Latour & Woolgar on Philosophy vs Epistemology

From the post-script to the 1986 version of ‘Laboratory Life’ by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar:

One good reason for not dismissing philosophy is that the positions of most authors both within and beyond the social study of science are based on deep-seated ontological commitments rather than upon any empirical account of science. This is why empirical evidence (of the sort provided by Laboratory Life) is unlikely to change any minds. And this is why those who read the book through realist spectacles will see error (for example, Bazerman, 1980: 17). It is instead necessary to examine the very roots of these ontologies and to attempt to develop an alternative (Latour, 1984, 1986a). However, the particular branch of philosophy—epistemology— which holds that the only source of knowledge are ideas of reason intrinsic to the mind, is an area whose total extinction is overdue. The redundancy of epistemology is well established by flourishing sociological, historical and (other) philosophical analyses of knowledge, despite its constant assertion (directed in particular at the work of Bachelard and his French followers) of the impossibility of these disciplines. It is not that we need to apportion subject matter between epistemology and naturalistic studies of science and technology; the work of the latter is a dissipation of the former. So Laboratory Life is neither an attempt to develop an alternative epistemology nor is it an attack on philosophy. Perhaps the best way to express our position is by proposing a ten-year moratorium on cognitive explanations of science. If our French epistemologist colleagues are sufficiently confident in the paramount importance of cognitive phenomena for understanding science, they will accept the challenge. We hereby promise that if anything remains to be explained at the end of this period, we too will turn to the mind!