Style Matters: Scientific Pluralism and its Early-Modern Sources



Mapping a conceptual history of style that provides a genealogy of scientific pluralism and theories of style in the sciences.

The concept of style is central to post-positivist, historically oriented philosophy of science and constitutes a reaction against the monist approach of logical positivism, whose purported lack of “style” has been linked to modernist architecture.

The concept of style, which has emerged as a central term in the epistemological and scientific fields, has received little critical attention. Scholarly discussions of style have been largely disparate, scattered across disciplines, and sustained analysis of its resonance and significance, especially for the sciences, is lacking. Attempting to address this gap, EPISTYLE advances the hypothesis that a specific link between style and knowledge established during the early modern period continues to have relevant conceptual force today.

Vermeer’s Astronomer, 1668. The Louvre, Paris, France/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Flyer for lectures held by the Verein Ernst Mach, 1929. Carnap Papers in the Archives of Scientific Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, document 029-30-0 (source: P. Galison. “Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism”. Critical Inquiry: Vol. 16, No. 4, Summer, 1990: 709-752

Figures built from simple elements in ISOTYPE. From Otto Neurath, International Picture LanguageL The First Rules of ISOTYPE, London, 1936 (source: P. Galison. “Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism”. Critical Inquiry: Vol. 16, No. 4, Summer, 1990): 709-752

Stonborough House, exterior, 1929. From Leitner, The Architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein (source: P. Galison. "Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism”. Critical Inquiry: Vol. 16, No. 4 (Summer, 1990): 709-752


  1. provide a systematic analysis of contemporary theories of scientific styles
  2. construct a conceptual history of key modern and
  3. early-modern moments shaping the evolution of the notion of style.

By unearthing overlooked sources and neglected European traditions, this timely project will provide a theoretical foundation and epistemological framework for the growing appeals to style arising in various disciplines.

EPISTYLE is a research project funded under the REA’s fellowships scheme to Dr. Matteo Vagelli, researcher at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. The first part of the project will be carried out at the Harvard Department of the History of Science, and at the Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science, while the returning phase will take place at Ca’ Foscari’s Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage.


Matteo Vagelli

Marie Curie research fellow

Marco Sgarbi

Project supervisor

Peter Galison

Project supervisor

Hasok Chang

Project supervisor

How can I collaborate to EPISTYLE?

If you have any interest, suggestion, curiosity, opinion on the topics covered by EPISTYLE, please contact the researcher Dr. Matteo Vagelli via e-mail: matteo.vagelli@unive.it.