Against reductionism: On the complexity of scientific temporality

with Libor Benda and Tereza Virtová


There are two kinds of often intertwined arguments accounting for innovative appraisals of the current developments in scientific landscape. The first maintains that science is not in any way different from other social realms and can be characterized by unprecedented dynamization (or acceleration) observable on various levels and in different dimensions that constitute scientific activities. The second position, often stemming from the first, is exemplified in our analysis through critical engagement with Dick Pels’s notion of ‘unhastening science’. Pels’s position holds that it is essential for science to ‘slow down’ in order to, among other things, fulfill its socio-economic and cultural role, if not live up to its raison d’être. In this article, we problematize this binary view and argue for a more nuanced perspective advancing the temporal complexity of scientific knowledge production. By drawing on historical examples, specifically Andrew Pickering’s notion of temporal emergence grounded in his study of Donald Glaser’s invention of the bubble chamber, and by developing our temporal reading of Bruno Latour’s Pasteurization of France, we carve out three interactive categories capturing the temporal dynamics of science production: experimental, cognitive and institutional temporalities. We subsequently argue that science production is underpinned by agentic synchronization of these temporalities. Drawing on our argumentation in conclusion, we oppose the popular tendency to understand time in science in a reductive sense.

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