This is the follow-up book to the notorious Sokal Hoax. It includes the original article that appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of Social Text, along with an explication of all the relatively minor errors and jokes planted in the article that would have been caught by the cognoscenti in physics. That alone has been sufficient to attract global media attention about the alleged lack of quality control in cultural studies scholarship. However, Sokal and Bricmont are out for bigger game. (...) They want to trace these lapses from professionalism to a relativist philosophical sensibility, which in turn is held responsible for the dissipation of the US academic left. Since I have dealt with the larger aspects of this thesis elsewhere (Fuller, 1999), I shall largely confine myself to the 'intermezzo' chapter four, where relativism is attacked directly on what are alleged to be philosophical grounds. (shrink)
Scott Welsh is likely to elicit a sigh of relief from the many academics who struggle with what, if any, public intellectual persona they should adopt. Welsh (2012) argues against a broad swathe of mostly left-leaning rhetorical scholars that the academic’s democratic duty is adequately discharged by providing suitably ambivalent rhetorical resources for others to use in their political struggles. For Welsh, following Slavoj Žižek (2008), the scholar’s first obligation is to “enjoy your symptom”—that is, to demonstrate in one’s discursive (...) practice the problematic nature of trying to claim epistemic privilege in a society ostensibly of equals. The main conceptual difference between Welsh’s and my own conception of .. (shrink)
Moral entrepreneurship is the fine art of recycling evil into good by taking advantage of situations given or constructed as crises. It should be seen as the ultimate generalisation of the entrepreneurial spirit, whose peculiar excesses have always sat uneasily with homo oeconomicus as the constrained utility maximiser, an image that itself has come to be universalised. A task of this essay is to reconcile the two images in terms of what by the end I call ‘superutilitarianism’, which draws on (...) the lore of both superheroes and utilitarianism. After briefly surveying the careers of three exemplars of the moral entrepreneur (Robert McNamara, George Soros and Jeffrey Sachs), I explore the motives of moral entrepreneurs in terms of their standing debt to society for having already caused unnecessary harm but which also now equips him with the skill set needed to do significant good. Such a mindset involves imagining oneself a vehicle of divine will, which would be a scary proposition had it not been long presumed by Christians touched by Calvin. In conclusion, I argue that moral entrepreneurship looks most palatable – and perhaps even attractive – if the world is ‘reversible’, in the sense that every crisis, however clumsily handled by the moral entrepreneur, causes people to distinguish more clearly the necessary from contingent features of their existence. This leads them to reconceptualise past damages as new opportunities to assert what really matters; hence, a ‘superutilitarian’ ethic that treats all suffering as less cost than investment in a greater sense of the good. (shrink)
Examining the origin and development of my views of social epistemology, I contrast my position with the position held by analytic social epistemologists. Analytic social epistemology (ASE) has failed to make significant progress owing, in part, to a minimal understanding of actual knowledge practices, a minimised role for philosophers in ongoing inquiry, and a focus on maintaining the status quo of epistemology as a field. As a way forward, I propose questions and future areas of inquiry for a post-ASE to (...) address. (shrink)
Throughout the medieval and modern periods, in various sacred and secular guises, the unification of all forms of knowledge under the rubric of ‘science’ has been taken as the prerogative of humanity as a species. However, as our sense of species privilege has been called increasingly into question, so too has the very salience of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’ as general categories, let alone ones that might bear some essential relationship to each other. After showing how the ascendant Stanford School in (...) the philosophy of science has contributed to this joint demystification of ‘humanity’ and ‘science’, I proceed on a more positive note to a conceptual framework for making sense of science as the art of being human. My understanding of ‘science’ is indebted to the red thread that runs from Christian theology through the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment to the Humboldtian revival of the university as the site for the synthesis of knowledge as the culmination of self-development. Especially salient to this idea is science‘s epistemic capacity to manage modality (i.e. to determine the conditions under which possibilities can be actualised) and its political capacity to organize humanity into projects of universal concern. However, the challenge facing such an ideal in the twentyfirst century is that the predicate ‘human’ may be projected in three quite distinct ways, governed by what I call ‘ecological’, ‘biomedical’ and ‘cybernetic’ interests. Which one of these future humanities would claim today’s humans as proper ancestors and could these futures co-habit the same world thus become two important questions that general philosophy of science will need to address in the coming years. (shrink)
