Petrov K.A. Biohacking Phenomenon in the Context of Essentialist and Constructivist Conceptions of Science


Kirill A. Petrov

Candidate of Sciences (Philosophy), Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Bioethics and Law with the Course of Sociology of Medicine, Volgograd State Medical

Senior Researcher, Department of Ethical, Legal and Sociological Expertise in Medicine, Volgograd Medical Research Center

Pavshikh Bortsov Sq., 1, 400131 Volgograd, Russian Federation

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Abstract. The problem of demarcation of science from non-science presupposes the existence of two principal approaches: essentialism and constructivism. Not exhausting all the variety of analytical concepts, they set the basic framework for the study of this issue for social theory. The Central principle of essentialism is the assertion of the existence of a substantial "core", which sets the unique features of science. The General position of constructivism in solving the problem of demarcation can be recognized as a denial of the existence of an invariable basis of scientific activity, science is determined by a variety of "external" factors and claimed as contingent to a variety of social phenomenas. The fundamental principle of constructivism assumes the "emptiness of science" – pure space waiting for limitation and filling. The basic intuition of constructivism in relation to science is very fruitful for social theory, directing the attention of the researcher on practices associated with the reproduction of the boundaries of science / non-science, what Thomas F. Gieryn summarized in the concept of boundary-work. Depending on the cultural, economic or political context, the demarcation line is constantly redrawn. The last major clashes on the science / non-science frontier include the radical transformations of biology. It is impossible to imagine the development of biology in the second half of the twentieth century without the active use of mathematical methods and information technology. The use of open data and computer methods of working with information, coupled with open access and democratic principles of dissemination of information led not only to a change in disciplinary boundaries, but also served as an impetus for the formation of independent groups of "researchers", science enthusiasts – biohackers. Their activities, reproducing the formal principles of science, but carried out independently of the "official" science – another example of "boundary work". At the same time, neither essentialist nor constructivist theories are able to understand biohacking within their theoretical frameworks. Social research of biohackers allows to see better the basic principles of practice of building of boundary between science and nonscience and to understand the restrictions connected with application of the concept "boundary-work".

Key words: essentialism, constructivism, science, non-science, demarcation, participatory turn, biohacking.

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Biohacking Phenomenon in the Context of Essentialist and Constructivist Conceptions of Science by Petrov K.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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