study note
Ciência para cientistas sociais (Law e Lodge 1984)

Ciência para cientistas sociais (Law e Lodge 1984)

LAW, John; LODGE, Peter. 1984. Science for social scientists. London: Macmillan Press.


It is thus a book about natural science, about how it is practised, and about how it changes, that has been written with the special interests of social scientists in mind. But it is, it needs to be emphasised, very much a book about natural science. (Law e Lodge 1984:3)


Our primary aim, then, is to build a picture of the practice of science that is realistic. (Law e Lodge 1984:3)


Social commitments can sometimes distort observation, but on the other hand, all observation depends upon and would be impossible without social commitments. […] [T]here is so much that might be observed in the world that it is absolutely necessary to limit perception to certain connections. (Law e Lodge 1984:4)

It is […] social commitments, transmitted by such figures as parents and teachers, that select for us the things to which we should attend. Whether in science or in everyday life, as a general rule we adopt these cues as our own and ignore most of the observations that we might make of the objects that pass before our eyes. (Law e Lodge 1984:5)

All knowledge – not simply other people’s knowledge of which you happen to disapprove – is directed by social interests of one kind or another. (Law e Lodge 1984:6)


science is neither more rational nor closer to reality than other forms of thought. (Law e Lodge 1984:5)

there is no fundamental methodological distinction between science and common sense (Law e Lodge 1984:5)


We start with an assertion: human beings have the capacity to classify phenomena into groups. […] The capacity to classify is something that we all possess and it is something that we do routinely. (Law e Lodge 1984:15)

Unlike the propensity to classify which we have just discussed [which is “natural”], the actual classifications adopted appear to be conventional. (Law e Lodge 1984:19)

When we talk, then, of classification, we are talking of two different but related things. First we, are talking of an inbuilt psychological propensity to order and sort, to reduce to a relatively simple order, and second, we are talking about learned preferences for grouping the products of classificatory propensities into conventional classes. (Law e Lodge 1984:19)


We exist in a perceptually lumpy world, then, and are dependent on that lumpiness for our sanity. (Law e Lodge 1984:16)


recognition (that is to say, immediate visual classification) can be achieved even though we do not necessarily have a clear and explicit idea about what the different members of the class have in common. (Law e Lodge 1984:22)

The capacity to recognise objects as boats is quite clearly a learned skill. But it is learned in such a way that it sinks below the level of consciousness and influences immediate perception. (Law e Lodge 1984:22)


When we notice similarity […] and classify we lose information. […] By treating unique events (and all situations and events are unique) as instances of general classes we have lost something. (Law e Lodge 1984:22)


we not only classify, order and sort our lumpy environment, but we tend to see the classes as coming together in packages. (Law e Lodge 1984:24)

we are endowed with a natural capacity to link classes of events together, to cross-classify. (Law e Lodge 1984:24)

In making these connections we are noticing two kinds of links: the first instance of fire is seen as being similar to the second instance of fire. This burn is perceived as being similar to that burn. But the spatial and temporal relationship between fire and a painful burn is also noticed. (Law e Lodge 1984:24)


Think of the skills involved in driving a motor car, of changing the gears and of avoiding other traffic as we make progress down a road. We know (we do not think about it, we know) how to change gear correctly and in the direction for which we are aiming. We know that a certain set of manipulations will lead the engine to cease labouring and give the vehicle a new surge of power. We know that the truck that is approaching us will in fact pass us on the other side of the road. We have learned, by association and inference, that these are the typical links between classes (or, if you prefer to think of it this way, the manner in which certain phenomena typically behave). And we know about these links in general without having to think about them. We go, as it were, on autopilot. (Law e Lodge 1984:25)

LIKE (tipo, que nem)

we often classify and make connections between classes without having directly experienced the lumpiness of physical stimuli and their association. (Law e Lodge 1984:26)

‘You musn’t eat earthworms, they’ll make you sick!’ […] First let us consider the conditions of the intelligibility of such a statement. For it to mean anything at all the child must know about eating, earthworms and sickness. […] But suppose, for the sake of argument, that […] the child has never been sick. Assuming, as is probable, that it nevertheless has some conception of sickness, this will have been learned indirectly via the association of classes that lead, in the end, to physical events that are recognisably similar. […] ‘What’s sickness, Daddy?’ […] ‘Well it’s when you’re put to bed because you feel ill. You know, like when Granddad was poorly last year.’ […] ‘You mean, like when the rabbit died?’ (Law e Lodge 1984:26-7)

This is an important point. Not all learning need be via direct empirical experience, suitably structured. Much learning takes place via chains of terms that, in the end, have empirical implications. (Law e Lodge 1984:26-7)


we can learn to make connections between classes without directly experiencing the lumpiness of physical stimuli. (Law e Lodge 1984:28)

human beings can learn to use terms or classes and make connections between classes without directly relating those classes and associations to what we have called ‘physical lumpiness’. It suffices that such links be indirect. (Law e Lodge 1984:28)


it is quite impossible to learn French from a French-French dictionary. To learn the meaning of French words we either have to interact with a French speaker who points out objects and names them or we have to have recourse to a dictionary where approximate English equivalents – terms which already have a direct or indirect empirical referent for the learner – are indicated. (Law e Lodge 1984:28-9)


When classes are established and inferentially linked together human beings have taken the moves that are necessary for predictions to be made. (Law e Lodge 1984:29)


As individuals […] move through each day they make use of this network, the similarity relations and the links of association, to make sense of the perceptually lumpy phenomena that they encounter. That is, they use this network to impose some kind of order on what they see and to make predictions on the basis of that order. (Law e Lodge 1984:33)

In order to detect and order one’s environment the observer therefore imports a network, as a set of preconceptions (or if you like, prejudices) which permit him or her to structure sensations and make sense of what is being observed. We have earlier discussed the way in which socially validated (but practically workable) cues are transmitted. (Law e Lodge 1984:135)

ECONOMIA de REDE (a rede de Ockham)

On the whole human beings prefer an economical account of phenomena. (Law e Lodge 1984:33)

human beings try to construct classes that are as general as possible and seek to link those classes together by means of associations that are also as widespread as may be. There is, in other words, a drive for generality and inclusiveness. (Law e Lodge 1984:34)


though some kind of intrinsically detectable similarity lies at the root of species identification, the particular similarities picked out depend on other criteria. This is, of course, a corollary of a point which we made earlier: that classification involves us in a loss of information. (Law e Lodge 1984:38)

the lumpy perceptual raw material is susceptible to imputations of similarity and difference in more than one way. Such raw material does not by itself impose a single possible classification. It offers us a variety o f possibly detectable similarity relations and in our classification we pick up one (Law e Lodge 1984:38)

perception and classification, even for apparently stable objects, is not given in the lumpiness of the natural world alone, but rather in an interaction between nature and accepted ways of seeing, an interaction that exploits some and ignores the rest of the many similarities offered to us by nature. (Law e Lodge 1984:40)


philosophers have spilled much ink over the question of meaning. Some, for instance, have sought to show that the meaning of a term is nothing more than its extension – the class of objects to which it applies. Most, however, have found this definition unsatisfactory on the grounds that it ‘misses out’ on something, or more formally, that two terms may have the same extension but ‘mean’ different things. In the case of network theory this is so. A change in intension does not necessarily reveal itself in a corresponding change in extension, for attention to different similarities and differences may lead to identical classes of objects. Thus, the importance of intension can be a little difficult to see in practice unless there is a simultaneous change or difference in extension. (Law e Lodge 1984:41)

The term ‘mammal’ is not simply dependent on the objects that it properly describes, but also on its boundary relations with such neighbouring classes as ‘fish’ and ‘reptiles’. Accordingly, it is necessary to argue that meaning depends upon both extension and intension, for it is intension that relates to and defines such boundary relations. (Law e Lodge 1984:42)

in the course of such manoeuvres the intension of the class of ‘mammals’ is being altered and adjusted. The meaning of the term, properly applied, is being resited in the course of a process that may be described as tinkering with the network. (Law e Lodge 1984:42)