Abstract Science and technology studies (STS) has perhaps provided the most ambitious set of challenges to the boundary separating history and philosophy of science since the 19th century idealists and positivists. STS is normally associated with `social constructivism', which when applied to history of science highlights the malleability of the modal structure of reality. Specifically, changes to what is (e.g. by the addition or removal of ideas or things) implies changes to what has been, can be and might be. Latour's (...) account of Pasteur's scientific achievement is a case in point. Two polar attitudes towards the world's modal malleability are identified: over - and under - determination, which correspond, respectively, to a belief in the inevitability and the precariousness of science as a form of knowledge. The distinctness of these positions reflects a cordon sanitaire between the history and the philosophy of science. Consequently, historical agents are not given full voice as constructors of reality: They are either quarantined to a foreign realm called `the past' by the historian or selectively assimilated to an imperial present by the philosopher. The second half of the essay explores what it might mean to restore a robust sense of reality construction to the historical agents. My case in point here is that of the 13th century Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon, who has been alternatively seen as a mad medieval or a proto-modernist. To give Bacon full voice would involve taking the future that he envisaged as a normative benchmark for judging our own world. (shrink)
The classical conception of academic freedom associated with Wilhelm von Humboldt and the rise of the modern university has a quite specific cultural foundation that centres on the controversial mental faculty of 'judgement'. This article traces the roots of 'judgement' back to the Protestant Reformation, through its heyday as the signature feature of German idealism, and to its gradual loss of salience as both a philosophical and a psychological concept. This trajectory has been accompanied by a general shrinking in the (...) scope of academic freedom from the promulgation of world-views to the offering of expert opinion. (shrink)
1. The Place of Intellectual Life: The University -- The University as an Institutional Solution to the Problem of Knowledge -- The Alienability of Knowledge in Our So-called Knowledge Society -- The Knowledge Society as Capitalism of the Third Order -- Will the University Survive the Era of Knowledge Management? -- Postmodernism as an Anti-university Movement -- Regaining the University's Critical Edge by Historicizing the Curriculum -- Affirmative Action as a Strategy for Redressing the Balance Between Research and Teaching -- (...) Academics Rediscover Their Soul: The Rebirth of Academic Freedom' -- 2. The Stuff of Intellectual Life: Philosophy -- Epistemology as 'Always Already' Social Epistemology -- From Social Epistemology to the Sociology of Philosophy: The Codification of Professional Prejudices? -- Interlude: Seeds of an Alternative Sociology of Philosophy -- Prolegomena to a Critical Sociology of Twentieth-century Anglophone Philosophy -- Analytic Philosophy's Ambivalence Toward the Empirical Sciences -- Professionalism as Differentiating American and British Philosophy -- Conclusion: Anglophone Philosophy as a Victim of Its Own Success -- 3. The People of Intellectual Life: Intellectuals -- Can Intellectuals Survive if the Academy Is a No-fool Zone? -- How Intellectuals Became an Endangered Species in Our Times: The Trail of Psychologism -- A Genealogy of Anti-intellectualism: From Invisible Hand to Social Contagion -- Re-defining the Intellectual as an Agent of Distributive Justice -- The Critique of Intellectuals in a Time of Pragmatist Captivity -- Pierre Bourdieu: The Academic Sociologist as Public Intellectual -- 4. The Improvisational Nature of Intellectual Life -- Academics Caught Between Plagiarism and Bullshit -- Bullshit: A Disease Whose Cure Is Always Worse -- The Scientific Method as a Search for the (Piled) Higher (and Deeper) Bullshit -- Conclusion: How to Improvize on the World-historic Stage -- Summary of the Argument. (shrink)
Richard Rorty's recent death has unleashed a strikingly mixed judgment of his philosophical legacy, ranging from claims to originality to charges of charlatanry. What is clear, however, is Rorty's role in articulating a distinctive American voice in the history of philosophy. He achieved this not only through his own wide-ranging contributions but also by repositioning the pragmatists, especially William James and John Dewey, in the philosophical mainstream. Rorty did for the United States what Hegel and Heidegger had done for Germany—to (...) portray his nation as philosophy's final resting place. He was helped by postwar German philosophers like Jürgen Habermas who were happy to defer to their American conquerors. Rorty's philosophical method can be understood as a sublimation of America's world-historic self-understanding: a place suspicious of foreigners unless they are willing to blend into the "melting pot." In retrospect, the breadth and confidence of Rorty's writing will come to symbolize the moment when the United States, for better or worse, came to be the world's dominant philosophical power. Key Words: Rorty pragmatism logical positivism analytic philosophy. (shrink)
I believe that tenured historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science—when presented with the opportunity—have a professional obligation to get involved in public controversies over what should count as science. I stress ‘tenured’ because the involved academics need to be materially protected from the consequences of their involvement, given the amount of misrepresentation and abuse that is likely to follow, whatever position they take. Indeed, the institution of academic tenure justifies itself most clearly in such heat-seeking situations, where one may appear (...) to offer a reasoned defense for views that many consider indefensible. To be sure, the opportunities for involvement will vary in kind and number, but I believe that we are obliged to embrace them. In the specific case of ‘demarcation’ questions of what counts as science, the people who possess the sort of general and comparative knowledge most relevant for adducing this matter are historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science—not professional scientists unschooled in these areas.. (shrink)
Knowledge is a collective enterprise, all of whose members potentially benefit from any one of them managing to achieve, or at least approximate, the truth. However, it does not follow that the best way to do this is by trying to establish the truth for oneself as a fixed belief and then making it plain for all to hear or see, so that it might spread like a virus, or “meme”, as Richard Dawkins might say.
