Article ID: CBB709893551

The ineffable: A framework for the study of methods through the case of mid-century mind-brain sciences (December 2018)


Conventionally, the story of modern research methods has been told as the gradual ascendancy of practices that scientists designed to extract evidence out of minds and bodies. These methods, which we call ‘methods of extraction’, have not been the exclusive ways in which experts have generated evidence. In a variety of case studies, scholars in Science and Technology Studies have persuasively documented scientists’ efforts to know the extra-linguistic, internal experiences of other beings – prior to or aside from their efforts to represent those experiences in words and images. We propose a new framework to resolve a seeming contradiction in STS, which stems from the fact that the language of ‘subjectivity’ has been used to refer to two analytically distinct features of scientists’ methods: the epistemological premises of a method, on the one hand, and the evaluation of the method in the moral economy of science, on the other hand. Building on Shapin’s provocation to study the ‘sciences of subjectivity’, we analyze three sites in the epistemic niche of 1950s US Federal mind-brain scientists and find that ‘methods of extraction’ neither replaced nor invariably trumped additional methods that researchers designed to provide evidence of people’s interior experiences. We call these additional approaches ‘methods of ingression’ because researchers purported to generate authoritative evidence by climbing inside the experience of another being, rather than pulling the evidence out. Methods of ingression and methods of extraction coexisted and developed iteratively in dynamic relationship with each other – not in isolation nor in competition, as is commonly assumed. Through this empirical study, we provide a new framework that departs from the binary framework of objectivity-subjectivity to allow scholars in STS to more aptly describe scientists’ epistemic worlds; to discern a greater range of methods at play; and to appreciate the warrants for knowledge used in our own field.

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Authors & Contributors
Hannaway, Caroline C.
Wertsch, James V.
Spano, Pier
Liberini, Paolo Franco
Rosner, Rachael I.
Lewontin, Richard C.
History of Psychiatry
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
American Scholar
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Social Studies of Science
History of Science
IOS Press
The MIT Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
University of Minnesota Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Mind and body
LSD (drug)
Psychotropic drugs
Vygotskii, Lev Semenovich
Woolley, Dilworth Wayne
Mitscherlich, Alexander
Jaspers, Karl
Weber, Max
Swain, Gladys
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
21st century
19th century
United States
Great Britain
National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
National Institute of Health (U.S.)
National Cancer Institute (U.S.)
United States. Army

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