AS ASSOCIAÇÕES DE OCKHAM (simples e preditivas, condições de coerência)

Those associations that have relevance for action (‘Eating earthworms makes you sick’) are not, however, ignored. Rather, they are linked with other similar associations, and a tie of some generality is forged. This, of course, is just another guise for the drive for conceptual economy that underlies the production of networks, a principle of economy that has, as a consequence, the tendency to create associations of increasing simplicity and sometimes, at least, of predictive power. (Law e Lodge 1984:48)

The tendency to economy, to see new links as being like old, is absolutely fundamental to this understanding of human cognitive activity. […] The principle of economy is one of the most important ordering features of a network of associations. We may therefore describe it as a coherence condition: it helps to determine what goes with what and what form the network will take. Now, however, we should reiterate a warning that we made earlier. The operation of the coherence condition of economy on perceptually lumpy phenomena does not uniquely determine the form that a network will take. (Law e Lodge 1984:49)


cultures […] have, as it were, prepackaged, and in many cases divergent, similarities to which attention is properly to be directed. (Law e Lodge 1984:49)

Different experiences, different interests and, most important for our present purposes, different social maps or networks combine to lead us to a wide variety of solutions, not only in conceptions of social life, but in the networks of association as they apply to natural phenomena. (Law e Lodge 1984:51)

Models that are developed in one area of experience (for instance the social) will be applied to other areas such as the natural because it is economical to do so. If associations can be ordered via such models, then the latter will be used. (Law e Lodge 1984:52)

all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, is constitutively conventional. That is to say, it is a cultural construct. It is not unambiguously determined by nature. Rather it results from an interaction between perceptual lumpiness, the coherence conditions with which we have been naturally endowed (that is, the propensity to seek economical associations) and the coherence conditions which are made culturally available to us, for instance in the form of preferred models. Thus empirical knowledge, knowledge of events in the world, is also conventional knowledge. There is no inherent tension between empirical knowledge and social convention. Empirical knowledge cannot be other than convention. (Law e Lodge 1984:52)


The crucial thing to note, then, is that similarities are noted, classes built up and links erected between classes in accordance with the purposes for which a taxonomy is being made. As a description of the animals of the earth, the above classification is of no use if the interest is rather in the extent to which they are a danger to life or have economic value for man. (Law e Lodge 1984:68)

O CASO do CASUAR (cassowary)

Both classifications, the European and the Karam, result in loss of information. Yet both are workable from the standpoint of their respective cultures. To say that one or the other is true (or false) is simply wrong. Each classification selects from the (dis)analogies that exist, naturally, between instances of birds, cassowaries and men. Social coherence conditions assist in making that selection. (Law e Lodge 1984:70)


There is what is called ‘correspondence theory’. […] [I]t generally asserts that true knowledge is that which may be attached to relatively stable observation via definite ‘rules of correspondence’ and that, under these conditions, true knowledge ‘corresponds’ to reality. Then there is the ‘pragmatic’ or ‘instrumental’ theory, which asserts that true knowledge (or at least that which is taken to be true) is that which works most satisfactorily. It is obvious that the network theory lies on the instrumental or pragmatic side of this divide, for according to the theory, no knowledge can completely represent reality. […] Knowledge may appear or be treated as if it completely represents reality from the standpoint of the network theory. This is because, for practical purposes, it predicts reality or allows human beings to interact satisfactorily with their environments. (Law e Lodge 1984:70)

networks correspond to reality, but from a particular point of view only (Law e Lodge 1984:71)


First, we have adopted a materialist stance. That is to say, we have assumed that there is a material world which makes itself known to us via what we have described as ‘perceptual lumpiness’. Second, we have made a psychological assumption about human beings – that they are capable of noticing similarities and associations between these perceptual lumps, and have a propensity to create economical classifications. And third, we have indicated (though we have yet to consider the matter in detail) that the forms taken by classification are influenced by social convention. (Law e Lodge 1984:73)


in the absence of successful communist revolution in advanced capitalist societies, and given the presence of such revolution in such precapitalist societies as Russia and China, the scientific Marxist should have abandoned his hypothesis and searched for a more general alternative – one that encompassed the empirical findings and was susceptible to further test. (Law e Lodge 1984:74)


we have seen that observation depends not only on nature, but also on the operation of coherence conditions and among these coherence conditions we have noted the importance of culturally transmitted convention. This means, if we might put it informally, that there are no ‘raw data’. All data are ‘partially cooked’. (Law e Lodge 1984:76)

those natural or social scientists who conceive of themselves as collecting ‘raw data’ are obviously mistaken. (Law e Lodge 1984:77)

there is no such thing as raw data. The network theory suggests that the data are constituted in part via the operation of coherence conditions. (Law e Lodge 1984:79)


Our perception of the everyday world achieves a solidity and stability that is altogether massive. Even in less everyday situations such as the biology class, it is now entirely impossible for us to look down an appropriate microscope and avoid seeing the cells. Perhaps more interestingly, it is almost impossible to remember why it was we could not see them until we were given appropriate social cues. In retrospect, all that we can say, rather lamely, is that we had no idea of the size of what we should be seeing. […] Perception, once acquired, becomes largely automatic and extremely obstinate in its persistence. (Law e Lodge 1984:90)

[T]he structure and stability of a network is a function of its workability. […] There is […] a strong relationship between network structure and utility and this relationship is usually tested in the course of action. Networks are not idly created. They have some practical relevance – they are used by human beings to guide their interactions with the environment – including the social environment. […] But if networks are to guide action, then there must be knowledge not only of the outside world, but also of one’s own actions, their relationship with external events and, most crucially, an ability to monitor and control one’s own motor actions. (Law e Lodge 1984:97)

Here we want to suggest first, that motor skills are closely related to perceptual networks, second, that the former are, or rest upon, a particular kind of knowledge and third, that they are acquired, in a manner analogous to perceptual knowledge, by an interaction between perceptual lumpiness (partly within the body) and authority-given cues about which associations between those lumps should be attended to. (Law e Lodge 1984:97)

TÉCNICAS DO CORPO (ensino-aprendizagem)

Sometimes it is easier for the teacher to demonstrate the appropriate action rather than describe it. […] The success of a demonstration depends on the ability of the novice to detect the salient features of the action by means of conventional perceptual classification. (Law e Lodge 1984:100)

Like the acquisition of a network of perceptual terms, the acquisition of appropriate motor skills rests upon practice. Neither perception nor action are abstract. It is not possible to learn how to see or do with recourse to verbal categories alone. Though the latter can be important, they have, as it were, to be tried out. Perceptual links have to be detected. Association between motor activity and a given outcome has to be noticed. The skills necessary for a desirable or workable outcome have to be demonstrated and then exercised. Skill, then, rests upon or is itself constituted by a form of knowledge, knowledge about how to manipulate the body in order to achieve a given goal. […] Arguably, skilled movement might be understood in terms of educated perception (Law e Lodge 1984:101)

The important point is that skill is a form of knowledge or ‘know-how’, it is practical, it can only be learned in practice and, as with other forms of knowledge, authority and convention play a vital role by offering cues about which objects and actions properly go with which. (Law e Lodge 1984:101)


Knowledge, a network of associations and actions, was available to them [those who “spent some time in the Canadian laboratory”] but they could not verbalise that knowledge to the extent that it was successfully transmissible as talk. The skill had to be passed across in the course of demonstration. (Law e Lodge 1984:102)

The centre of gravity of the cognitive content of science lies below the explicit and in the tacit. (Law e Lodge 1984:102)


network theory rests upon the assumption that human beings are endowed with the capacity to notice similarities between perceptual objects and associations despite the fact that, formally, all objects and associations of objects are unique and never repeated. A network of workable classes is built up by ignoring the visible differences between cases and by assuming that it is the similarities which should be exclusively attended to. Objects are treated as ‘the same’ even though, in strict terms, they are different. (Law e Lodge 1984:104)


