To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Science and The Sensory Order

The Social Science of Hayek's ‘The Sensory Order’

ISBN: 978-1-84950-974-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-975-6

ISSN: 1529-2134

Publication date: 22 February 2010


Purpose – First, to look closely and critically at Hayek's treatment of science in The Sensory Order. This provides hints as to the difficulties in maintaining a theory of scientific knowledge as a selective sum of the identifiable contributions of individual scientists. Second, to generalize from Hayek's theory of how the brain generates an individual's knowledge to a theory of how science generates scientific knowledge, knowledge that is not a simple sum of individual contributions. Third, to apply this picture of science to understanding developments in postpositivist philosophy and post-Mertonian sociology of science.

Approach – We provide a short survey of the conventional understanding of science and scientific knowledge, including that of Hayek in The Sensory Order. We examine in more depth the ways in which developments in postpositivist philosophy and sociology have transformed our understanding of science. We describe how, by analogy with Hayek's theory of the brain, science can be seen as an adaptive system that adjusts to its environment by classifying the phenomena in that environment to which it is sensitive, and we apply this systemic picture of science with a view to integrating much of the more moderate content of recent philosophy and sociology of science.


McQuade, T.J. (2010), "Science and The Sensory Order", Butos, W.N. (Ed.) The Social Science of Hayek's ‘The Sensory Order’ (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 23-56.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited