Social work and social science


Social Science Forum – Finding Homer in the laboratory: an experiment in sociology of knowledge

Social Science Forum
Wednesday 23rd November 2016 1-2pm  Mayfield House M103
Dr Mark Erickson
Reader in Sociology
School of Applied Social Science


Finding Homer in the laboratory: an experiment in sociology of knowledge


Examining science from a social scientific perspective is hampered by social science’s ambivalent and contradictory relationship to science itself. However interdisciplinary we aim to be, science deeply infiltrates the objects that we use to make sense of science: we cannot get outside our ‘science-tinted’ vision. The privileged position of scientific knowledge in our society is comparatively recent, dating back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. However, the bifurcation of knowledge into two cultures can be traced back to the time of the Pre-Socratics and the origins of Western philosophy. For philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, an outcome of this was the Plato-led victory of philosophers over poets leading to the ‘conquest of abundance’ where abstraction replaces the ‘richness of being’. This poignant motif is visible in the project of the social sciences, where theory describes confining classificatory schemas that can be imposed upon the diverse and chaotic social world to categorise and, subsequently, explain it. However, Homer’s writings (which predate the Pre-Socratics) provide a completely different frame of reference. By reimagining ourselves within this work we may be able to rethink and reconfigure our understanding of science, and perhaps even the practice of science. This paper reports on an ‘experiment’ in sociology of knowledge which attempts to write contemporary scientific action from the frame of reference of Homer. This new methodology leads to fragments of epic poetry which act as a provocation to, and a disruption of, sociology of science and STS and theirways of making sense of science in society.



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