The History of Science Society

Review: When Facts Matter Author(s): Mordechai Feingold Source: Isis, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 131-139 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society Stable URL: Accessed: 07/11/2010 16:07
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95.95.. 1996.and in its place a temperate probabilism. 1994. According to Shapin. bibl. And it is here. Chicago/London:University of Chicago well as a markedlylower thresholdof verity. Isis. with the necessary characteristics Just as his privileged economic and social circumstancesestablished his integrity and disinterestedness.. in the role of purveyorof truth. Only the gentleman. What occurredin response to this crisis of authority. 87: 131-139 ? 1996 by The History of Science Society.and disputes were scrupulouslyavoided-in orderto safeguardthe cohesiveness of the community and protect the knowledge it produced. Shapinsets himself the task of reconstituting historicalunderstanding the groundsof our "factualscientificknowledge"and the credentialsof its purveyors. $29.accordingto Shapin. hence. argues Shapin. the gentleman'splace in the social pyramidequippedhim with of an inviolable "perceptual competence.)xxxii + 483 pp.that the figure of the English gentleman comes into play. Virginia ?23. VirginiaPolytechnicInstituteand StateUniversity.00 131 . (Science and Its ConceptualFoundations. was the specificationof a new trustworthysource. The provocative title of Steven Shapin's new book sets up its even more provocative of the objective. While the identity of the gentleman resolved the pressing problem of credibility. too.Underlying his analysisis the convictionthatthe crisis thatfollowed the collapse of the traditional authoritiesof knowledge in the seventeenthcenturynecessitatednew forms of assessing evidence and managing trust.ESSAYREVIEW When Facts Matter By Mordechai Feingold* Steven Shapin. All rights reserved. was endowed that ensured credibility and. the was issue of conduct within the communityof gentlemen-practitioners tackled by appropriatinginto the domain of the new science the conventions of polite culture. A Social History of Truth:Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England. complete with its own code of honor. was instituted. compelled assent. for-despite the vehement pronouncementsof the propagandists of the new science to the contrary-the solution to the problem of knowledge could not be reached throughexclusive reliance on direct experience.Blacksburg. The immediate result was that the unswervingpursuitof truthwas dispensedwith as too indecorous. scientific discourse was refashioned along the model of civil conversation-where too-assertive claims. 0021-1753/96/8401-0001$01. contradictions. An expandedversion of this essay will be publishedin History of Science.The architect * Centerfor the Study of Science and Society. index."The ramifications this perceptionof the gentleof man meantthatthe truthfulness his testimonycould not be gainsaidwithout giving him the lie.

I believe. is only a corollary of the two latter. Honor Military."Indeed. Nevertheless. and centralto his overall thesis. Such is the broadoutline of the argument. despite his awarenessof the fluidityof early modem discussions on the natureof gentility. Suffice it to point out that. with its contingentforfeitureof free action.which is skillfully crafted.credibility. but in view of the possible ramificationsof his challenging thesis for future scholarship. in a book wherethe issue of "truth" both message andmedium. which is sometimes reckoned a fourth. view of the significanceShapinaccordsthe gentleman.however. Shapintends to be parsimoniousin representingthe degree to which most commentatorsembraceda more comprehensivedefinition. the stakes for the scholarlycommunity are too high to take anythingfor granted. is the affinityShapin forges between privilegedeconomic and social circumstancesand a whole set of valuessuch as integrity. The Politics of Aristotle. and disinterestedness-that theirpossessors uniquely enjoyed.a painstaking readingcombinedwith a process of carefulelimination reveals that in essence Shapin equates gentility with the landed aristocracy. and merit. and supportedby a wide range of sources (the bibliographycites more than a thousand books and articlesby ancientand moder authors).wherethe scientist's craft and the historian'scraft form an ongoing dialogue. integrity.I propose to scrutinizeShapin's scholarship in an attemptto evaluate the evidential basis upon which his provocative study hinges. noble by riches. 176. . Containedin Foure Bookes (London.the identityof who exactly enjoyed this appellation is left vague (with the importantexception of Robert Boyle). 1952). The accuracyof this virtualequationof gentility with the landed aristocracyis a matterof legitimate historical debate. Such scrutiny. p. More troublesomestill is the claim that these wealthy members of the gentry were accorded distinctive and privileged prerogativesin the realm of knowledge. and William Segar.132 WHEN FACTS MATTER of this new "civil" science was none other than Robert Boyle. But this is not quite what Aristotle said.Such an imposing display of erudition may convince even the cognoscenti of the soundness of the historicalcase-even if they disagree with Shapin's broaderconclusions concerningthe role of trustin science. and noble for learning.freedomof action.This is the cornerstoneof Shapin's argument. while those devoid of such means and status necessarily fell into a condition of dependence.and simply consists in an inheritedmixtureof wealth and merit). The relevantpassage in the Politics reads:"Inrealitythereare threeelements which may claim an equal share in the mixed form of constitution-free birth. 