Concepts Out of Theoretical Contexts


Arabatzis T, Nersessian NJ. Concepts Out of Theoretical Contexts. In: T. Arabatzis, J. Renn, A. Simões (eds.), Relocating the History of Science: Essays in Honor of Kostas Gavroglu. Dordrecht: Springer; 2015. pp. 225-238.


In this paper we take as our point of departure Kostas Gavroglu and Yorgos Goudaroulis’s insight that, in the process of describing and explaining novel phenomena, scientific concepts are taken “out of” their original theoretical context, acquire additional meaning, and become relatively autonomous. We first present their account of how concepts are re-contextualized and, in the process, extended and/or revised. We then situate it within its philosophical context, and discuss how it broke with a long-standing philosophical tradition about concepts. Finally, we argue that recent developments in science studies can flesh out and vindicate the “concepts out of contexts” idea. In particular, historical and philosophical studies of experimentation and cognitive-historical studies of modeling practices indicate various ways in which concepts are formed and articulated “out of context”.

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