Counterfactual reasoning is broadly implicated in causal claims made by historians. However, this point is more generally recognized and accepted by economic historians than historians of science. A good site for examining alternative appeals to counterfactuals is to consider "what if" the Scientific Revolution had not occurred in seventeenth-century Europe. Two alternative interpretations are analyzed: that the revolution would eventually have happened somewhere else ("overdeterminism") or that the revolution would not have happened at all ("underdeterminism"). Broadly speaking, these two interpretations (...) correspond to the respective attitudes of philosophers and historians to the development of science. However, a case is presented for synthesizing the two interpretations into a normative historiography of science that would allow past and present concerns to interrogate each other. This exercise in counterfactual reasoning can be imagined in the spirit of a time traveler who aims to persuade, rather than simply understand, the natives he or she encounters. (shrink)
Why are U.S. academics, even after tenure and promotion, so timid in their exercise of academic freedom? Part of the problem is institutional – academics are subject to a long probationary period under tight collegial control – but part of the problem is ideological. A hybrid of seventeenth-century British and nineteenth-century German ideals, U.S. academia – and the nation more generally – remains ambivalent toward the value of academic freedom, ultimately inhibiting an unequivocal endorsement. (Published Online February 8 2007).
George Reisch documents how the logical positivists adapted to their émigré status in the United States by relinquishing their leftist political ambitions and turning into the analytic philosophy establishment that persists to this day. However, there are also deep-seated tendencies in US intellectual history that provide reasons for thinking that the positivists progressive projects would never have taken holdeven if the FBI were not keeping the positivists under surveillance. These tendencies are manifested in the striking ineffectuality of US philosophers in (...) public life. Key Words: Cold War logical positivism pragmatism university anti-intellectualism philosophy of science. (shrink)
The movement of epistemic standards closer to moral virtue reflects a worrisome trend in the recent renascence of naturalism in philosophy that links access to truth with a deepening sense of the knower's history. While it is relatively harmless to insist that mastery of a scientific specialty requires training in certain techniques, it is more problematic (pace Kuhn) to insist that all such specialists share the same disciplinary narrative -- and still more problematic to require that they pledge allegiance to (...) the same philosophical world-view, say, what the US National Academy of Sciences calls "methodological naturalism." It makes for bad philosophy, bad science, and bad politics. Yet, we seem to be sliding down this slippery slope, which in the past has led to loyalty oaths and in the future could lead to the genetic profiling of people as unfit for scientific endeavors because of their propensity to belief in, say, the supernatural. (shrink)
Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a broad, interdisciplinary, and rapidly growing field that explores the relationship between science, technology and the ways they shape society and our understanding of the world. But as the field has become more established, it has increasingly hidden its philosophical roots. While the trend is typical of disciplines striving for maturity, Steve Fuller, a leading figure in the field, argues that STS has much to lose if it abandons philosophy. He argues that the discipline (...) is rooted in a variety of philosophical assumptions that, until now, have remained unarticulated, undefended and misunderstood. In his characteristically provocative style, he offers the first sustained treatment of the philosophical foundations of STS and suggests fruitful avenues for further research. With stimulating discussions of the Science Wars, the Intelligent Design Theory controversy, and theorists such as Donna Haraway and Bruno Latour, Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies is destined to become required reading for students and scholars in STS and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
I respond to Rupert Read's highly critical review of my Kuhn vs Popper: The Struggle for the Soul Science . In contrast to my pro-Popper take on the debate, Read promotes a Wittgenstein-inflected Kuhn, whom I dub "Kuhnenstein." Kuhnenstein is largely the figment of Read'sand others'fertile philosophical imagination as channeled through scholastic philosophical practice. Contra Read, I argue that Kuhnenstein provides not only a poor basis for social epistemology but Kuhnenstein's prominence itself exemplifies a poor social epistemology for philosophy. Nevertheless, (...) like Read, I wish to speak in favor of amateurism in philosophy; for me, the exemplar is the dialectical Popper rather than the gnomic and dogmatic Kuhnenstein. Key Words: Kuhnenstein social epistemology Kuhn Popper Wittgenstein skepticism language therapy amateurism. (shrink)
This volume explores Science & Technology Studies (STS) and its role in redrawing disciplinary boundaries. For scholars/grad students in rhetoric of science, science studies, philosophy & comm, English, sociology & knowledge mgmt.