1602).Thus he arguesthat"therecognized to facts of economic circumstancewere taken substantially distinguishthe gentle from the endorsedor adaptedAristotle's definitionof nongentle.and. trans.wealth. (Nobility of birth."1 Even more problematic. one that cannot be treatedhere at length. is imperativenot only in light of the considerableinfluence that earlierversions of Shapin's argumenthave alreadyexerted on historiansand sociologists of science. in Surprisingly.It allows him to arguethat RobertBoyle and other for resourcesderived from genteel culturein propagandists the new science appropriated 1Aristotle. noble by ancestors. Howis ever. p. potentially.Wealth and birtharesingled out as the attributes withoutwhich no manmay be considereda gentleman. and much of the book is devoted to illustratingthe manner in which English science after the Restorationwas fashioned in Boyle's image and likeness..noble by vertue.Most early modem commentators gentility as ancientriches and virtue"(p.. Ernest Barker (Oxford: Clarendon. 49). the heraldWilliam this foure kindes of Nobility Segartranslated very passage to denote thatAristotle"maketh .and Civill.forcefully argued. 226.

Segar proceeded to cite and of endorsethatvery characterization a gentle scholarthatShapindismisses as exaggerated. 114..MORDECHAIFEINGOLD 133 order to promotethe new science as a body of knowledge unlike traditionallearning."] Insofaras they countedat all. & aspiredto 2 Steven in Shapin. or gracedby some office of reputation. or professethphysic and liberalsciences . the learnedwere to be regardedonly as ex officio gentlemen. p. do merit to be ennobled and become Gentlemen. Mary Dewar (Cambridge: . William Harrison. Georges Edelen (Ithaca. Shapinfinds it imperativeto arguethat scholars were the most significantgroup to have been excluded from the ranks of gentlemen. entitled "How GentlemenAre to Take Place. The Description of England (1577). 29:279-327.The educationalistRichardMulcasterjudged that "the viles.Y. In anothersection. Press." Unfortunately. he is so emphatic in maintainingthe essential incompatibilitybetween the ideal of the gentlemanand ideal of the scholarthat in an earlierarticleupon which much of his is currentinterpretation based. and ought not to looke honourin the face. 1968). on p. This strategynot only conferrednew dignity on science but renderedits gentlemen-pracin to titioners(as well as their allies) credible and trustworthy. be called master. 72. we may analyze a passage wherein he attemptsto offset the sort of statementsmade by Harrisonand Smith: In 1602 [William] Segar carefully qualified the alleged rights of the educated to gentility: "knowledgeor learningdoth not make a Gentleman. as somethingpracticedby gentlemen and managedaccordingto the ritualsof polite society.N. republicaAnglorum. To illustrateShapin'smethodologyandhandlingof evidence.. such a depiction is representative an "exaggerated"description of social mobility (pp. Indeed.tdivises be the readiestmeanes to become most wealthy. 282."History of Science. 571 This quotationfrom Segar was extractedfrom a section devoted to civil lawyers. That such sentimentswere not representative Segar's views concerningthe affinitybetween learningand gentility is evident not only from the sentenceimmediatelyprecedingthe cited passage-"men are made Noble for wisdome"but also from his explicit statementtwo pages later:"Doctorsand Graduatesin Schooles. and Thomas Smith." Segar went so far as to rule that "a Gentlemanennobled. he shal be reputeda common person. 1991."[in his footnote Shapinadds that "Segarhere approvinglyquotedBartolus. ed. and rich. sharpcontradistinction the of the traditionalsites of learning-the to be preferred before a Gentlemanborne. but the historical record does not supportthis interpretation. where Segar cited (withoutendorsement)the gloss of Bonus de Curtilion Bartolusto the effect that within thatparticular communityonly the title of Doctor of Civil Law or the bestowal of of public office confers gentility."2 Shapin. graduates In order to substantiatethe claim that Restorationscience availed itself of a code of conductunlike thatoperatingin the schools.: Cornell Univ.which is the title thatmen give to esquiresand gentlemen.unlesse hee be dignified with the title of Doctor.Shapin's readingof the conis documentsupon which he bases his generalizations highly selective andoften temporary of and he downplays the nearly universal attribution gentle statusto scholars misleading.andreputed of For for a gentlemanever after. in an earlier work.A case in point is Shapin's devaluing of the often-cited 1577 representation of William Harrison-repeated almost verbatimby Sir Thomas Smith-that "whoso abideth in the university(giving his mind to his book). Segar stated that "a Scholler having continued the studie of good learning. 57-58). De CambridgeUniv.for learningvertue and good manners." Finally. Shapinadmittedthat his readingwas fashioned in the face of "some apparentevidence to the contrary. 1982)." [P. p."A Scholarand a Gentleman:The ProblematicIdentityof the Scientific Practitioner Early Modem England.and if thatbe taken away."Indeed.ed. also used by Shapin. and authors. Press.

