Reorganizing Knowledge in Modern Science

Reorganizing Knowledge in Modern Science

Christoph Lehner, Jürgen Renn

Other involved Scholars: 

See activities covered by this project


Optical dispersion by sodium vapour. In: Robert Wood (1911), "Physical Optics", The Macmillan Company, New York.

The goal of the project is the study of the emergence and transformation of core groups of concepts that structure the vast knowledge embodied in the mechanical worldview as a result of processes of knowledge integration and disintegration. In the context of the project, the emergence of such a core group of foundational concepts is conceived as a restructuring of the cognitive organization of previously acquired knowledge. Core concepts of the mechanical worldview such as space, time, force, motion, and matter achieved their privileged position in the organization of knowledge only after a long process of knowledge integration in a material, social, and cognitive sense. Such concepts proved to be extremely stable in the face of an enormous growth of knowledge in the course of the further development of science. Nevertheless, physics, like many other scientific disciplines, has witnessed in the past century fundamental changes of precisely such core groups of foundational concepts. These fundamental changes were preceded by more or less extended periods of knowledge disintegration, in which the established cognitive organization of knowledge became problematic. Processes of integration and disintegration of knowledge are studied in close connection to each other within the project since it has turned out that the essential mechanisms at work in periods of destabilization were of a similar nature as those in the original processes of the emergence of core concepts of a discipline.