When we say that an object is a boat, one way of describing what we are doing is to say that we are making a hypothesis. We are saying that in ways of which we are not necessarily entirely clear, the new object looks to us to be like past objects that we have classified as boats. We are saying that we will treat it as if it is the same as those past objects. We will assume that from a practical or workable point of view it may be treated as if it has the attributes of past boats. The network theory, then, leads us to the following rather important conclusion: all knowledge is constitutively metaphorical. […] It is metaphorical because it tells us to treat objects or associations as if they were the same as prior objects or associations. (Law e Lodge 1984:104-5)

All classifications and associations propose a similarity which is provisional. The workability of all classes and associations is hypothetical. What we are doing when we use them is to say ‘let’s treat the new experience as if it is like past experiences that we have so classified’. We are attempting a metaphorical extension. (Law e Lodge 1984:105)


Thus Dalton’s line of argument led him to presume that if one compound of A and B were known, the chemical formula would probably be ‘AB‘; if two were known, their formulae would probably be ‘AB‘ and ‘AB2‘ (or ‘A2 B‘); and so on. Furthermore his theory enabled him to predict how the atoms would be arrayed spatially. […] As a consequence of this approach Dalton was thus able to draw up a list of possible combinations of two (or more) different types of atoms, with an indication as to which would be the most probably discovered in nature. […] Dalton had established an eminently workable way of depicting atomic combination. However, we have not yet indicated the real triumph of this approach. Such simplifying assumptions permitted Dalton to calculate a list of relative atomic weights. Thus, knowing that eight ounces of oxygen combined with one ounce of hydrogen, it was a simple matter to calculate their relative weights as eight to one. (Law e Lodge 1984:110)

Dalton’s ‘chemical revolution’ laid the foundations of nineteenth-century chemical practice; it was quantifiable; it was practical; it suggested many fruitful lines for further exploration. (Law e Lodge 1984:111)

We can easily use the language of network theory to make this point. We can represent Dalton as saying ‘let us treat matter as if it were the same as solid little balls which repel identical kinds of little balls’. […] This is, ofcourse, a metaphor. No one supposes that the atoms were exactly like the diagrams or models that Dalton had executed. (Law e Lodge 1984:111)

Dalton was considered, both by his contemporaries and successors, to be an absolutely outstanding chemist. On this basis he achieved a scientific status in Britain that was second to none, though he was personally a modest man. Chemical atomism, efficacious as it was in terms of natural accounting, prediction, and control, also had the ultimate effect of conferring high scientific and social status on Dalton. His operations in relation to natural accounting had their effect on his social circumstances. (Law e Lodge 1984:132)


A metaphor brings with it, or indeed is constituted by, a whole set of possible associations or connotations. A metaphor is, itself, a network. […] Metaphorical redescription involves the transfer from one domain to another of a whole network of classes and their associations. And this network offers a model, provides a template as it were, for thinking about the events that have been so redescribed. […] [O]verall they offer a model for thinking about problematic phenomena. (Law e Lodge 1984:111-2)


In each of these cases the plausibility of the account lies in the fact that singular events – say, findings about chemical combination or the attitudes of working-class people – can be connected to a model that reinterprets them by classifying them and linking them with other classes in some kind of ordered manner. They are, in other words, plugged into a network where they can be ascribed a certain significance. Looked at in this light, then, a theory is a relatively explicit section of a network metaphorically extended to new phenomena. (Law e Lodge 1984:112)


[A] description that passes as literal is simply one that has been institutionalised within a given social context. Where such institutionalisation has occurred, then the sense of novelty that people sometimes associate with metaphor is lost. All seems routine, and it is forgotten that there are, in principle, other ways of talking that would highlight other similarities and differences. (Law e Lodge 1984:113)


Theory, then, in this view, is the inevitably metaphorical extension of an at least partially explicit section of a network to describe, account for or explain phenomena that can be placed within the ambit of its classificatory system. […] It accordingly offers some kind of plausible story and it furthermore suggests, by means of these connotations, how, and in what directions, it might be further extended: what further bits and pieces it might connect together, what other ultimately idiosyncratic lumps in the environment might be treated as if they were the same in this, that or the other way. To summarise, then, perhaps the best way of expressing it is to say that theory offers a model – a way of thinking about the world – that relates instances together by means of metaphorical extension. (Law e Lodge 1984:113)


a metaphor is a bridge: it is saying ‘see x as being similar to y, and see them both as being similar to z‘, and so on. Furthermore it offers, as we have seen, a network of associations with which to think about experience. (Law e Lodge 1984:104)

if metaphor is a bridge between two different areas of experience or knowledge, it does not sustain a one-way traffic only. (Law e Lodge 1984:114-5)


‘in the attempt to eradicate misfits, all terms and links in a network are at risk for alteration. This includes terms with a direct empirical referent’. We have made this point again in the context of metaphor because we want to emphasise that this revisability, what we have just described as the two-way traffic across the bridge, is absolutely no cause for concern. […] A notorious example is the two-way traffic between the theory and practice of artificial intelligence and computing on the one hand and the theory of human cognitive capacity and performance on the other. Another is the transfer between biological and social Darwinism that took place in the latter part of the nineteenth century. […] As we have seen, all knowledge involves transfer and revision. (Law e Lodge 1984:115)


not all theories seem to have predictive power. Rather they seem to have the character of rationalisations. They are utilised to render explicable events that have already occurred. For a number of reasons this is especially the case for the social sciences. […] Their generality lies not necessarily in their specific applications which are often retrospective and historically specific. It lies, rather, in the network of links between classes that may be mobilised in the course of any given explanatory account. (Law e Lodge 1984:115-6)


even apparently specific explanations depend upon the metaphorical extension of networks or parts thereof to new domains. However, it is also worth noting that different societies have different kinds of explanatory preferences. Some like to explain events with reference to the deity whereas others adopt a strictly impersonal and naturalistic mode. Some place man at the centre of the explanatory network, whilst others put him at the periphery. Some adopt theories that explain events in terms of a future ideal state towards which the cosmos is tending, while others prefer an approach which emphasises the relationship between what is to be explained and previous events. Though such explanatory modes come and go it happens to be the case that the dominant explanatory approach for natural (as opposed to social) events in the secularised West is impersonal and causal. Natural science in particular adopts this mode. Events are explained in terms of prior conditions and as the result of the operation of naturally-occurring causes. (Law e Lodge 1984:117-8)


[I]f theory is an explicit section of a network offering a plausible story about empirical phenomena, then what is taken to be plausible is clearly in part a matter of social convention. Thus, though we may find explanation in terms of natural selection highly acceptable, the biblical account of creation may seem (and is) highly plausible for other social groups. The corollary of this is that the plausibility or workability of a theory is a socially-contingent matter. The evaluation of theories as more or less workable is something that can only be done from within a given social context. Since the establishment of our preferred modes of explanation will always seem to us, from our particular standpoint, like the triumph of reason and truth over irrationality and falsehood, we have, at least for analytical purposes, to exercise caution in our use of terms like progress. While we are concerned with explaining events we will, of course, prefer our own explanations to their alternatives. This is because we stand within a social context. When we want to stand back and see how knowledge functions and is produced, however, we have to abandon such parochial judgements. The network theory describes knowledge, but does not in general evaluate it as better or worse. (Law e Lodge 1984:118)

[N]etworks are constructed by detecting similarities and differences between perceptual lumps and organising these in conformity with workable and economical coherence conditions. An implication of this view is that there is no such thing as raw data – no such thing as a neutral observation language. (Law e Lodge 1984:146)


[N]atural sciences are enormously important in industrialised society in at least two ways. First, they constitute an economic resource, a factor of production. Second, and almost more important for our purposes, they are used as a major resource in social control. They legitimate actions by governments, companies, by powerful groups everywhere. A phrase such as ‘scientists have shown’, properly used, can silence counter-argument. (Law e Lodge 1984:122)