mutatismutandis.In the passage cited Mulcasterwas specifically repudiating"richmen" and not scholars. If any shall still think it a just Philosophical liberty. contemporariescarefully distinguishedbetween several types of conversation on the basis of audienceas well as content. rpt.seem to license such a reading."For evidence Shapinpoints to "therelativerarityof episodes in the Royal Society or setting in which natural-historical experimentalreports were negated. 1590). hence. But this was neitherthe forum envisioned for experimentaldiscoursenor the site for the meetings of scientific societies.conversationwas not only "a mark of epistemic efficiency. 121-124). pp.London:Harrison& Sons. William Segar.but of any sort of discussionfollowing either But paper or demonstration. Accordingto him.or. True. Shapin's oversimplifiedview of the interactionbetween scientific knowledge and conversationbears directlyon his view of the Royal Society. the Fellows of the Royal Society never relented"till the whole Companyha[d] been fully satisfi'd of the certaintyand constancy [of experiments]. However. was almostnever gainsaid in the public forumsof seventeenth-century English science.not only in view of the explicit endorsementof but of "scholarly" pursuitsin the courtesyliterature becausethe proponents the new science themselves. As for Mulcaster. he claims that"factualtestimonyfrom gentlemen-philosophers.3 A furthermisrepresentation the historicalrecordoccurs in Shapin's discussion of the of of character social and scientificdiscourse. disagreements. [but] it was also a civil end in itself. as well as the actualpracticesof the Royal Society.the insinuationthat the educatordenied scholars the ability to obtain honor is erroneous. from which disputes and confrontations absent. Gentilitypowerfully assisted credibility"(pp... the for and requirement "imprecision" the exclusion of technicalcontent. of the absolute impossibilityof the the Royal Society.Obviously. 36. the Royal Society. 200-205.134 WHEN FACTS MATTER the degrees of schooles. 3 Segar. No conception of truthcould be legitimate if pursuingand maintainingit put civil conversation at risk. whom he elsewhere consideredfully entitled to gentle status. . Honor Military. 1). is erroneous.they perpetrate image are an of meetings devoid not only of controversies. pp. on the otherside. The Booke of Honor and Armes (London. n. such reportscannot be accepted as exact records of the meetings or as evidence of extreme etiquette imposed on the assembly. and that truth itself was often dispensed with in the name of civility. and RichardMulcaster. Pedantryitself was understoodto be the failure to distinguishbetween conversationalsites." Likewise."Consequently. "conventions and codes of gentlemanlyconversationwere mobilized as practicallyeffective solutions to problemsof scientificevidence. and Civill (cit.who invariably treats conversation as if it involved polite (and often mixed) company and.and assent.on strictly social occasions and in mixed companypolite small talk was the expected norm. As Thomas Sprat emphasized. 1581. the published minutes of the society's meetings.Positions (London. testimony.He arguesrepeatedlythatboth in polite society and.this distinctionis lost on Shapin.. p. The superimposedcontrastbetween the universitiesand that new incarnationof polite society.and disputes were forbidden. while the significanceof this absence in the registeris open to interpretation.Indeed.... 226-229. especially the espousal of specialized learning in the wrong place. 1887). And it was precisely in anticipationof such social blundersthat authorsof courtesy books cautioned young men leaving school to recognize that they were being removed from one society to another. cannotbe denied the title of gentrie"-he is even entitledto issue a challenge to a duel.contradictions. contradictsuch differentiation.

