Edgerton’s Justification Criterion March 14, 2008Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
Tags: David Edgerton
David Edgerton has a new short article on including the history of chemistry in the history of twentieth century science and technology, which can be found here. It’s pretty much in-line with Edgerton’s usual arguments, but in light of the discussion I’ve been having with myself here, concerning justification criteria, I’d like to point out just how strange Edgerton’s primary justification criterion is in our profession: economic importance. I recommend taking a look because it’s a very quick, concise look at the way he views the history of science and technology.
Edgerton’s criterion has a lot to do with his longstanding effort to show that a 20th century understanding of “science” cannot be separated from the fact that most scientists were involved in the production of technology (but he also claims that this isn’t a new phenomenon). By concentrating on what we view as the crucial problems of “knowledge” we miss out on most of the history of science and its relationship to society. He would argue that we don’t have historiographical gaps to fill–we have an entire cosmos of science that we haven’t even made an effort to understand, because it doesn’t accord to our accepted notions of what is historiographically significant in the history of sci/tech.
Edit: Edgerton sends me along the important caveat that his idea of justification can include many things beyond economic significance, and not just things that can be evaluated quantitatively. This is true, and you’ll find arguments for cultural and political significance as well as economic significance in his work.
I’ve always been most impressed by his frequent arguments for economic significance, though, because so few scholars ever even think to address it.