If a network allows the individual to interact satisfactorily with his or her environment, then it is upheld and reinforced. If, on the other hand, the behaviour of the environment is unpredictable from the standpoint of the network […] then this network is undermined and susceptible to change. However, in order to judge network workability, the individual has to ask questions of it. The network is not an idle set of terms disconnected from reality. It is a tool that may be used when the individual is trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It is an instrument, fashioned for certain purposes. It is a resource that allows the individual to move from A to B in his or her environment. It is, as we saw, like a map that will serve certain interests and not others. (Law e Lodge 1984:125)


Knowledge is developed and altered because it does things for people, it helps them to achieve their goals. To understand the extent to which people are able to align their knowledge – to agree upon the facts of the matter – it is therefore necessary to understand their interests. In the abstract we may guess that where people share interests, then it will be relatively easy for them to achieve conceptual agreement. This is because they are asking their knowledge to do similar things. Where, however, interests are divergent, conceptions about what is true, right and proper will vary. This is because, conversely, they are requiring different things of their knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:125-6)


Scientific networks may become rhetorical resources to be used by protagonists for political or other broad social purposes. But in order for them to operate effectively in this way, they have to be workable in two respects. First, they have to account for what are generally taken to be the facts of the matter – ideally, not only after the event but also beforehand. Preferably, then, they offer the possibility of prediction and control. On the other hand, as we have just indicated, they have to be a workable social tool with which to rationalise the preferred position and lambaste the other side. There is a close relationship between these two. […] It is therefore, important from the standpoint of broad political and social interests to maintain the practical workability of the knowledge in which an investment has been made. (Law e Lodge 1984:130)


The workability of a network is a function of the purposes for which it is used. Analytically it may be hypothesised that knowledge is constructed and deployed for two main purposes. First, it may be used to describe, account for and explain events with the aim of interacting more satisfactorily with the natural and social worlds. This we will call an interest in natural accounting, prediction and control (though we should make clear that we use the term ‘natural’ here to encompass inanimate, animate and social). Second, it may be used for social advantage: to defend, legitimate, or rationalise a general social position which is advantageous to the person deploying or the audience using the knowledge. This we will call an interest in social control and legitimation. The former is used before the event: it is practical knowledge and has predictive power. The latter is used after the event: it justifies and normalises. It is impractical in the immediate sense that one cannot base one’s actions upon it. Rather it defends one’s actions, and presents them as natural. […] In practice all knowledge is guided by a concern with, or at least has implications for, both these spheres. (Law e Lodge 1984:131)


a proper understanding of the growth and alteration of knowledge must depend upon an analysis of the field of interests in which that knowledge is functioning. In other words, it depends on an understanding of the practical and social work which that knowledge has to do. Networks, then, are resources that are used to advance interests. Where there are common interests we may expect that so long as everything else is equal, it will be relatively easy to align those networks. People will be able to agree on the facts of the matter. Where interests are divergent, this will be next to impossible. Thus, the extent to which knowledge is shared is, at least in part, a function of interests. (Law e Lodge 1984:132)


[T]he network theory of knowledge […] suggests that knowledge is to be seen as a tool or instrument and does not freewheel in the abstract. It is rather constructed for a purpose – it is used to achieve goals. (Law e Lodge 1984:134)

networks are tools for doing a given job. They may do that job perfectly satisfactorily and ‘logically’, while at the same time having a set of loose ends around their margins. (Law e Lodge 1984:152)


[A]ll knowledge develops under the auspices of two types of interest: an interest in natural accounting, prediction and control on the one hand and an interest in social control and legitimation on the other. Further, whatever the motives of the individual, all knowledge typically has consequences in both of these dimensions. Knowledge directed primarily by an interest in natural accounting normally has social control implications. Knowledge directed by an interest in social control is typically legitimated with reference to its supposed power of natural accounting. (Law e Lodge 1984:134)

The network theory of knowledge suggests […] that interests guide and direct the growth of all knowledge. We have suggested that all knowledge is a function of interests in natural accounting and social legitimation. […] In general, […] the operation of social interests leads to the careful scrutiny of aspects of nature (or social behaviour) which might otherwise have remained unexamined. In other words, it leads to the development of natural knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:135)

they [the phrenologists] sought to validate their social interests by means of natural accounting (Law e Lodge 1984:138)


It is the interests of the audiences for knowledge that are most important for understanding its growth, because in general it appears that if there is a demand for knowledge, then someone will cater for that demand. The form that that provision will take depends upon the existing state of knowledge. It depends, in other words, upon the intellectual resources that are available at the time. Phrenology happened to be available to the middle class in early nineteenth-century Edinburgh – and was adopted as its own. Nevertheless, there are many ideas available as resources and the old notion of ‘an idea whose time has come’ obliquely and correctly implies that it is not so much the ideas that are important as the availability of a suitable clientele. (Law e Lodge 1984:139)


The network/interest explanation for the detailed knowledge created in the course of the debate […] suggests that the development of detailed and esoteric knowledge of a set of lumps in nature is likely to take place if there are pressing social interests for this development. […] Science is not best understood as a disinterested inquiry by truth-seeking intellects. Rather, interests may lead to a focus on esoteric matters that were previously of little or no interest. They may lead to the generation of new and satisfactory empirical knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:141)


[T]he extent to which actors are able to agree about the facts of the matter – that is, the extent to which they are able to align their networks – depends on the extent to which their interests are aligned. (Law e Lodge 1984:143)


Our argument is as follows: since networks are built up under the auspices of a variety of interests, we may expect ‘the same’ phenomena to be susceptible to interpretation in a variety of different ways. We may, furthermore, expect arguments to be essentially inconclusive on purely intellectual grounds. People will not adopt a position or change their views on the basis of an argument alone, however persuasively that argument may be mounted. Or, to put it another way, arguments do not, in and of themselves, have any force. Persuasion results rather from the interaction between the presented argument and the interests and network of the person who is at the receiving end. An argument thus has force when it mobilises the interests and network of the hearer, not because it is intrinsically powerful. An argument that appears to be powerful is thus one that is successful in that mobilisation. An argument that appears to be weak is one which is not. (Law e Lodge 1984:143-4)

A persuasive argument is one that engages with the actor’s workable networks and interests. A ‘logical’ argument is one that runs along lines that the hearer knows and to which he is committed. Conversely, a ‘questionable’ argument is one that fails in this engagement and has nothing in common with the perceptual, social and intellectual commitments of those to whom it is addressed. To rephrase this, it can be seen that an argument or set of ideas can only have power against a background of socially-cued coherence conditions. (Law e Lodge 1984:148)


Our position is […] materialist. It suggests that people operate with ideas, are active in relation to ideas, and have a choice as to whether or not to accept them or act upon them. (Law e Lodge 1984:144)


The fate of knowledge is thus dependent upon social contingency. It rises and falls, or changes its significance in parallel with the social circumstances or fate of different ‘carrier’ groups. The network/interest theory of knowledge thus points us in the direction of the sociology of knowledge if it is our concern to understand the fate of ideas. (Law e Lodge 1984:150)


people may be seen as inductive learning machines: if two classes have gone together in the past then, everything else being equal, it ,will be assumed with a high degree of confidence that they will go together again when next encountered. (Law e Lodge 1984:151)

network theory treats human beings as inductive learning-machines. People are seen as selecting among the many similarities and differences in their environments on the basis of social cues. In this way networks of classes are established, and objects are treated as ‘the same’ or ‘different’. It will also be recalled that not all those classes have direct empirical referents – that is, not all can be directly related to physical ‘lumps’ in the environment, even though they are all so tied in some way and there are no entirely abstract terms. (Law e Lodge 1984:232-3)

DEDUÇÃO (condições de coerência)

any justification of deduction presupposes itself – it cannot be independently justified. There is, accordingly, no independent rational reason for accepting deduction. If deductions are accepted, it is not because this is logical, but because we work that way – because of the unjustified, matter-of-fact operation of psychological coherence conditions. (Law e Lodge 1984:152)

LÓGICA = CONVENÇÃO [problema…]

