Bourdieu's distinction between philosophical and sociological approaches to Science Studies

Nick Turnbull, Nikó Antalffy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Sociological inquiry into the natural sciences has shown that they are contingent, social constructions. However, Science Studies research has been obstructed by epistemological conflicts about the nature of science and theoretical perspectives upon studying it. Bourdieu's sociology of science is under-utilized in this field, as he addresses these obstructions and offers a way forward. Bourdieu argues that researchers have failed to distinguish between sociological and philosophical approaches in social science, thus committing the 'scholastic fallacy'. In conjunction with this fallacy, the logic of the Science Studies field produces a tendency towards disciplinary confusion, philosophical radicalization, and crisis. These patterns were expressed in the 'science wars'. The field has followed a philosophical path rather than a sociological one, and its progress has been obstructed. While some of Bourdieu's philosophical arguments remain problematic, his reflexive sociology allows us to differentiate philosophical from sociological approaches, providing an alternative direction for Science Studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-566
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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