Thinking about Western sciences has always also meant making assumptions about modernity and about democratic social relations. Yet in recent decades the standard meanings and referents of all three of these terms—”Western sciences,” “modernity,” and “democratic social relations”—have come under skeptical scrutiny. This essay will look at three critics of modernity who also examine the political practices and consequences of Western sciences. All three also think postmodernisms to be valuable but merely symptomologies without useful prescriptions for change, and they all (...) propose specific strategies for transforming modern sciences into ones that are empirically more effective and politically more accountable. These are Bruno Latour, Ulrich Beck, and Ashis Nandy. Yet these otherwise valuable accounts each have serious shortcomings which create obstacles to the intellectual and political success of their projects. Here I focus on one such limitation: their blindness to the gendering of science and of modernity. (shrink)
Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud provided powerful accounts of systematic interested ignorance. Fifty years ago, Anglo-American philosophies of science stigmatized Marx's and Freud's analyses as models of irrationality. They remain disvalued today, at a time when virtually all other humanities and social science disciplines have returned to extract valuable insights from them. Here the argument is that there are reasons distinctive to philosophy why such theories were especially disvalued then and why they remain so today. However, there are even better (...) reasons today for philosophy to break from this history and find more fruitful ways to engage with systematic interested ignorance. (shrink)
Mid-Twentieth Century declarations characterizing science as a 'Little democracy' and as autonomous from society continue to shape the arguments of scientists' and critics of science studies, including Meera Nanda's arguments. Yet such an image of science has long lost whatever empirical support it ever posessed. This article shares Nanda's concern to envision sciences which support social justice projects, but not the particular criticisms she makes of Feminist, post-colonial, and post-kuhnian science studies.
: Feminist standpoint theory remains highly controversial: it is widely advocated, used to guide research and justify its results, and yet is also vigorously denounced. This essay argues that three such sites of controversy reveal the value of engaging with standpoint theory as a way of reflecting on and debating some of the most anxiety-producing issues in contemporary Western intellectual and political life. Engaging with standpoint theory enables a socially relevant philosophy of science.
In the mid-1970s and early 1980s, several feminist theorists began developing alternatives to the traditional methods of scientific research. The result was a new theory, now recognized as Standpoint Theory, which caused heated debate and radically altered the way research is conducted. The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader is the first anthology to collect the most important essays on the subject as well as more recent works that bring the topic up-to-date. Leading feminist scholar and one of the founders of Standpoint (...) Theory, Sandra Harding brings together the a prestigious list of scholars--Dorothy Smith, Donna Haraway, Patricia Hill Collins, Nancy Hartsock and Hilary Rose--to not only showcase the most influential essays on the topic but to also highlight subsequent developments of these approaches from a wide variety of disciplines and intellectual and political positions. The Reader will be essential reading for feminist scholars. (shrink)
In this pioneering new book, Sandra Harding and Robert Figueroa bring together an important collection of original essays by leading philosophers exploring an extensive range of diversity issues for the philosophy of science and technology. The essays gathered in this volume extend current philosophical discussion of science and technology beyond the standard feminist and gender analyses that have flourished over the past two decades, by bringing a thorough and truly diverse set of cultural, racial, and ethical concerns to bear on (...) questioning in these areas. Science and Other Cultures charts important new directions in ongoing discussions of science and technology, and makes a significant contribution to both scholarly and teaching resources available in the field. (shrink)
This collection of essays, first published two decades ago, presents central feminist critiques and analyses of natural and social sciences and their philosophies. Unfortunately, in spite of the brilliant body of research and scholarship in these fields in subsequent decades, the insights of these essays remain as timely now as they were then: philosophy and the sciences still presume kinds of social innocence to which they are not entitled. The essays focus on Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx; on (...) the 'adversary method' model of philosophic reasoning; on principles of individuation on philosophical ontology and philosophy of language; on individualistic assumptions in psychology; functionalism in sociological and biological theory; evolutionary theory; the methodology of political science; and conceptions of objective inquiry in the sciences. In taking insights of both Liberal and Marxian women's movements into the purportedly most abstract and value-free areas of Western thought, these essays chart sexist and androcentric assumptions, claims and practices in the cognitive, technical cores of Western sciences and their philosophies. They begin to identify the distinctive aspects of women's experiences and locations in male-supremacist social structures which can provide resources needed for the creation of post-androcentric thinking in research, scholarship, and public policy. Such uses of feminist insights remain controversial today, and even among some feminists. These authors were all junior researchers and scholars two decades ago; today many are among the most distinguished senior scholars in their fields. Their work here provides a splendid opportunity for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy and the social sciences to explore some of the most intriguing and controversial challenges to disciplinary projects and to public policy today. (shrink)
