Well-ordered science and Indian epistemic cultures: Toward a polycentered history of science

Jonardon Ganeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This essay defends the view that "modern science," as with modernity in general, is a polycentered phenomenon, something that appears in different forms at different times and places. It begins with two ideas about the nature of rational scientific inquiry: Karin Knorr Cetina's idea of "epistemic cultures," and Philip Kitcher's idea of science as "a system of public knowledge," such knowledge as would be deemed worthwhile by an ideal conversation among the whole public under conditions of mutual engagement. This account of the nature of scientific practice provides us with a new perspective from which to understand key elements in the philosophical project of Jaina logicians in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries c.e. Jaina theory seems exceptionally well targeted onto two of the key constituents in the ideal conversation-the classification of all human points of view and the representation of end states of the deliberative process. The Buddhist theory of the Kathavatthu contributes to Indian epistemic culture in a different way: by supplying a detailed theory of how human dialogical standpoints can be revised in the ideal conversation, an account of the phenomenon Kitcher labels "tutoring." Thus science in India has its own history, one that should be studied in comparison and contrast with the history of science in Europe. In answer to Joseph Needham, it was not 'modern science' which failed to develop in India or China but rather non-well-ordered science, science as unconstrained by social value and democratic consent. What I argue is that this is not a deficit in the civilisational histories of these countries, but a virtue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-359
Number of pages12
JournalISIS
Volume104
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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