Externalist versus internalist history of science

At the History of Economics Society meetings this past weekend, there was some talk about internalist versus externalist histories of science. The first traces the development of a science through the development of the ideas "internal" to the science. (E.g., "After Galileo's advances, the stage was set for the work of Newton.") The latter looks to the larger society to explain what science is up to at some point in time. (E.g., "The Protestant Reformation enabled scientists to more easily question the ideas of Aristotle.")

But surely both ways of doing the history of science or partial and one-sided. To do a merely external history ignores the obvious fact that scientists develop new theories in response to the inadequacies of older theories. But a nearly internalist history is incomplete as well: as Bosanquet said, "It is impossible to state the idea fully and correctly without including the environment on which it rests, and the activities in which it is realised." -- The Philosophical Theory of the State, p. 172


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