Monday, August 30, 2010

The Silence of Gathered Knowledge


Bessemer, in his industrialized innovation of carbon-removal in iron (nothing new to the 800-year antedated Song Dynasty scientists), patented this new economic boon in an explanatory method that could not be reproduced by other steel-makers. What lacked was just what lacks in peer-idealization, or the iconography of scientific communication. Peircean guessing here becomes relevant, as do the memory-tablets of Gilgamesh and the pleas against the reduced recollective-knowledge in documentation for Socrates. As Polanyi would put it, the knowledge is tacit, a silence akin to the purposeful fudges of a Davincian diagram, or the jargon-enriched self-patent in the alchemical description of chemical experiments. Bessemer could not convey the method which - though its overtly ideal form as a scientific process correlates to its pragmatic success when he took up the job - serves as a post-Goethian aesthetized instance of material epistemology, a basic instance of knowledge which Peirce rightly held as an irreductive core of scientific exploration.

Thus Bessemer industrialized and brought about radical changes in the steel-making process (which itself then brings about a new experimental paradigm - in society not only but also in the factory), which correlates interestingly back to Polanyi's personalized science and subsequent opposition of the socialized advocacies of physicist John Desmond Bernal (think here of the current split between Science 2.0, transhumanism and citizen science - advocacies towards a less immediately social (but ultimately far more plurally social) form of science, and the general practice which in certain ways exists as a skewed legacy of the socialized science semi-progressivism of Bernal (which could be redated to List, a contemporary of Bessemer)).

Bernal, who has been cited as an originary of the sociology of science, still represents an age where empirical methodology was not relatively confused by technoscientific re-encounter (although certainly well present, as Bessemer's case attests) - forms of progressivism still held more consistent sway in collectivized ideals (as opposed to the more radical forms today, or the watered-down negating assumptions of more oblique terminologies such as welfare and care (progression as neutralization)). Further, Bernal's social analysis comes from a practitioner - its pragmatics find a grounding there, and serve to inspire the annals of science policy, economic thought, yet also in a sense become more radical than their successors, as in Bernal's fervent support of Soviet science and subsequently Lysenkoism.

Polanyi's critique enters here (say in the 1940 co-founding of the "Society for Freedom in Science", an ostensibly anti-instrumentalist defender of liberal free enquiry - a neutralized personalism which ironically flips Bernal's argument to a predictive rebuttal which formulates the theory-laden admittal of a socially-oriented critical counter), propounding something akin to what some call pure science, or the gentlemanly and individualized, free as they say to enquire without the bounds of social capital and public approvals. It is an intermediary of these two views that offers a useful model - this begins with an acknowledgement that Polanyi's critique of the socially-oriented science of Bernal could be restated as an aleatoric clearing that could well remain tacitly personal, or could reorient in a different social function (the which is inevitable anyway). It is in this fated reorientation (personality exists socially, there is no isolative lone man for neither Hai Ebn Yokdhan, Mowgli, nor Rousseauian analysis, aside from their fictional reproductions) that a personally-pluralized view of social process begins to unravel.

The correlation to industry growth matches research funding, thus the question of policy becomes a crucial instance of where the money comes from, as this indelibly serves to focus what the research is doing. This, which leads to a bureaucratic insularity, was something that Bernal was critical of - again, as a partial radical which confuses a simple binary opposition with Polanyi, this position mirrors open science policists general advocation of more pluralist and public fund-models (crowdsourced as they say) as a method of breaking down bureaucratic singularity - in critique Bernalian, but in counter-solution quite different from the socialist orienting before and after Lysenko's sanctioning. For Bernal, science should serve the people - here in this simplified nobility applied as a contradictory rigidness, this point is in fact defended and more concretely brought home through the opposition and personalized elements of Polanyi's disagreement therewith. The foundation then of this hybridized social orientation, is not a collectivized social policy but a system that, while just as socially-indebted, fundamentalizes Bessemer's formula for making steel in a more rapid fashion. It eschews the collective for a more critical application of what is foundationally not neutral at all, but definitively personal, or ill-defined in open relationship to a collective which it will alter (contrast this with the idea of political or state science) - this is not the symbolic gentleman in his laboratory unearthing laws, but a situated individual whose socially and theoretically tied ontics produce a knowledge that disrupts formalized systems - both through language and the lack thereof. The epistemology of silence marks experiential inception.