Naturalizing objectivity

Perspectives on Science 16 (3):pp. 285-302 (2008)
We can understand objectivity, in the broadest sense of the term, as epistemic accountability to the real. Since at least the 1986 publication of Sandra Harding’s The Science Question in Feminism, so-called standpoint epistemologists have sought to build an understanding of such objectivity that does not essentially anchor it to a dislocated, ‘view from nowhere’ stance on the part of the judging subject. Instead, these theorists have argued that a proper understanding of objectivity must recognize that different agential standpoints offer different access to objective truths, with some standpoints holding better epistemic potential than others. As Harding puts it, standpoint epistemology calls for “a critical evaluation of which social situations tend to generate the most objective knowledge claims” so as to identify those standpoints that “produce empirically more accurate descriptions and theoretically richer explanations” (1991, 142, 149). Which standpoints enable the most objectivity with respect to a particular inquiry is, for the standpoint theorists, always an empirical at least as much as a conceptual question; it requires attention to the actual, material relationship between knowers, knowledge practices, and objects known. Standpoint epistemology was developed primarily by self-identiªed feminist epistemologists. Virtually all developments of standpoint episte-.
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