The answer to our original question ‘Is logic simply a convention?’ is thus clear. If by logic one means the natural workings of the mind, then the answer is ‘No’. If by logic one means that which passes as an acceptable argument in a culture, or from the standpoint of a philosophical system, then the answer is ‘Yes’. (Law e Lodge 1984:153)


What are the forces that tend to produce […] divergence? […] [T]he latter is caused by one or all of the following: differing experience, differing interests and differing socially-structured similarity relations – that is to say, differing cultures. All of these are a function of position in social structure […]. Our position in social structure makes available licensed ways of doing and seeing, interests us in certain goals and diverts us from others. Provisionally, then, it seems likely that those who occupy similar positions will tend to operate in terms of similar networks. They have been taught similar ways of doing and seeing, have acquired similar habits and become committed to similar goals. (Law e Lodge 1984:155)


scientific training, which is typically long and rigorous, leads to a relatively high probability of practical network alignment among specialists. They share relevant socially-structured similarity relations and, given the circumstances in which they find themselves, this in turn often leads to the generation of similar professional interests. (Law e Lodge 1984:155)

Scientific socialisation involves a lengthy, detailed and thorough exposure to the received scientific theories, metaphors and preferred modes of manipulation and perception. If we look […] at the experience of the pupil in the biology class […] we see many of the basic features of scientific socialisation: there is an authority, someone (or something) who knows the accepted ways of seeing, doing and thinking; there is a novice, someone who is prepared to accept those received ways without fundamental question; and the process of learning involves practice, it involves manipulation and physical exploration in order to link the network proffered by the teacher to perceptual lumps available in a chosen part of the environment. (Law e Lodge 1984:156)

We see here, then, something that may be characterised as the transmission of a culture. A network is being transmitted lock, stock and barrel. The apprentice scientist is not being taught to put prejudice to one side. He is most certainly not being taught to question received wisdom. He is rather being turned into a scientist precisely by acquiring that wisdom or prejudice, call it what you will. (Law e Lodge 1984:157)


the only test of network alignment is its workability: are all concerned able to agree about the extension and intension of terms in practice? Only if practice produces problems do differences in usage become manifest. Our point is that any prior agreement about extension and intension does not, by itself, guarantee that agreement will be reached under future circumstances. (Law e Lodge 1984:156)


First let us consider the role of the scientific teacher or textbook. […] [T]hese may be seen as sources of authority […]. They both offer cues about the proper ways of seeing, doing and thinking. They are, in other words, prejudiced guides to nature. (Law e Lodge 1984:156)


a science text typically presents a theory together with exemplary applications of that theory. Here, like the fourth form biology teacher, it suggests how the preferred theoretical network may appropriately be linked to nature. (Law e Lodge 1984:157)


it is not possible to learn the proper use of terms if these ‘freewheel in mid-air’, unattached to applications or instances of use. Rather, the proper extension of a term must be learned before it can be appropriately used. As a child learned, by guided trial and error, to distinguish between trucks and cars and learned what physical lumps may be treated as ‘the same’ and therefore properly classified as trucks, so the apprentice scientist learns to see events as instances of the operation of physical laws or classes. In this way the child and the scientist both come to be competent language-users. Situations that were previously seen as disparate become classified as similar. Similarity relations (to use Kuhn’s expression) are thus acquired. (Law e Lodge 1984:158)

scientific socialisation is organised in such a way as to generate a relatively high chance of practical consensus – a high probability that the networks of practitioners will be aligned for practical purposes (Law e Lodge 1984:159)

The biographies and hence the experience and social cues of scientists are standardised for many professional matters within each specialist community. Those who do not fit in, who fail to learn the received network, who fail to acquire the intellectual perceptual and practical habits and routines are dropped by the wayside. They fail their exams and leave school or are diverted into other walks oflife. (Law e Lodge 1984:159)

scientists are taught to link empirical instances to general and explicitly theoretical explanatory schemes. […] What they are doing is simultaneously manipulating the relatively theoretical and relatively empirical parts of the appropriate network. The theory […] is extended and altered until it takes a form that is more easily applicable to the recalcitrant empirical instances. At the same time, however, the relatively empirical parts of the network are also subject to manipulation. Nature is, as it were, ‘put through the hoop’ until data that can be reasonably connected with the appropriate parts of theory have been constructed. (Law e Lodge 1984:166-7)


A phenomenon familiar to … students of science … provides a clue. The[se] … regularly report that they have read through a chapter in their text, understood it perfectly, but nonetheless had difficulty solving a number of the problems at the chapter’s end. Ordinarily, also, these difficulties dissolve in the same way. The student discovers, with or without the assistance of his instructor, a way to see his problem as like a problem he has already encountered. Having seen the resemblance, grasped the analogy between two or more distinct problems, he can inter-relate symbols and attach them to nature in the ways that have proved effective before . . . . The resultant ability to see a variety of situations as like each other, as subjects for f = ma or some other symbolic generalisation, is, I think, the main thing a student acquires by doing exemplary problems, whether with a pencil and paper or in a well-designed laboratory. (Thomas Kuhn apud Law e Lodge 1984:158)


If Kuhn’s characterisation of scientific learning is correct, then it differs little in principle from other kinds of learning. It involves authority, drill and the practical application of terms or explanatory schemes to a wide range of instances that, thereafter, are habitually treated as the same. In addition, since specialist scientists arguably undergo a broadly similar pedagogical experience, first at school and then at university, to a fair extent they share such specialist culture. Thus, although there are differences between different kinds of specialists, within each area a culture is shared for practical purposes, at least some of the time. It is this shared culture that allows the research scientist to proceed without argument about the ‘basics’, for the basics have long ago been settled and built into the content and form of what is transmitted in the course of scientific pedagogy. The basics, then, form the habits of scientific perception and reasoning. According to Kuhn it is only on rare occasions when puzzles arise which seem to defy solution in terms of the received scientific wisdom, that the basics are called into question and the cultural framework is subjected to scrutiny. (Law e Lodge 1984:158-9)


insofar as they have bought into a similar scientific culture and perceive its potential utility, the interests of scientists will be aligned and they will act in common to preserve the integrity of their presumptively shared cultural resources and procedures. (Law e Lodge 1984:160)

relevant experience, relevant habits and relevant socially-structured similarity relations are all substantially shared, and these in turn tend to generate similar aims and courses of action in any given situation. Hence interests are also likely to overlap substantially. Science is thus an institution that tends, when everything else is equal, to generate practical consensus within its branches – though it is frequently the case that everything else is not equal. (Law e Lodge 1984:160)


confronted with an anomaly, both the extension and intension of the term ‘polyhedron’ become a subject for negotiation. The discovery of an anomaly raises the question of extension: is it or is it not to be counted as a polyhedron? At the same time, of course, the intension of the term – what the instances properly have in common – becomes questionable. (Law e Lodge 1984:162)

Where interests are shared, then it should be relatively easy to arrive at an agreement about the proper way of extending networks to handle anomaly. (Law e Lodge 1984:162)


network alignment is a function of social circumstances, including especially shared biography, shared social experience and shared position (or interests). Networks do not enforce their own uniform extension or application. Alignment can, accordingly, only be practically achieved in appropriate social circumstances. (Law e Lodge 1984:162-3)


If it [knowledge] is accepted and if it is extended in agreed ways, then this must be because actors have achieved a practical agreement about the utility of that knowledge in a particular extension. (Law e Lodge 1984:164)


Closely examined … that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. (Thomas Kuhn, apud Law e Lodge 1984:167)


The materialist alternative is the only answer. Normal science solutions, which depend upon the workable and practical agreement of all concerned, are only possible because the relevant actors have, through experiencing similar socialisation, acquired similar habits of thought and ways of seeing and in addition, are also subject to a similar field of interests. (Law e Lodge 1984:168)

A AÇÃO-REDE PERUTZ-KENDREW (retroalimentação, amplificação)

