization of experimental matters-of-fact produced in the laboratory. It is argued, through the case of the discovery of the blind spot in the eye by Mariotte, that this new narrative form imbeds a construal of the experiment as a public spectacle, and of the proof as a witnessing event, which eludes the Academy's attempts to monopolize the process of fact validation and favors the diffusion and display of experiments in front of larger audiences. The question of whether a privileged witness such as the King of France who patronized the Academy could not have constituted by himself a suitable audience to ensure a full legitimization of experimental matters-of-fact while remaning within the bounds of academic practices is addressed. It is answered in the negative by providing evidence for the lack of interest of the absolute monarch in experiments. On the other hand, the outdoor practices of observation and measurement are shown to interfere in a constructive manner with the absolutist power and to capture the attention of the absolutist monarch, where laboratory experiments had failed. It is proposed that natural philosophers in the early modern period bear the burden of proof in buying credibility for the phenomena they try, by paying a tribute to the standing of the patrician elites that witness their experiments. This makes sense in a straightforward manner of the lack of interest of the King of France in a practice which exalts the power of the very group he is trying hard to control through the absolutist structure of power.
In the minds of many, the Bourbakist trend in mathematics was characterized by pursuit of rigor to the detriment of concern for applications or didactic concessions to the nonmathematician, which would seem to render the concept of a Bourbakist incursion into a field of applied mathematices an oxymoron. We argue that such a conjuncture did in fact happen in postwar mathematical economics, and describe the career of Gérard Debreu to illustrate how it happened. Using the work of Leo Corry on the fate of the Bourbakist program in mathematics, we demonstrate that many of the same problems of the search for a formal structure with which to ground mathematical practice also happened in the case of Debreu. We view this case study as an alternative exemplar to conventional discussions concerning the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics in science.
In this paper I challenge the “uncertainty reduction” argument — the dominant explanation (and justification) for the rise of bureaucratic firms in the late nineteenth century. In contradiction to the agrument that “uncertainty” was a barrier to rational economic order and therefore needed to be reduced, I argue that “uncertainty” was manufactured, objectified, and reified in the course of developing industrial bureacracies. Using an alternative historical narrative I demonstrate that “uncertainty” was used to increase the “rationality” — i.e., control — of hierarchies and to enhance the legitimacy of “rational planning.” In other words, strategies to “reduce uncertainty” increased the “certainty” — i.e., control and centrality — of rational planners but increased the “uncertainty” of their subordinates. I point to the fact that the “uncertainty reduction” argument became a central element in the professional idelogy of management and a focal point in management education programs. Furthermore, the canonical organization theory in the social sciences adopted the rhetoric, logic, and epistemlogy produced by the agents under its study and disseminated their ideology. Through their interrelationship in organization theory, “uncertainty” and “rationality” were enacted as two binary opposites that reproduce each other and construct one “coherent” scheme.
The paper begins by addressing the notions of technological pessimism, society and environment from the point of view of geography and planning. It identifies two pessimistic waves in the recent history of geography and planning thought: “technological or explanational pessimism” in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and “understanding pessimism” in the late 1980s. The first is a distrust of positivist geography and rational planning to explain and control the environment; the second adds to the first a distrust of that part of social theory which in the early 1970s was thought to provide the alternative to positivism — a distrust of structuralist-Marxist-humanistic (SMH) geography and planning to understand (and thus to control intellectually) the individual, society, and the environment. The paper proposes that at the root of both types of pessimism is the essentially causal, mechanistic, and thus aspatial, property of social theory as a whole. It then examines the conjunction of Bohm's orders and Haken's synergetics as a source for optimism — not to control, but to participate and dialogue.
This paper is divided into four parts. Part I is a conventional, if necessarily very brief description of the way in which military technology and armed force reinforced each other from about 1500 until 1945. Part II examines the period between 1945 and the present; it argues that what most people saw as unprece-dentedly rapid military-technological progress did in fact constitute the onset of overkill and degeneration. Part III explains how, obscured and in part protected by military-technological progress, low-intensity warfare was allowed to develop from about 1660 on until it represented almost the only form of armed conflict still left on this planet. Finally, part IV pulls the threads together, pointing to the way in which war, and with it the military technology on which it depends, can be expected to go in the future.