Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Mark C. Russell
Title:Appropriating Wittgenstein: Patterns of Influence and Citation in Realist and Social Constructivist Accounts of Science
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Science and Technology Studies
Committee Chair: Joseph Pitt
Committee Members:Ellsworth Fuhrman
Marianne de Laet
Keywords:wittgenstein, bibliometrics, realism, social constructivism, citation analysis, content analysis, appropriation
Date of defense:November 21, 1997
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


In this thesis, I draw attention to patterns at the intersection of (a) interpretations of science in two journals (Philosophy of Science, and Social Studies of Science) and (b) references to Wittgenstein’s writings. Interpretations of science can be classed according to the degree to which they support a realist or social constructivist understanding of the entities described by current scientific theories. By tracing the intellectual traditions from which these interpretations emerged, I develop an abstracted classification of these positions. Since this classification does not meaningfully map onto the positions articulated by the writers sampled here (which is telling about intellectual histories generally), I develop a new, more promising scheme of classification. I find that Wittgenstein is appropriated more often in support of social constructivist views of science, but that reasons for this support are generally weak. Using a novel measure of content which I call ‘appeal-to-authority,’ I show that there is a significant difference between these journals in their use of Wittgenstein’s writings. But there is a subtle methodological argument at work here as well. I show that methods of analysis which rely exclusively on intellectual histories, bibliometrics, and globablizing statements about the products of science suffer serious limitations. In short, this thesis reflexively shows that the methods upon which it is based allow room for considerable bias and manipulation, and thereby implicates many bodies of work built upon these methods.

List of Attached Files


At the author's request, all materials (PDF files, images, etc.) associated with this ETD are accessible from the Virginia Tech network only.

The author grants to Virginia Tech or its agents the right to archive and display their thesis or dissertation in whole or in part in the University Libraries in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all proprietary rights, such as patent rights. The author also retains the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis or dissertation.