Thus, when Perutz and Kendrew finally published their structure determinations of haemoglobin and myoglobin, these solutions were greeted with acclaim. There was no controversy about whether or not they had properly extended the method. […] Their efforts were channelled, in particular, by an informal agreement about what constituted the most interesting and important problems remaining to be solved. Such an agreement (often found in specialist areas of science) of course contributes to and helps to structure the field of interests. It defines how the goal of natural prediction and control may be best articulated, while at the same time having implications for social control. The person who solves an ‘interesting’ problem will receive recognition and social rewards of one kind or another – in this case the Nobel Prize! Thus, the publication of a solution for the structure of myoglobin (a very ‘interesting’ case) would, so long as it conformed to the standards of technical acceptability, immediately achieve considerable acclaim. The successful scientist would not only have advanced the field of X-ray crystallography but at the same time his or her own standing in that field. And this, of course, is what actually happened. There was no difficulty about the practical alignment of networks under such circumstances. A success for Perutz and Kendrew instantly became a success not only for them, but for the entire field. The method was correspondingly revealed in its increased power, and all crystallographers benefited in some measure from this reflected glory. (Law e Lodge 1984:167-8)


one is never warranted in assuming that an area of normal science will continue in that mode just because it has so existed up until the present time. (Law e Lodge 1984:169)

the fact that networks have been previously aligned in workable solutions is no guarantee at all that this happy state of affairs will necessarily continue into the indefinite future. A new instance which challenges the existing wisdom and fragments the community of scientists may, in principle, arise at any time. (Law e Lodge 1984:171)


Our starting-point is the proposition: the experience of anomaly is widespread. That this is the case can be seen if we remember that any given network inevitably handles only a small part of the available information. Similarities and differences might have been constructed in quite different ways. There is much in nature that is beyond the inevitably limited grasp of any given network. Anomalies and unexplained happenings are rife. To speak metaphorically, there are always things going on at the periphery of one’s vision that one cannot make out properly. It is a characteristic of human cognitive activity that this will be the case. Much will escape scrutiny, or simply be inexplicable. (Law e Lodge 1984:171)

DUAS MANEIRAS DE LIDAR COM UMA ANOMALIA (culpar o método ou o experimento, nunca a rede)

the results might be explained by saying that the experimental method is altogether unreliable, and would be best abandoned; or they might be explained by saying that these particular results (though not the method as a whole) are unreliable and therefore best ignored. To put this in slightly different language, we may say that the scientists are presented with a problem: a misfit that, if taken seriously, will generate an anomaly. It will force them to alter either the experimental or the theoretical aspects of their networks. (Law e Lodge 1984:172-3)


In general we might also note that it is a routine experience, both within and outside science, that things often go wrong. This is sometimes called Murphy’s Law: ‘If things can go wrong, then they will‘. If, every time that things go wrong the results have to be taken with total seriousness, the networks of knowledge in terms of which we operate would rapidly degenerate. So each time that things go wrong, a decision has to be made: is this the result of a genuine anomaly, or is it simply a result of the operation of Murphy’s Law? Most of the time, like the biochemists, we are protective of our networks, and assume that the latter is the case. And most of the time it transpires that our decisions are perfectly workable. (Law e Lodge 1984:173-4)


There is much evidence that troublesome misfits are routinely denied the status of anomalies. Indeed, we might say that this is the first line of network defence. (Law e Lodge 1984:174)


It sometimes happens, however, that misfits are recognised and become the object of considerable attention. Under such circumstances a number of possible outcomes are possible, some of which are described by Kuhn for the case of natural science. First, the anomaly may be ‘normalised’. After further study and manipulation of either or both of the more theoretical and more empirical parts of the network, these may be reconciled. Thus further empirical investigation may lead to the realisation that, in fact, the anomaly is readily explicable in terms of available theory or method. Alternatively, rather more major, but still reformist theoretical revision may assimilate the troublesome anomaly. More typically, however, these two processes occur alongside one another. (Law e Lodge 1984:174)


If anomaly denial and network shuffling are common responses to misfits, another possible outcome is that of radical network change. Kuhn calls such transformations ‘scientific revolutions’ (Law e Lodge 1984:175)


consider briefly the case of the discovery of the planet Uranus. Sir William Herschel, using a telescope greatly superior to those of his predecessors, observed that one of the bodies examined appeared to have the form of a disc rather than being a point source of light like most stars. Further observation revealed that this disc had motion relative to the stars and Herschel concluded that he had discovered a comet. After further observation, however, Lexell calculated the probable orbit of the body, and decided that it was planetary in nature. As a result, Uranus became a new planet and a comet was deleted from the astronomical network. In addition, various stars were removed from the latter, as a number of observers had, in the previous century, seen what was now taken to be Uranus but had, at the time, been interpreted as stars. (Law e Lodge 1984:174-5)


one of the criteria for the workability of knowledge is that it should account for, predict, and permit control of the natural world in a reasonably economical manner. A theory that requires revision each time a new natural phenomenon is discovered – in other words a theory that runs into a series of accounted anomalies – tends to lead to doubts and questions among its adherents. (Law e Lodge 1984:176-7)


We have to say, then, that phlogiston theory was better because it seemed to the majority o f contemporary chemists to be a better tool for handling the problems with which they were primarily concerned. Given their mental habits and the circumstances in which they found themselves, it was predominantly in their interests to opt for the promise of oxygen theory rather than to stay with the well known but accountably unsatisfactory theory of phlogiston. (Law e Lodge 1984:179)

Note the way in which interests enter the picture. No scientist was forced to change by the knowledge itself. That much is clear, because such individuals as Priestley were not converted. If scientists chose to adopt oxygen theory this was because of their assessment of the relative utility of this new tool compared with the old, given their particular interests. If scientists disagreed about the profitability of the theory, this must, in principle, be explained with reference to differences in experience, socialisation, situation and mental habits. (Law e Lodge 1984:179)


Generally speaking network theory is permissive with respect to social science. It tells us little, for example, about the kinds of models that might best be utilised in exploring social science problems. This is because […] it is essentially descriptive rather than prescriptive. It only becomes prescriptive when a theory under scrutiny breaches what it takes to be a realistic theory of knowledge. We have already seen at least one case of this: since it is a materialist theory which suggests that people direct ideas rather than ideas directing people […] alternative idealist conceptions of the role of knowledge are seen as unrealistic. (Law e Lodge 1984:184)

as a result of having adopted network theory, those alternative accounts for the generation of knowledge which assume good knowledge is to be explained in a manner that differs from bad knowledge, should be rejected as unrealistic. (Law e Lodge 1984:184)


Our approach is, then, broadly consistent with what David Bloor has called the ‘strong programme’ of the sociology of knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:185)


if the procedures adopted by the Azande to preserve their beliefs are unsatisfactory, then so, too, are at least certain parts of modern science. (Law e Lodge 1984:194)

The [network] theory [of knowledge] argues that we classify and discriminate perceptual lumps in a way that workably serves our interests. It notes, further, that this involves an inevitable loss of information, that there will be loose ends, misfits, that will require some kind of explanation. One way of handling misfits, as we saw in the last section, is to grant them the status of anomalies and to reorganise the more theoretical aspects of the relevant networks. But there is no necessity for such a course to be followed. It will be adopted only in those cases where, for one reason or another, it serves the social interests of at least some of those who are involved. The procedures preferred by the biochemists and the Azande are thus a function of their lack of interest in challenging the misfit-producing beliefs. (Law e Lodge 1984:194)


Logic, or at any rate the capacity to classify, distinguish and notice incompatibility or misfit, is something common to both science and magic. Differences are located in the premises, networks, or beliefs in which the actors have invested. (Law e Lodge 1984:195)


The natives, then, appear to be reasonable. (Law e Lodge 1984:195)

savages process information in much the same way as anyone else. Psychological coherence conditions are shared by all human beings. The networks that they create are thus eminently workable. They constitute a practically-adequate guide to interaction with the world, given the interests by which they are directed. That there are differences between primitive and scientific knowledge is indisputable. These differences should, however, be explained in ways that do not breach the requirements of impartiality and symmetry. They should be explained, in other words, in terms of the same kinds of factors. The network theory suggests what the latter will be. Differences will be caused by the different social locations within which knowledge is generated, and the different purposes for which it is used. They will, in other words, be a function of social interests. Differentiation leads to the possibility of highly esoteric scientific knowledge, it raises the chances that scientists will adopt a non-conservative stance in relation to their knowledge because it rewards certain kinds of change, it fosters divergent and changing fields of interests and it increases the likelihood that scientific knowledge will be dissociated from a major interest in global social control. (Law e Lodge 1984:199)


