Fleck explores the roots of Syphilis in chapters one and two of Genesis and Development of a scientific fact. In chapter one he establishes the great role that astrology and metaphysics played in forming our initial crude conceptions about this disease. In the fifteenth century similar to most prior diagnoses, syphilis was understood as a punishment for lust and fornication. This covered most venereal diseases in its definition.
Fleck investigates the emergence of mercury and the vital role it played in shifting the previous conceptions of syphilis to a more empirical understanding. It was not until the twentieth century that Spirochaeta Pallida was distinguished as the causative agent behind Syphilis. It was with this discovery that the mystical-ethical understanding of syphilis altered to a scientific one. However, Fleck insists that our definition of Syphilis is still incomplete, stating that the “causative agent” is but one symptom and its presence alone is insufficient for diagnosis.
Fleck claims that it is essential for us to examine the history and the development that has lead to our contemporary understating of a scientific concept. He explains how the societal framework of the any time period generates a set of preconditioned ideas about any given concept. Therefore it must be known in good conscious that all the empirical evidence that is gained, and all the theories that are formulated are theories that are formed and influenced by culture, historic relevance, geography and other relevant variables.
Thus with this understanding ; no one particular method is the vehicle to truth, Fleck concludes that empirical facts and understandings are relative thus they should never be static, but rather always in the midst of change, discussion and open for critical analysis.