The Early Essays and Ethics of RobertBoyle (Carbondale: Illinois Univ.. Hunter perceives him as a far more complicated human being. These personal traits. James CambridgeUniv. Hunter. Field and F. J. Magic. best understood in terms of self-fashioning. 1992. constructed purposely for the defense of the new science. RobertBoyle Reconsidered(Cambridge:Cambridge Southern Univ."RobertBoyle and the Dilemma of Biography (Cambridge: in the Age of the Scientific Revolution. 1991). Ciphers. 85:247-260. Press. p. John T.5 In brief. Finally. More important. point out Boyle's unmistakable commitment to Christianity. in fact. Linked to Boyle's profound religiosity was his pursuit of alchemy. Timothy Shanahan." Renaissance and Revolution: Humanists.History of the Royal Society (1667). Such writings. A thorough appraisal of the "construction" of Boyle cannot be attempted here. Boyle was not only secretive but also committed to a closed community of a few initiated adepts. and in certain areas. 1993). Hunter. We learn that Boyle was not as revolutionary as once thought and that.ed. Robert Boyle by Himself and His Friends (London:Pickering& Chatto. are unlikely to be the result of a deliberate literary technology. Press. and their dissentings will be most thankfully receiv'd." British Journalfor the Historyof Science. edited by Michael Hunter. 1994). and Lawrence Principe demonstrate how Boyle's deep-seated ambivalence and complex personality manifested themselves in a convoluted literary style."4 II My contention that the historical record fails to substantiate Shapin's claim concerning the his predivergence between scholars and gentlemen in the domain of knowledge-or sumption that the latter were a priori immune from negation or contradiction-can be further corroborated by scrutinizing his principal case study. J. fortunately. however. Jackson I. . and overpowering anxiety about criticism." had important ramifications for his work. Boyle's immersion in alchemy conditioned his actions. 1990. whereas Shapin depicts Boyle as a poised and purposeful individual. ed.' and the Task of Historical Understanding. Michael Shortlandand RichardYeo (Cambridge: CambridgeUniv. Hunter.and Natural Philosophers in Early Modern Europe. if they be establish'd on solid works. 1959). in 'Dysfunctionalism. Hunter. In his own way. and Antonio Clericuzio. that of Robert Boyle. highlight both the spirituality that informed Boyle's alchemical studies and the centrality of such studies to his Weltanschauung. Equally important is the necessity of viewing Boyle first and foremost as a religious natural philosopher. among others. The researches of Principe. Principe. pp."Alchemy. John Harwood.. Macintosh. and Concealments. endless apologies. Harwood. 1994. and Moralismin the Thought of Robert Boyle. William Newman. Such a rough sketch hardly 4 Thomas Sprat.. 147-159. the celebrated openness he has been credited with is now believed often to have been wanting. 23:387-410.ed. LawrenceM. ed. he shared as much with the medieval tradition as with the iatrochemists of the seventeenth century. which inspired the sophisticated manner in which he wove together. Press. J."Ambix. L. troubled by conscience and afflicted by doubts."in TellingLives in Science: Studies in ScientificBiography. 99. the recent publication of several new studies of Boyle. ed. "Style and Thoughtof the Early Boyle: Discovery of the 1648 Manuscriptof Seraphic Love. goes a long way in establishing the background for a very different representation from Shapin's. Press. and Principe. which prompted Hunter to dub Boyle "dysfunctional. Jones (St. Scholars.MORDECHAIFEINGOLD 135 to be jealous of resting on their credit: they are in the right. A."RobertBoyle's Alchemical Secrecy: Codes."Isis. his extensive exposure to alchemical books and practitioners shaped both his experimental practices and the rhetorical strategies he employed in his writings. and defended. Cope and Harold W. 39:63-74. then. V. and Jan Wojcik. particularly Robert Boyle Reconsidered. 1995)."TheConscience of RobertBoyle: Functionalism. science and faith.ed. Craftsmen. Hunter. 5My summaryis based on the following sources: Michael Hunter. as well as Hunter. Edward Davis. J. 1994). Louis/ London:Routledge. Thus.

