In a rereading of Jacques Derrida's writings on Freud, I trace the connections between his treatment of differance and his treatment of technology and unconscious memory. I focus on the challenge which Derrida's writings pose for a certain idea of history, including the history of technological development, and I locate that challenge in Derrida's deconstruction of the opposition of nature and technology, the human and the machine, the virtual and the real, the living and the inert. In proposing that these (...) opposed elements are better thought of as deferrals of each other and that, therefore, neither of the opposed elements can be ontologically privileged, Derrida's writings offer a shift in ontological perspective befitting the age of teletechnology. In all this, Derrida's writings show that Freud's treatment of unconscious memory is still relevant, even while Derrida's writings offer a thought of unconscious memory that goes beyond Freud's, that is to say, goes beyond thought of the unconscious when it is conceived narrowly as a possession of the individual subject. Rather than referring unconscious memory to the individual subject, Derrida returns unconscious memory to thought and its technical substrates. It is in doing so that Derrida's writings propose an ontological shift. (shrink)
: The relationship between facts and values—in particular, naturalism and normativity—poses an ongoing challenge for feminist science studies. Some have argued that the fact/value holism of W.V. Quine's naturalized epistemology holds promise. I argue that Quinean epistemology, while appropriately naturalized, might weaken the normative force of feminist claims. I then show that Quinean epistemic themes are unnecessary for feminist science studies. The empirical nature of our work provides us with all the naturalized normativity we need.
Racist beliefs express value judgments. According to an influential view, value judgments are subjective, and not amenable to rational adjudication. In contrast, we argue that the value judgments expressed in, for example, racist beliefs, are false and objectively so. Our account combines a naturalized, philosophical account of meaning inspired by Donald Davidson, with a prominent social-psychological theory of values pioneered by the social-psychologist Milton Rokeach. We use this interdisciplinary approach to show that, just as with beliefs expressing descriptive judgments, beliefs (...) expressing value judgments have empirical content, or can be inferentially linked to beliefs that do; the truth or falsity of that content can be objectively assigned; and that assignment is amenable to rational assessment. While versions of this objective view of value judgments have been defended by moral realists of various metaphysical stripes, our argument has the virtue of appealing, instead, to accounts that are as naturalistically informed as possible. And, unlike the influential subjective view of value judgments, and racist beliefs more particularly, our arguments are better able to account for instances where rational, persuasive strategies have been effective in reducing the ubiquity of racism in American culture. (shrink)
In assessing the appropriateness of a scientific community's research effort, Solomon considers a number of "decision vectors," divided into the empirical and non-empirical. Value judgments get sorted as non-empirical vectors. By way of contrast, I introduce Anderson's discussion of the evidential role of value judgments. Like Anderson, I argue that value judgments are empirical in the relevant sense. I argue further that Solomon's decision matrix needs to be reconceptualized: the distinction should not be between the empirical vs. non-empirical, but between (...) the relevant vs. irrelevant. Whether particular value judgments are relevant or not is an empirical question, to be decided on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
The works of the later Wittgenstein resonate with aspects of the pragmatist tradition in American philosophy. Davidson’s work is similarly informed. We argue that because of their association with the pragmatist tradition, their work can be put to use by philosophers interested in social justice issues, including, for example, feminism, and critical race theory. Philosophers concerned with social justice continue to struggle between the extremes of an untenable foundationalism and a radical relativism. Given their holistic understanding of knowledge, meaning and (...) communication, the work of Wittgenstein and Davidson is particularly suited to dissolving the foundationalist/relativist dichotomy. We explore how this and other features of their work facilitates philosophy for social change. (shrink)
In 1993, biologist Margie Profet captured the attention of the popular press with the publication of her radical thesis: menstruation has a function. Traditional theories, she claims, typically view menstruation as a functionless by-product of cyclic flux. The details of Profet's functional account are similarly radical: she argues that menstruation has been naturally selected to defend the female reproductive tract from sperm-borne pathogens. There are a number of weaknesses in Profet's evolutionary analysis. However, I focus on a set of pragmatic (...) problems that arise prior to any details of her evolutionary account. In arguing for the importance of pragmatic considerations, I draw from the linguistic analyses of Nelson Goodman. I conclude that critical investigation of the evolutionary details of Profet's pathogen defense account will be more feasible if and when biologists more frequently feature the female system of pathogen defense in their inductive generalisations. The system needs to be better entrenched before its functional components, such as menstruation, can be thoroughly investigated. (shrink)
While feminist epistemologists have made important contributions to the deconstruction of the traditional representationalist model, some elements of the Cartesian legacy remain. For example, relativism continues to play a role in the underdetermination thesis used by Longino and Keller. Both argue that because scientific theories are underdetermined by evidence, theory choice must be relative to interpretive frameworks. Utilizing Davidson's philosophy of language, I offer a nonrepresentationalist alternative to suggest how relativism can be more fully avoided.
The societal and ethical impacts of emerging technological and business systems cannot entirely be foreseen; therefore, management of these innovations will require at least some ethicists to work closely with researchers. This is particularly critical in the development of new systems because the maximum degrees of freedom for changing technological direction occurs at or just after the point of breakthrough; that is also the point where the long-term implications are hardest to visualize. Recent work on shared expertise in Science & (...) Technology Studies (STS) can help create productive collaborations among scientists, engineers, ethicists and other stakeholders as these new systems are designed and implemented. But collaboration across these disciplines will be successful only if scientists, engineers, and ethicists can communicate meaningfully with each other. The establishment of a trading zone coupled with moral imagination present one method for such collaborative communication. (shrink)
Voles are attracting attention because genetic variation at a single locus appears to have a profound impact on a complex social behavior, namely monogamy. After briefly reviewing the state of the most relevant scientific literature, I examine the way that this research gets taken up by the popular media, by scientists, and by the notable philosopher of neuroscience Patricia Churchland and interpreted as having deeply revisionary implications for how we ordinarily understand ourselves as persons. We have all these big (...) questions we would like to resolve about free will, consciousness, our understanding of persons, and the nature of morality and there is a tendency to ask more of neuroscience than it can yet answer. I do not deny that advances in neuroscience may eventually bear on important philosophical issues. However, it is not at all clear that this research has many of the sweeping implications being claimed for it and, in communicating science responsibly to the public, there is reason to be cautious about suggesting that it does. (shrink)
This review describes central difficulties in the interdisciplinary study of dreaming, summarizes Jouvet's account of his role in the history of modern dream science, queries his positive speculations on the semantics of dreaming, and suggests work for historians of neuroscience.
Are experience and stimulus necessarily alike? Wertheimer spoke of this as an “insidious and insistent belief”. By contrast, Watson devotes an entire book to the defense of the thesis that representation necessarily requires resemblance. I argue that this bold and important thesis is ambiguous between a historical and a systematic reading, and that in either one of these readings the thesis, for different reasons, will be found wanting. Second, a proper evaluation of it in either one of its possible interpretations (...) requires a careful analysis of the notion of resemblance. I proceed to supply some necessary distinctions and argue that, given such an analysis, Watson's thesis may be historically applicable only to ancient and medieval philosophy, while its systematic import is untenable. (shrink)