In sum we might say that the interdependence of actors and institutions makes it highly probable that networks will be less conservatively handled in the long run in differentiated societies than in their undifferentiated neighbours. (Law e Lodge 1984:198)

O TRUQUE MODERNO (segundo Latour)

By embracing the theory of plate tectonics in geology one does not thereby call into question the basic methods of social control in the United States. The same option is not typically available in an undifferentiated society. There, a major challenge to natural knowledge is, at one and the same time, likely to be a challenge to the religious and political order, for these are all sustained in mutually supporting, or at least mutually interrelated, structure. Knowledge about the world is at one and the same time knowledge about society and its proper mode of functioning. A challenge to Zande witchcraft beliefs is simultaneously a challenge to the legal system and the political structure. Our point then is that it is much easier to innovate in a society where one’s innovations have no obvious and immediate effects elsewhere – where no major consequences for social control or legitimation appear to follow. (Law e Lodge 1984:198-9)


Children are sometimes presented with tests that purport to measure their educational progress. If their answers to these tests correspond to the expectations of the tester, then the children are held to be competent in certain respects. If they do not, then this is held to reflect upon their inferior puzzle-solving capacity. (Law e Lodge 1984:201)


Children use their networks to perceive and act in practically workable ways. They are able to theorise explicitly about the connections between classes and they are, of course, able to extend classes to deal with instances that are novel. They act, therefore, like scientists. At the level of cognitive operation there is no difference. Common sense is like science – or perhaps it would be better to say that science is best seen as the application of common sense to esoteric phenomena that are not ordinarily of interest. (Law e Lodge 1984:202-3)


People operate with classificatory networks which rest upon a selection of similarities and differences, and ignore others. They see, act and theorise in terms of these networks. Since networks do not impose their own extension, there may be doubt about the best way to interpret events that are easily open to interpretation in more than one way. In such cases people may enter into negotiations to try to maximise the likelihood that the extension will be in a way that workably serves their interests. Our conclusion, then, is that the network theory of knowledge is appropriately applied indifferently to all forms of knowledge, whether ancient or modern, scientific or common sense, high status or low. It is simply a statement about the universal ways in which human beings create workable generalisations about their circumstances, and thus exemplifies the principles of impartiality and symmetry with respect to all belief systems. (Law e Lodge 1984:204)


When partial and asymmetrical analysis is proposed then there is often a global interest not only in description, but also in prescription. Those authors who create such ‘criteria of demarcation’ are trying to prescribe rules of intellectual hygiene for those whose interests are far different from their own. (Law e Lodge 1984:205)

network theory is not a prescriptive theory at all. It does not tell people to have no standards. Rather it describes what appear to be certain basic features of knowledge. One of these features is that the standards which people adopt appear to be context-dependent, not general. What they take to be an adequate explanation thus depends upon their problems, interests, training and their social location in general. It is easily observed, in other words, that the standards of argument vary between contexts. This kind of descriptive relativism does not, therefore, advocate anarchy or hedonism. It says, on the contrary, that there are standards, but that these are local and thus variable between contexts. (Law e Lodge 1984:226)


Marx is having recourse to a correspondence theory of knowledge and using this to erect a distinction between science (which gets to the essence) and ideology (which preoccupies itself with appearances). (Law e Lodge 1984:210)

IMPARCIAL e SIMÉTRICO (programa forte)

An impartial and symmetrical theory – one that notes that an interest in prediction and control invariably coexists with an interest in social control, persuasion and legitimation – seems quite adequate if the aim is the more parsimonious explanation of the growth of knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:221)


terms such as ‘ideology’ and ‘ideological determination’ have no place in a symmetrical theory of knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:222)


Relativism is a doctrine which says that what passes as true or rational knowledge is always a function of the circumstances in which it is produced. It goes on to say that there can, accordingly, be no final or context-free criteria to show that one belief system is preferable to another – that all such criteria are themselves context-dependent. (Law e Lodge 1984:223)

If the [network] theory [of knowledge] is correct, then all knowledge is a function of circumstances – an emergent consequence of the interaction of the natural world and social cues. (Law e Lodge 1984:223)


If one is predisposed to make absolute judgements about the superiority of one’s own beliefs, then one will be predisposed to rationalism. If, on the other hand, one is prepared to concede that one’s views cannot be ultimately validated and accordingly is willing to accept a certain level of cognitive uncertainty, then one may be prepared to entertain a version of relativism. The advantage of so doing, as we have sought to show throughout this book, is that symmetrical analysis of the ‘true’ and the ‘false’ becomes possible, with a corresponding possibility of explanatory parsimony. (Law e Lodge 1984:227)

Why are philosophers so concerned to moralise? Why are they so willing to demarcate in terms of intellectual criteria? And why do they so roundly reject the relativism of the network theory? We have already hinted at an answer. Their professional interests lead them to do so and the reason is this: if the network theory of knowledge is realistic, then such differences as there are between belief-systems must be located not in rules of intellectual hygiene but rather in the social location of the believers. Obviously, strictly conceptual rules cannot discriminate between different systems of knowledge if the real difference is located in social interests. If this is indeed the case, then it is to social science that we shall have to turn to understand such differences as there may be. It is small wonder, then, that so much philosophy preaches the autonomy of good knowledge from common sense and social interests. Once that autonomy is lost it will be difficult to define a prescriptive role for epistemology – a condition which must come perilously close to having no role at all. (Law e Lodge 1984:228)


As with natural knowledge, we cannot ever know that our social knowledge coincides with that of other people. To put it more formally, even with complete agreement about the extension of a social term at a given time there may still be subsequent disagreements with respect to either intension or extension. (Law e Lodge 1984:235)


social scientists and historians have wished to explain social events – that is, events that achieve their status by virtue o f the classificatory acts of those concerned. (Law e Lodge 1984:236)


all systems of classification emphasise a small sub-set of the possible similarities or differences to be found in the world, and social knowledge does not differ in this respect from natural knowledge. (Law e Lodge 1984:237)


verstehen – the act of acquiring competent use of the networks of the culture under study (Law e Lodge 1984:238)


if one is interested in the phrenology debates, then it is also interesting to note that in this context social factors operated to lead a bourgeoisie to adopt phrenological beliefs because, for a variety of reasons, these were unacceptable to the elites that they wished to displace. Correspondingly, had this social interest not been operating, everything else being equal there would have been no school of phrenology and no controversy. (Law e Lodge 1984:241)


Posed in network theory terms, then, causes may be seen as interestingly or relevantly explicit narrative re-descriptions. They are, as it were, the links in the plausible story that is always involved in metaphorical re-description, links that achieve their plausibility from their position in another domain. (Law e Lodge 1984:241)


It will by now be clear that causes in the sense just defined may be identical to reasons – think of the relationship between the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and the onset of the First World War. They may be related to, but not the same as, reasons – think of the phrenology example just cited. Or they may, indeed, be entirely divorced from reasons, as in many natural-science explanations. It will also be clear that reasons may or may not be causes. (Law e Lodge 1984:241)


The only requirement placed upon the analyst is that the translations inevitably involved in converting native to social-science categories should be workable for practical purposes. The social science re-description should defensibly relate to the categories of the natives. There is certainly no reason why native systems of reasoning should not form part of a ‘causal story’ assembled by the social scientist – why a translated version of the reasons imputed to natives should not be treated as part of an efficacious chain. (Law e Lodge 1984:241)


categories are logically related not by virtue of any properties that inhere in them, but rather because they are treated as logically related within a given culture. What counts as a logical relationship is thus a function of social negotiation and the interests of the negotiating parties. What counts, therefore, as a proper ‘translation’ of native concepts (to use the looser term that we prefer) is variable. And, as the ethnomethodologists have endlessly demonstrated, what were previously taken as acceptable translations may, if there is an interest so to do, be represented as inadequate. (Law e Lodge 1984:242)


