Text of 18 Hover Notes for Roses digital edition of two excerpts from Ludwik Fleck’s Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (1935; Eng. trans., 1979)

#1 (of 18)

the world of Paracelsus — Fleck was quite clear that such a world is only accessible when we “examine the original sources, not modern summaries of old viewpoints. Consider a passage from Paracelsus: ‘If you have faith small as a mustard-seed and you are yet earthly spirits, how much higher would you be if your faith were large as melons. Again, how far should we surpass the spirits, if our faith were like huge pumpkins.’ To illustrate the strength or weakness of faith by comparing it with mustard-seed can be accepted, if only because of biblical tradition [Matthew 17:19–20], so long as we remain conscious of its metaphorical character. But that it should be possible to establish a scale or a system by which to measure the strength of a person’s faith against objects of various sizes is an idea we find startling. Anyone could use this sentence, for instance: ‘It is bad if you refuse to deviate from your demands by a finger’s breadth.’ But the following sentence appears impossible to use in a sober frame of mind: ‘It is bad if you refuse to deviate from your demands by even a finger’s breadth, when it is actually necessary that you should deviate from them by a foot or even a yard.’ For to us this sentence is either eccentric poetry or a foolish fancy of using geometrical yardsticks for psychological events. And what did Paracelsus do? Did he consider his faith-measuring system only a metaphor, or an adequate measuring system as well? This becomes clear in his treatise on the begetting of sensitive things in reason. ‘As long as the womb has a seed within it, it no longer draws another into it. It must only remain quiet and consummate, and it will be fertile. But when it becomes cold in old age, nothing more will happen, once the drawing power dies in the cold.’ He explains the infertility of old women in terms of the coldness of old age, which makes the (apparently temperature-sensitive) seed-drawing power of the womb die. Coldness of old age is to him not a metaphorical circumlocution for frigidity, but absolutely identical with physical cold. We often also read in ancient writings that ravenous hunger [Heisshunger, literally “hot-hunger”] cooks raw food as fire does and thus makes it digestible.” (Fleck, 1979, 126) ::

#2 (of 18)

every object and event is a symbol — E.g., “In his theory of ‘signatures,’ Paracelsus von Hohenheim considered that the appearance of an object indicated what it cured. Thus the alleged healing powers of eyebright could be recognized from the fact that its flower displayed the pattern of a human eye. The testicle-shaped orchis root is supposed to be an effective remedy for diseases of the testicles. Very similar claims can be found in ancient Indian medicine (yellow plants for jaundice) and in the folk medicine of some Western nations.” (Fleck, 1979, 182n20) ::

#3 (of 18)

Wood — I.e., John George Wood, in Homes without Hands: Being a Description of the Habitations of Animals, Classed According to their Principle of Construction, New York and London, 1866. ::

#4 (of 18)

Mach — I.e., Ernst Mach, Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwicklung, Leipzig, 1833; 6th edn., 1908, 494. ::

#5 (of 18)

written as it is in a quite scientific style — I.e., “Complete with names, precise figures, and repeated measurements.” (Fleck, 1979, 173n13) ::

#6 (of 18)

transcription by N. Fontanus — I.e., an epitome of Andreas Vesalius’ Anatomy, edited by Nicolaus Fontanus, Librorum Andreas Vesalius de humani corporis fabrica epitome ... Cum annotationibus Nicolai Fontani, Amsterdam, 1642. Fleck adds a note that “The same opinion is held by other authors. Cf. Bartholin 1673.” (Fleck, 1979, 173n14) He is referring to the 4th edn. of Thomas Bartholin’s Anatome ex omnium veterum recentiorumque observationibus, Leyden, 1673. ::

#7 (of 18)

Berengar — I.e., Giacomo Berengarius da Carpi. ::

#8 (of 18)

discusses somewhere — Perhaps in his Commentaria super anatomia Mundini (Bologna, 1521) or Isagogae breves (Bologna, 1522). ::

#9 (of 18)

meant more to and were considered safer by those authors — “Even today [c.1934] speculative epistemology is taught as a science, in which its speculative investigations are almost always limited to a few symbolic examples and logical connections, between the objects of investigation.” (Fleck, 1979, 173n17) ::

#10 (of 18)

“bosom” — Fleck’s German-language monograph of 1935 reads: Schoss. “The German word Schoss means ‘lap’ physically but ‘bosom’ metaphorically or mystically, as to be ‘safe in the bosom of Abraham.’—Eds.” (T. J. Trenn and R. K. Merton, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, 1979, 36n*) ::

#11 (of 18)

Haeckel — I.e., Ernst Haeckel, Natürliche Schöpfungs-Geschichte, Berlin, 1868. ::

#12 (of 18)

“Kammerer’s experiments were proved to have been fraudulent (1926)” — Fleck is here quoting from Otto Nägeli, Allgemeine Konstitutionslehre in naturwissenschaftlicher und medizinischer Betrachtung, Berlin: Springer, 1927, 50–51. But, as always, Fleck is skeptical of such an easy explanation. “In spite of the accusation implied by Nägeli, I do not believe in a simple case of bad faith on the part of Kammerer, who was an original and diligent research worker.” (Fleck, 1979, 173n20) ::

#13 (of 18)

by Möller and Müller — I.e., Johannes Möller and Paul Müller, Grundriss der Anatomie des Menschen für Studium und Praxis, 2nd edn., Leipzig: Veit, 1914. Fleck notes: “This compendium, written for general practitioners, has about 510 pages, compared with the 850 pages of Bartholin’s Anatomy. The printed area of the page is almost the same in each case.” (Fleck, 1979, 182n21) ::

#14 (of 18)

Vesalius’ Anatomy, edited by Fontanus — I.e., Nicolaus Fontanus, ed., Librorum Andreas Vesalius de humani corporis fabrica epitome ... Cum annotationibus Nicolai Fontani, Amsterdam, 1642. ::

#15 (of 18)

They symbolize Death — “There is a special compulsive mental association between the skeleton and death. Fontanus, 1642, p. 3: ‘In my view, when ghosts or nocturnal shadows frighten a person, they do it in the form of skeletons.’” (Fleck, 1979, 182n23) ::

#16 (of 18)

the few that are included in modern anatomies about these bones — E.g., Carl Toldt, Anatomischer Atlas für Studierende und Aerzte, 3 vols., Berlin and Vienna: Urban und Schwarzenberg, 1900–03. Toldt “confines himself to: ‘Sesamoid or articulated bones are osseous growths, mostly small inclusions in tendons.’” (Fleck, 1979, 182n26) ::

#17 (of 18)

Löw’s concept of phosphorus — I.e., Joseph Löw, Ueber den Urin als diagnostisches und prognostisches Zeichen in physiologischer und pathologischer Hinsicht, Landshut: Thomann, 1809; 2nd edn., 1815. Löw’s concept of phosphorus, “steeped in the spirit of eighteenth-century Naturphilosophie” as described in his book about urine, is discussed by Fleck on pp. 127–33 (1979 Eng. edn.). ::

#18 (of 18)

A maximum of information is demanded — Fleck further notes: “This postulate concerning a maximum of information must be separately stressed, because it is an outstanding characteristic of the thought style of modern natural science. It can be formulated as follows: ‘No system of knowledge [eines Wissens] — for example, about a chemical compound or a biological species — must be regarded as closed in such a fashion that possible new findings might be rejected as superfluous.’ To assess the difference, compare the diametrically opposed position of a dogmatic knowledge that is regarded as completed. That is also a democratic feature of the thought style of natural science, which does not accord any preference or privileged position to previous over new knowledge.” (Fleck, 1979, 182–3n28) ::