Article ID: CBB102962716

Cooperative Division of Cognitive Labour: The Social Epistemology of Photosynthesis Research (2022)


How do scientists generate knowledge in groups, and how have they done so in the past? How do epistemically motivated social interactions influence or even drive this process? These questions speak to core interests of both history and philosophy of science. Idealised models and formal arguments have been suggested to illuminate the social epistemology of science, but their conclusions are not directly applicable to scientific practice. This paper uses one of these models as a lens and historiographical tool in the examination of actual scientific collectives. It centres on the analysis of two episodes from the history of photosynthesis research of the late nineteenth- to mid-twentieth centuries, which display a wide and coordinated intellectual diversity similar to Kitcher’s “division of cognitive labour” (1990). The concept, I argue, captures important aspects of the photosynthesis research communities, but the underlying process unfolded in ways that differ from the model’s assumption in interesting ways. The paper unravels how the self-organised interplay of cooperation and competition, and the dynamics of individual and collective goals within scientific communities were influential factors in the generation of knowledge. From there, some thoughts are developed on how historical and philosophical approaches in the analysis of science can productively interact.

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Authors & Contributors
Nickelsen, Kärin
Popowski, H.
Stöltzner, Michael
Duarte, Regina Horta
Grasshoff, Gerd
Matthews, Michael R.
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Science and Education
History and Technology
Sociology of knowledge
Philosophy of science
Rubczyński, Witold
Friedman, Michael
Kuhn, Thomas S.
Darwin, Charles Robert
Warburg, Otto Heinrich
Priestley, Joseph
Great Britain
Barcelona (Spain)
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century
21st century
17th century
British Association for the Advancement of Science

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