for that reason. 3.thatit will be thought. Press. employed settingdownthephysico-mechanical intelligence sincerity me of that thoseof someother writings mine. ed.. I and themfaithfully. so muchas a gown-man. Englishandforeign.maypermit to hope.and it is to these facets in Boyle's careerthat we must now turn.'withoutfraudulently concealing any partof Shapinbelieves. 5.136 WHEN FACTS MATTER does justice to the richness and sophisticationof these studies." in History of the Universityof Oxford. Here Shapin attributes singularlyto Boyle the distinguishingmarkof the Renaissance"generalscholar. ed. Vol. forthcoming). and to of and avoid imputations partisanship questingfor fame. and "crediblyto a requestthatthe lack of suchexpertisenot be countedagainsthim. he him. never argued that his social status accorded him any privileged prerogativeover knowledge. 181). 596. Thomas Birch. and An appreciation the convergenceof scholarlypreoccupations identityshouldlead of conferredcredus to considerShapin'sconviction thatelevated social statusautomatically in the domainof scientificknowledge. he merely reservedfor himself the same philosophicalfreedomthatwas enjoyed by other naturalists in attempting seriousinquiryinto the vulgarlyreceived notion of nature. but begs acceptancedespite it: to whichlearned thecharacters. The strong scholarly componentdeterminingBoyle's choice of a vocation leads us to challenge anotherof Shapin's centralclaims: that Boyle never assumedthe identity of the of scholarandthathe deliberatelysoughtto dispel any identification himself as an author6For a discussion of the ideal of the general scholar see Mordechai Feingold. Time and again he acknowledgedhis want of proper academic training and asserted his legitimate competency on the basis of his work. in other words. havemadeshiftto makethe experiments and withoutfraudulently and observations communicates. . but the very meansof legitimating his writings. Once again. p.nor so much as a gown-man. "The Arts Curriculum. according to Shapin. 566. set themdowntrulyandcandidly.. after in trialsandexperiments.' and..7 any concealing partof them." any discipline (p. 2nd ed.Vol. Justthe opposite. The Worksof the Honourable Robert Boyle. 182). 6 vols. Nicholas Tyacke (Oxford:Oxford Univ. careandwariness.havemadethemwithsome beendiversyearsversed making I having where havenotdoneit amply. wasnevera professor nor to of philosophy. 4. pp. A similar sentimentis expressed at Vol. for fear they should make against [me]' " (p. havebeenpleased give of the in and and experiments. 1772). By disavowing professional expertise he was at once deemed proficientto write on. Thus Shapin believes that Boyle's rhetoricwas not only part of a strategyto "disengage"himself from his writings. 158."6 Yet Boyle's protestations not amount. (London." "a Shapinstrings togetherpartsof a Boylean apology in orderto producethe desiredeffect: "Hepersistently protestedthathe was 'never a professorof philosophy.But Boyle made no such claim. Boyle insisted that "not being a professionalphilosopherwas a condition for " 'philosophicalfreedom' (Shapin's emphasis).for feartheyshouldmakeagainst Boyle. For example. writers. civility. 7 Robert Boyle. especially in domains where he was not an expert. to a disavowal of profesdid sional expertise as the markof quality that legitimatedhis writing:they served. Such a conviction may accountfor Shapin's ibility inattentionto Boyle's conscious and continuousefforts to establishhis scholarlyauthority. and truth. mentioned uponhopes in in froma person my present that it maybe taken goodpart condition. could be relied upon to set down experimentalfindings as they were actuallyproduced. rather. but the scope of this essay necessitatesfocusing on the domain of science. upon turningto the citation one quickly discovers that Boyle did not claim credibility because he was never a professor.

