A great merit of this volume is that it provides the sophisticated framework that the contingency debate has needed. The editors and contributors are to be commended for presenting the contingency debate so fully. 'Science as It Could Have Been' is a powerful defense of the contingency of our science but also-perhaps more importantly-of our ways of thinking philosophically about it. If the history of science could have gone differently, then so, too, could the history of the philosophy of science.
Could all or part of our taken-as-established scientific conclusions, theories, experimental data, ontological commitments, and so forth have been significantly different? Science as It Could Have Been focuses on a crucial issue that contemporary science studies have often neglected: the issue of contingency within science. It considers a number of case studies, past and present, from a wide range of scientific disciplines—physics, biology, geology, mathematics, and psychology—to explore whether components of human science are inevitable, or if we could have developed an alternative successful science based on essentially different notions, conceptions, and results. Bringing together a group of distinguished contributors in philosophy, sociology, and history of science, this edited volume offers a comprehensive analysis of the contingency/inevitability problem and a lively and up-to-date portrait of current debates in science studies.
The most comprehensive publication on the problem of contingency in science to date, and as such, it serves well to gauge philosophical opinions on the matter.
This is an absorbingly interesting symposium on the question of, in Ian Hacking's phrase, how inevitable the results of successful science are. The issues in play are as important as they are difficult, benefiting from the kind of unhurried, expert but often unorthodox examination they receive over the course of this volume. Science as It Could Have Been will establish itself straightaway as defining the state of the art and will surely become a necessary reference point for all future work.
This well-edited, integrated volume of essays . . . illustrates welcome professionalism and maturity in a study of science that would have been rare a few decades ago. Highly recommended
Léna Soler is associate professor of philosophy of science at the University of Lorraine. She is the author of Introduction à l’épistémologie and editor of Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science.
Andrew Pickering is professor of sociology and philosophy at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Constructing Quarks, The Mangle of Practice, and The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future.