An Epistemology of Scientific Practice: Positioning Hans-Jorg Rheinberger in Twentieth-Century History and Philosophy of Biology

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In this article, I first outline the professionalization of the history and philosophy of biology from the 1960s onward. Then, I attempt to situate the work of Hans-Jörg Rheinberger with respect to this field. On the one hand, Rheinberger was marginal with respect to Anglo-American philosophical tradition; on the other, he was very influential in building up an integrated history and philosophy of the life sciences community at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and beyond. This marginality results, I suggest, from three main sources: his use of concepts coming from continental traditions in the study of the life sciences, which are foreign to Anglo-American philosophers of science; his focus on practices instead of theories; and his research trajectory as a molecular biologist, which led him to be critical of disciplinary boundaries. As a first step in situating and historicizing Rheinberger’s trajectory, this article invites comparative studies and calls for a history of “continental philosophy of biology” in the twentieth century.

This content has been updated on 3 October 2022 at 13 h 17 min.