182-184). he loathed disputes." was forced to repeathis experimentsto substantiatehis claim "thatthe white powder or Calx [he made] out of 8 See John T." In an unpublishednote Boyle also he recalledthat in order"to satisfie some scrupulousInquirers. 38.alertingthe readerto Boyle's priorityor position by Oldenburg vis-a-vis the matterunderdiscussion. Furthermore.Indeed. and then only grudgingly.Boyle was in fact quite protectiveof his ideas and zealous to ensure properattribution.ed." as he worried that "his narrativeshad become too transparent the for maintenanceof a philosophicalidentity"(pp."in Robert Romance Boyle Reconsidered. or at the very least an editorialinsertion into someone else's article.orthe chestratedand managed like a machine. Unlike most other authors.even among the rankand file of the Royal Society. n. vigilantly guarding against any trespass on Boylean territoryand defending him whenever necessary. was bent on an authorialcareer from the start. .however. tellectual goods. Yet Boyle's accounts were as likely to be subjectedto scrutiny." fact remainsthathe did not behave like other scholars:Boyle neithersought fame nor stakedout priorityclaims. He was determinedto appearin print. and he habitually refrainedfrom defendinghimself or criticizingothers.Shapinarguesthateven if in practice the Boyle was an "author." Journal of the History of Ideas. esp. and within three decades his outputamountedto more than eighty English editions of his work and over a hundredLatin ones. the defense of his ideas. scarcely an issue of the Transactionsappearedthat did not include an article by Boyle. he was the beneficiary of a partisannetworkactively committedto the managementof his fame. pp. a review of one of his books.and even incredulity. Principe.Not only was the secretaryof the Royal Society indefatigablein publishing and translating numerousof Boyle's books and articles. Harwood. The full story of this unprecedented his active orchestration. if not endeavoris yet to be written. p. satisfie others ratherthen ourselves of ye Truthof wt I was relating at GreshamCollege when I was saying That I had observd yt if ye Thoraxwere sufficiently layd open ye Lungs though unhurtwould not play. whose reports Similarly. for example."let alone negated. sheer volume of Boyle's literaryproduction. Hunter( were any reportsby othermembers."Science Writingsand Writingsof Science: Boyle and RhetoricalTheory. Only fairly late in his life."Virtuous and RomanticVirtuoso:The Shaping of RobertBoyle's LiteraryStyle. on 23 July 1665 Boyle wrote Oldenburgthat he and Richard Lower had "been repeating an Exp[erimen]t. however. and LawrenceM. 37-56.Neitherhis social standingnorrespectfor his scientific work was expected to shield his experimentalresultsfrom the process of verificationand replication. did Boyle demand "acknowledgement and proprietorship his own inof Shapin argues. Here it must suffice to point out the centralityof Henry Oldenburgto this operation. and the disparagementof his rivals. 5). was accompaniedfrom the startby an explicit concernfor his statusas a writeras well as by the determination ensurepriority.8 Perhapsby way of anticipatingsuch an objection.forestall to and appropriation. 56:377-397. Nor should it be ignored that such an on undertaking Boyle's behalf would have been inconceivablewithout his blessing. but he effectively manipulatedboth the Philosophical Transactionsand his private correspondenceto propagateBoyle's ideas. demandunequivocalrecognitionand credit.Yet such a characterization ignores the fact that it was neithercompliance with a gentlemanlycode of disinterestedness nor an overt indifferenceto his discoveries and fame thatallowed Boyle to remaindisengaged from typical scholarlypractices. 1995. Boyle.MORDECHAIFEINGOLD 137 the characteristic traitof a scholar.Boyle emergesfrom Shapin'sstudy as "amasterof credibility" were hardly ever put througha "processof deliberativeassessment.

