The Rhetoric of Science: Authority and Duty in an Article from the Exact Sciences (2000)


Da: Technostyle, Canadian Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, volume 16, numero 1, 2000.
Traduzione inglese di Sarah Cummins (Université Laval) dell’articolo di Bruno Latour e Paolo Fabbri, La rhétorique de la science : Pouvoir et devoir dans un article de science exacte (1981).


This paper, an important translation of a 1981 article published in French, is one of the earliest critical close readings of a scientific text, and one of the most revealing. The authors blend a continental literary-critical sense of rhetoric with a British epistemological sociology to examine a significant but typical scientific article. The analysis is noteworthy for its revelation of the deeply textual nature of science, for its treatment of authority as the right to assert, for its introduction of the notion of modalities with respect to scientific assertions (a concept that Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life would bring to wide currency), and for the general way in which it opens up scientific discourse to critical analysis. Also noteworthy is the brief postscript assembled by the original publishers to give voice to the umbrage the scientific authors took over Latour and Fabbri’s analysis.

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