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A Final StoryScience, Myth, and Beginnings$
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Nasser Zakariya

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226476124

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226500737.001.0001

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Dogmas of Unity and Questions of Expertise

Dogmas of Unity and Questions of Expertise

(p.67) Chapter Two Dogmas of Unity and Questions of Expertise
A Final Story

Nasser Zakariya

University of Chicago Press

Systematizers such as Auguste Comte, Robert Chambers, and Herbert Spencer established synthetic visions predicated on different ideological commitments to social and scientific unity. While promoting a history of the universe appealing to the nebular hypothesis, these writers provoked deliberation over who is authorized to construct a synthesis of knowledge and according to which principles. This chapter traces their efforts as well as critiques of their efforts, including by John Herschel. It suggests a distinction between dogmas of unity and genres of synthesis: between beliefs in a form of unity underlying all knowledge that need not involve any active plan of unification on the one hand, and on the other hand attempts to demonstrate and enact an orienting synthesis that need not presume any unity. This is not a firm distinction, and neither category should be understood as a term of disparagement or praise. However, the question of expertise in part turns on the extent to which a given figure is invested with enough authority to attempt unification. In the context of contesting such authority, the charge becomes recurrent that a group of natural philosophers or scientists are being led astray by charismatic writers.

Keywords:   dogma of unity, expert knowledge, “amateur” synthesis, Auguste Comte, Robert Chambers, Herbert Spencer

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