John McCumber's Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era provides a compelling account of a repressed part of philosophy's history and its tragic consequences for subsequent decades of philosophic practice in the U.S. Political values and interests originating in McCarthyism got encoded within abstract conceptual frameworks, propelling analytic philosophy to an undeserved position of authority while depriving it of critical self-understanding. This comment identifies residues of McCarthyism still playing out in the Science Wars, and the career of (...) critical philosophic projects in both other disciplines and philosophy's feminist and multicultural fringes. (shrink)
Recent "gender, environment, and sustainable development" accounts raise pointed questions about the complicity of Enlightenment philosophies of science with failures of Third World development policies and the current environmental crisis. The strengths of these analyses come from distinctive ways they link androcentric, economistic, and nature-blind aspects of development thinking to "the Enlightenment dream." In doing so they share perspectives with and provide resources for other influential schools of science studies.
Where the old objectivity question asked, Objectivity or relativism: which side are you on?, the new one refuses this choice, seeking instead to bypass widely recognized problems with the conceptual framework that restricts the choices to these two. It asks, How can the notion of objectivity be updated and made useful for contemporary knowledge-seeking projects? One response to this question is the strong objectivity program that draws on feminist standpoint epistemology to provide a kind of logic of discovery for maximizing (...) our ability to block might makes right in the sciences. It does so by delinking the neutrality ideal from standards for maximizing objectivity, since neutrality is now widely recognized as not only not necessary, not only not helpful, but, worst of all, an obstacle to maximizing objectivity when knowledge-distorting interests and values have constituted a research project. Strong objectivity provides a method for correcting this kind of situation. However, standpoint approaches have their own limitations which are quite different from the misreadings of them upon which most critics have tended to focus. Unfortunately, historically limited epistemologies and philosophies of science are all we get to choose from at this moment in history. (shrink)
Two themes in postcolonial science studies pose unusual challenges for philosophers of science. According to these accounts, the cognitive/technical core of Western sciences, not just their technologies, applications, and social institutions, is permeated by distinctive cultural and political commitments. In this sense, Western sciences are "ethnosciences." Moreover, these analysts want to delink their societies' scientific and technological projects from the West's in order to develop fully modern sciences within their own culturally distinctive scientific traditions. This paper suggests some fruitful ways (...) Western philosophers can take advantage of this opportunity to construct theories of science for Westerners that can interact more realistically and fruitfully with these postcolonial accounts. (shrink)
Sandra Harding (1987). The Garden in the Machine. In Nancy J. Nersessian (ed.), The Process of Science: Contemporary Philosophical Approaches to Understanding Scientific Practice. Distributors for the United States and Canada, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
A continuing concern of many feminists and non-feminists alike has been to identify a distinctive feminist method of inquiry. This essay argues that this method question is misguided and should be abandoned. In doing so it takes up the distinctions between and relationships among methods, methodologies and epistemologies; proposes that the concern to identify sources of the power of feminist analyses motivates the method question; and suggests how to pursue this project.
Disproportionate reliance on distinctively masculine social experience contributes a false plausibility to the shared assumptions of "naturalist" and "intentionalist" approaches to the philosophy of social science. This social bias leads these approaches to recommend purposes, contents, forms, methods and ethics of social inquiry which produce both insoluble problems for both approaches and also distorted accounts of social reality. The paper explores some of the reasons why men's experience has been granted this unjustifiable epistemological privilege.
Carnap reports that while all of the members of the Vienna Circle "were strongly interested in social and political progress," except for Neurath, they all insisted that the "intrusion" of political points of view into the methodology of science would violate the purity of scientific method. In opposition to this still dominant view of the relationship between moral/political values and objective inquiry, this paper specifies four ways in which certain moral/political values are necessary for maximizing objective inquiry in social science. (...) If this argument is correct, a better conception of objectivity is needed. (shrink)