Ludwik Fleck's theory of thought styles and thought collectives – translations and receptions

Ludwik Fleck's theory of thought styles and thought collectives – translations and receptions

Ludwik Fleck Centre at Collegium Helveticum at ETHZ / Universität Zürich, Switzerland; Project Science Foundation (Fundacja Projekt Nauka, Poland); Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte Berlin, Germany
Wrocław/ Breslau
Vom - Bis
10.03.2016 - 11.03.2016
Lang, Sandra

In 1935 the then unknown Polish doctor and microbiologist Ludwik Fleck (1896-1961) published in German a book in the field of philosophy of science under the long title Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache: Einführung in die Lehre vom Denkstil und Denkkollektiv. It provoked a couple of reviews, but due to historical circumstances – World War II, the Soviet and German occupation of Poland, the Holocaust and Fleck’s deportation to Auschwitz – in the beginning it did not receive a thorough reception. The book was eventually received with great enthusiasm – but only two decades after Fleck had died. In 1979, the University of Chicago Press published an English translation of his book. In the context of the reception of Thomas Kuhn’s pioneering study on scientific revolutions, Fleck was suddenly understood as a previously-unknown forerunner to social constructivist epistemology. The translation of the 150 pages had taken more than five years, and it turned out to be a cumbersome process that occupied several translators and editors. Hints can be found in the preface and introduction of the book where the editors complained about Fleck’s “idiosyncratic” and “complicated” German. Obviously these problems did not foreclose further translations. Meanwhile, Italian (1983), Polish (1986), Spanish (1986), Swedish (1997), Russian (1999), French (2005) and Portuguese (2010) translations of the book have been published with prefaces or afterwords contributed by influential scholars such as Thomas Kuhn, Bruno Latour or Paolo Rossi. Unfortunately, there is still very little knowledge about the initial reception and the process of translating Fleck’s texts, especially in the languages listed above, and in countries outside of Europe and the USA. This is the reason why we would like:
1. to gather an overview of the worldwide reception of Fleck’s concepts, and
2. to discuss problems of translations/editions of his texts.

We would like to address an international public of scholars to compare and correlate the different local receptions. Translators as well as theoreticians of translation are welcome to talk about specific problems of translating the legacy of Ludwik Fleck.

We particularly invite focused presentations about specific moments, authors and institutions to promote Fleck’s thought most prominently. Such focus may also be dedicated to the kind of journal articles on Fleck that were published (medical, philosophical, sociological etc.). Presenters may also highlight important controversies about or around Fleck. Discussions of applications of Fleck's theory in concrete research are welcome, as are arguments about important concepts beyond “thought style and thought collective” adopted from Fleck or yet to be adopted. Also, contributions to (unknown) parts of Fleck’s biography are most appreciated. The conference aims to provide a platform for preparing, sharing, discussing and completing the bibliography of branches of reception concerning languages, nations, etc. Last but not least, a listing of all known translations of Fleck’s own texts is targeted.

Talks on these foci are of priority, but the organizing committee will also consider other presentations related to Fleck.

Our long-term plan is to publish a new collected edition of Fleck’s writings in English in 2019, 40 years after the publication of the first American edition of Fleck’s book.


Confirmed speakers:

- Mauro Condé (UFMG - The Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil),
- Nathalie Jas (INRA - French National Institute for Agronomical Research, France),
- Ilana Löwy (CERMES3 - French Institute of Health and Medical Research and Health Policy, France),
- Georg Otte (UFMG - The Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)
- Stefano Poggi (University of Florence, Italy),
- Wojciech Sady (Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland),
- Hartmut von Sass (director of Ludwik Fleck Centre at Collegium Helveticum at ETHZ/Universität Zürich, Switzerland).

The conference is organized by Project Science Foundation (Fundacja Projekt Nauka, Poland, as a part of the project “Philological analysis of Ludwik Fleck’s Philosophical works and it’s translations in Polish, English and German”. The project is funded by Polish National Science Centre ( awarded on the basis of the decision number DEC-2012/06/M/HS2/00313. Project Science Foundation will try to support those admitted presenters, who cannot be reimbursed by their home institutions for travel expenses and accommodation.

- Ludwik Fleck Centre (Ludwik Fleck Zentrum) at Collegium Helveticum at University of Zürich and Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETHZ, Switzerland),
- Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Germany),
- Ludwik Fleck Circle (Ludwik Fleck Kreis).

Members of the organizing committee:
- Dr. Paweł Jarnicki, Project Science Foundation and Ludwik Fleck Centre -
- Dr. Martina Schlünder, Ludwik Fleck Circle and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science -
- Dr. Ohad Parnes, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science -
- Dr. Rainer Egloff, Ludwik Fleck Centre -
- Sandra Lang, Ludwik Fleck Centre -

Important information:
Deadline for abstracts: 2 November, 2015.
Notification of acceptance: 2 December, 2015.
Conference: 10-11.03.2016.
Language of the conference: English.

To submit an abstract, please send 1) your abstract (max. 300-500 words) and 2) a short bio (max. 300 words) to by 2 November, 2015.


Sandra Lang

Collegium Helveticum; Schmelzbergstrasse 25
8092 Zürich
Veröffentlicht am
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