54."while the latter"impliesgoing against our conscience. 46. (1756-1757. and Boyle Papers. Vols.ed. 1976). letters. 1977). 1965-1973).. such as diaries. 1-9 (Madison:Univ. 1975. xx). I am very willing you should think. and thus applies only to those who say what is contraryto what they know.. Thus Shapin avails himself of the authorityof Montaigne in this context but fails to relate Montaigne's unambiguousdistinctionbetween "tellinga lie" and "lying. need not be as it might be suspectedto be anthingof antimonialllatitantin ye menstruum. when viewed through a sociologically informed lens. 27. Press.Correspondenceof Henry Oldenburg. Wisconsin Press. likewise. Vols. That Shapin negation of testimony was indistinguishable of does not mitigate nod now andthen offers a perfunctory to the variousgradations untruth to. of any privileged knowledge of the past.138 WHEN FACTS MATTER refin'd Gold by disolving it in ye menstruum. and all one can do is concentrateon ideals-"publicly voiced attitudes"which. An equally persistentproblem in Shapin's narrativeis his designation of lying as the antithesisof truth.Whattoo often happens. Vol. Frame(Stanford. 1986). 444.Royal Society of London. Vol. applicationof "lying"to the domain of science is fraughtwith difficulties beyond the binary either/or system of truth..Montaignewrote. Vol. Vols. Brussels: Cultureet Civilisation.4 vols. but surely the vast numberof instancesthat proved to lacked the requisitecomponentof intentionalityto be so clasbe deviationsfrom "truth" sified. 13. can provide an insightful understandingof the past. Meanings and intentions in history possession are foreverlost. But this is very rarelydone. In keeping with accepted norms of historical investigation.Fundamentally. 12 and 13 (London:Taylor & Francis. his citationsof early modem authorsgloss over their own cognizance of the issue. "meanssaying somethingfalse but which we have takenfor true. is the transformation assumptionsinto conclusions. rpt. 2. Shapinhardlyever considers actualpracticesor individuals. 13 vols. pp. and. 49.10 the Furthermore. 10 and 11 (London:Mansell. Shapin claims to have attemptedto "triangulate" idealized representation statementsintendedfor public consumpderived from courtesybooks and programmatic tion with more private sources depicting praxis.He denies the historian very assumptions. 2. he the either/orstandard holds his practitioners For example. As Boyle put it.Donald M.then.The CompleteEssays of Montaigne. which I deliver as having tried or seen them."9 III It is with the aim of bringingto bear the full weight of the interactionbetween the matter of "truth"and the truth of the matter that this essay has sought to scrutinize various componentsof Shapin's thesis as well as the historicalrecordpurportedto sustain it. p. 10 Michel de Montaigne. A.: Stanford Univ. perhapsbelieving that too much ambiguityand uncertaintyis involved in traditional of historicalanalysis. p. RupertHall and Marie Boas Hall.trans.. the however."The former. and the like (p. The History of the Royal Society of London.His lengthy discussion of the role of lying in early moder cultureand his emphasis on the pernicious effects of "giving the lie" are intended to convince the was tantamount lying. every to readerthat any deviationfrom "truth" among practitioners from a mentita-giving the lie.but 9 Henry Oldenburg. .Calif. he downplays the indispensabilityof intentionin the making of a lie." And Montaignestates outrightthat his discussion is restrictedto the lattercase. To find the thesis wantingon both counts suggests thatthe problemmay be rootedin Shapin's is Shapin'sapproach ahistorical. For an account of the experimentof opening a dog's thorax see Thomas Birch. Certainlyexamples of fraud can be spottedin the early modem period. that I may have had the weakness to be mistaken. 23. "in mattersof fact. 1967). p.

It is also taken to be an affliction conditioned by sordid social circumstances. though not for early moder practitioners.MORDECHAIFEINGOLD 139 not an intention to deceive you. Vol. or incompetent"(pp. I Boyle. 7). thereforegentlemen don't lie. p.ed. statementspractitionersexplicitly excluded honor from However. Birch (cit. Works. most negations were not interpretedas synonymouswith giving the lie. yet he is recalcitrant his conclusion:"Gentlemanly in society well understoodthe risks of disputing members' fact-relations.To say that a man's relation of empiricalexperience was faulty was to say that he was a liar. then again.It is one thing to point out that in a court of law an elevated social status privileged the testimony of a gentleman. it could be said that though A Social History of Truthis often its empiricallyunsubstantiated. By way of conclusion. gentlemen are disinterested. in their programmatic the domain of science-and they made good such statementsin practice. n. . 351. The inherentfallacy of such an argumentneed not detain us here except to comment on an implied corollary. Shapinhimself tacitly acknowledgesthis point. may actuallycompressseveralof his statementsinto a syllogism: We Disinterestedpeople don't lie. perceptuallydamaged.But. For Shapin.lying is a central theme within the domain of science. Nowhere does Shapin consider the possibility that expertise could underwrite credibility. 124-125).this was not a mistakecommittedby members of the scientific community.quite anotherto conclude that the same privilege was automaticallyextended to the domain of science. then. ambitiousand iconoclastic characterwill nonetheless expedite future attemptsto confront the undeniablyimportantproblem of the role of trust and credibilityfor the new science."l' Analogously."without ever pausing to assess their qualifications. 1. Throughouthis book Shapin imputes incontrovertibleperceptual acuity to "gentlemen.