‘Meanings’ do not distinguish social from natural science in any fundamental manner. […] Accordingly, social science need not only be impartial and symmetrical. It can, in addition, be causal in explanatory form. (Law e Lodge 1984:243)


the social sciences cannot be distinguished from the natural sciences in terms of their explanatory structure. They are both properly causal in idiom, just as they avoid the temptation to explain the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ in different idioms. (Law e Lodge 1984:245)


Quite a large part of natural science practice is directed by an interest in social legitimation that has direct consequences for or refers to only a small and highly differentiated audience. Such audiences often have ways of concluding the disputes that do arise within a limited period of time. (Law e Lodge 1984:250)


In the social sciences the situation is frequently quite different. Global interests in social legitimation operate or, to put this in terms of audiences, much social science knowledge is directed, whether intentionally or not, at large non-specialist audiences in a manner that either serves or is designed to manipulate their interests. Furthermore, these social-science audiences are not simply larger. They also lack the social means to conclude disputes that are available to restricted and differentiated natural science audiences. To put this differently, it is quite rare that controversy will be quickly and decisively concluded because the protagonists will lack the means for engaging in successful social control. The audiences and their interests will be too heterogeneous to allow a single social-science view to develop. Accordingly, it is the failure to develop differentiated and esoteric social-science fields that explains the endemic state of controversy that is to be found in so much social science. As a result, much social-science knowledge plugs directly or indirectly into global concerns with social control and manipulation- concerns that are typically though not necessarily at variance with an interest in prediction and control. (Law e Lodge 1984:250)


The Marxists will offer one (or more likely, more than one) analysis of, say, sport, while the functionalists will offer another, or others. They will argue and these arguments, being a function of different interests, will not be open to resolution in a manner acceptable to both sides. (Law e Lodge 1984:251)


suspicion has to be directed at those whose work is directed by a desire to synthesise a ‘unified social science’. The social conditions for such an enterprise do not exist and however worthy such an ecumenical enterprise may appear at first sight, it is, in fact, ill-founded. (Law e Lodge 1984:252)

The pragmatic network/interest theory of knowledge that has been argued in this text, stresses, as we have noted, that knowledge selects from and simplifies nature. Much is lost, but given the particular interests that direct the knowledge, this does not matter. The idea that it would, in some way, be possible to fit all these ‘perspectives’ together is obviously untenable. (Law e Lodge 1984:252)


a plausible, if not in some absolute sense the best, way to proceed is to identify a particular specific interest in prediction and control in relation to a particular subject-matter (or a set of related subject matters), adopt or adapt a set of intellectual tools that appear to be appropriate to the subject-matter from the standpoint of the interest, and push those tools (that is, networks) as hard as they will go. We are suggesting, therefore, that social scientists mimic, insofar as this is possible, the research activity of natural scientists who do not spend their time worrying about questions of global social control or how to unify their work with that of all other scientists, but rather aim to solve much more restricted and localised problems. […] We are suggesting, then, that social scientists should commit themselves to the specific objectives of particular research programmes. We are suggesting that they attempt to identify soluble puzzles. And we are suggesting that, so far as possible, they, like Kuhn’s ‘normal scientists’, solve those puzzles by means of metaphorical extension, borrowing from adjacent networks, and the rest. (Law e Lodge 1984:252-3)

there is no reason why a sense of puzzle-solving and advance should not be achieved within particular and more limited communities of practitioners. ‘Progress’, albeit progress for a limited number of people only, can be achieved if practitioners eschew the temptation to pursue global concerns about social control and the desire to spend too much of their time in ultimately fruitless negotiations with those with whom they have little in common, but rather develop their own particular puzzle-solving tradition. (Law e Lodge 1984:253)


The network/interest theory approach forcibly suggests that agents have to be seen as active sense-making beings. They must be seen as doing things with their knowledge, fashioning it and extending it in accordance with their interests. They are not like puppets, and are most certainly not to be understood as ‘cultural dopes’. (Law e Lodge 1984:255)


The network/interest theory states that all knowledge is a constructed simplification. Even the most empirical aspects of any given network are thus subject to change. To put it in the language of philosophy, there is no such thing as a neutral observation language. (Law e Lodge 1984:256)


The network/interest theory of knowledge suggests that judgements of the quality of systems of belief should have no role with respect to their explanation. It is consistent with the tenets of impartiality and symmetry and seeks the most general possible explanation for the origins of belief in general. It thus explains both those beliefs that are held to be false and those that are held to be true in terms of the same kinds of causes. (Law e Lodge 1984:256)


The network/interest theory takes a view of the nature of science, and its conceptual and methodological similarity to non-science. This implies, prescriptively, that first, the common assumption that science is epistemologically different from non-science has to be rejected. (Law e Lodge 1984:256)

O QUE OS SOCIÓLOGOS DEVERIAM FAZER? (resolver problemas, como qualquer cientista)

social scientists should allow themselves to be directed by social interests to focus on particular problems that may be soluble in terms of particular networks. A corollary of this suggestion was that, while they may wish to borrow elements from outside networks, these borrowings should be treated as utilisable resources. They should not, repeat not, be used as Trojan horses to introduce the specialist problems, preoccupations and pretensions of the disciplines from which they are borrowed. (Law e Lodge 1984:258)

FILOSOFIA E SOCIOLOGIA (cada um com seus problemas)

philosophy is a practice, or set of practices, like any other discipline. And since it is like any other discipline, we may treat it as a resource in our own work. If bits and pieces are useful, they may by all means be borrowed and adapted. But, whatever the philosophers may say, there is no need to take their complaints seriously when these originate from and advance a different set of prescriptive interests. These preoccupations do not form a part of our practice. Philosophers do not use our networks as we do. They are not trying to solve our puzzles and they are not directed by our interests. By all means let them pursue their practice, for who are we to make judgements of a technical nature about issues integral to philosophical practice? By all means, therefore, let them complain when we break their rules. But we should not take those complaints seriously unless they happen to coincide with our own problems and our own concerns. Let us, therefore, pursue our practice and pursue it unashamedly. (Law e Lodge 1984:261)

We believe that we have thereby drafted a declaration of independence from philosophy – a declaration of independence that takes the form of an empirical understanding of the nature of knowledge. Ironically, of course, we have used the writing of Mary Hesse in the course of doing this. But, as we have tried to argue, there is nothing unacceptable about such borrowing from the standpoint we have adopted – nothing objectionable so long as what is borrowed is treated as a manipulable resource. Social science needs the self-confidence to treat philosophy as a resource rather than as a master. (Law e Lodge 1984:262)


We may predict that as societies become more complex so knowledge will become more differentiated and esoteric. We may not, however, assume that other esoteric knowledge will look like ours. Remember that any given network is only one possible way of categorising similarity and difference. (Law e Lodge 1984:276 nota 9)


according to network theory all network applications must be seen as extensions to novel instances. There is, however, an obvious and important pragmatic distinction between extensions recognised as novel and those considered to be routine. (Law e Lodge 1984:275-6 nota 8)


To put it crudely, experts are always available for hire if the price is right. (It is, after all, in their interests to find a clientele). All contemporary scientific cum political controversies illustrate this. There are experts for and against nuclear power. There are experts for and against the control of atmospheric sulphur dioxide emission by coal-fired power-stations. There are experts for and against the fluoridation of the water supply (though the anti-fluoridation lobby is the less attractive client in this case). There are experts for and against herbicidal spraying. And so on. (Law e Lodge 1984:271 nota 8)


The fact, that is, that we ‘see’ things without any difficulty under ordinary circumstances does not mean that we would have to see them in that (or any) way without the appropriate cues from proper authority. (Law e Lodge 1984:267 nota 2)

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