sociology of knowledge

The study of the social factors surrounding the emergence of entire systems of belief, or the modifications of such systems by means of changes of theory, experiments, and the acceptance of different paradigms of explanation. The things to explain will include the shifts in popularity of lines of enquiry, and the mechanisms aiding the rise of some theories at the expense of others. The factors cited may include the social situation and ambitions of particular enquirers. The study blends with the more general history of ideas. It becomes more controversial than it need be, if it is assumed that such explanations are necessarily sceptical and relativistic, and compete with the explanation of scientific progress in terms of the ongoing discovery of truth.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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