In the twentieth century, philosophy came to be dominated by the English-speaking world, first Britain and then the United States. Accompanying this development was an unprecedented professionalization and specialization of the discipline, the consequences of which are surveyed and evaluated in this article. The most general result has been a decline in philosophy's normative mission, which roughly corresponds to the increasing pursuit of philosophy in isolation from public life and especially other forms of inquiry, including ultimately its own history. This (...) is how the author explains the increasing tendency, over the past quarter-century, for philosophy to embrace the role of "underlaborer" for the special sciences. Indicative of this attitude is the long-term popularity of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which argues that fields reach maturity when they forget their past and focus on highly specialized problems. In conclusion, the author recalls the history of philosophy that, following Kuhn's advice, has caused us to forget, namely, the fate of Neo-Kantianism in the early twentieth century. Key Words: analytic philosophy normative positivism pragmatism professionalism underlaborer. (shrink)
The “adaptive toolbox” model of the mind is much too uncritical, even as a model of bounded rationality. There is no place for a “meta-rationality” that questions the shape of the decision-making environments themselves. Thus, using the ABC Group's “fast and frugal heuristics,” one could justify all sorts of conformist behavior as rational. Telling in this regard is their appeal to the philosophical distinction between coherence and correspondence theories of truth.
Everyone agrees that the Enlightenment hasn’t succeeded—in that the critical rationality associated with modern natural science has not been extended to society at large (and may even have retreated from science itself). Should we be relieved or disappointed that the Enlightenment has failed? I am disappointed but not discouraged by what is called the postmodern condition. But to move forward, we cannot simply deny the presence of the condition, as if it were the collective hallucination of weak minds. This is (...) what Dennett does. I fear that he is in denial rather than disappointment. Only when we are clear about the ideals that we want to promote can we see our way through the postmodern condition. (shrink)
Research in Science and Technology Studies (STS) tends to presume that intellectual and political radicalism go hand in hand. One would therefore expect that the most intellectually radical movement in the field relates critically to its social conditions. However, this is not the case, as demonstrated by the trajectory of the Parisian School of STS spearheaded by Michel Callon and Bruno Latour. Their position, "actor-network theory," turns out to be little more than a strategic adaptation to the democratization of expertise (...) and the decline of the strong nation-state in France over the past 25 years. This article provides a prehistory of this client-driven, contract-based research culture in U.S. sociology of the 1960s, followed by specific features of French philosophical and political culture that have bred the distinctive tenets of actor-network theory. Insofar as actor-network theory has become the main paradigm for contemporary STS research, it reflects a field that dodges normative commitments in order to maintain a user-friendly presence. (shrink)
Although Rose claims to rely on Marx's paradoxical view of history to explain the freedom enjoyed by what he calls “lifelines,” he blurs what one might call the “objective” and “subjective” senses of freedom. This, in turn, reflects his overreaction to biological reductionism. Consequently, in discussing biology-related policy issues, Rose fails to distinguish genuinely efficacious interventions and merely convenient ones.
Although Wes Shrum advertised my critics as representing quite distinct points of view, they nevertheless managed to converge on a set of concerns that revolve around the meanings of "rhetoric," "politics," and "multiculturalism" in the project of social epistemology. Either the critics were not chosen correctly or the book under discussion is quite obviously flawed! Rather than make that Hobson's choice, I will address my critics' concerns in a way that I hope will prove illuminating to other normatively oriented theorists (...) in the social sciences who want to take the challenge of postmodernism seriously but who also realize that postmodernism may soon become the orthodoxy, rather than the challenger, in cultural politics. (shrink)
I aim to recover some of the original cultural significance that was attached to the realism-instrumentalism debate (RID) when it was hotly contested by professional scientists in the decades before World War I. Focusing on the highly visible Mach-Planck exchange of 1908-13, I show that arguments about the nature of scientific progress were used to justify alternative visions of science education. Among the many issues revealed in the exchange are realist worries that instrumentalism would subserve science entirely to human (...) interests, as well as instrumentalist worries that realism could become the basis of a science-based religion. I conclude by addressing some issues relating to RID that are now occluded because of Planck's triumph over Mach. (shrink)
Nearly thirty years after the first stirrings of the Kuhnian revolution, history and philosophy of science continues to galvanize methodological discussions in all corners of the academy except its own. Evidence for this domestic stagnation appears in Warren Schmaus's thoughtful review of Social Epistemology in which Schmaus takes for granted that history of science is the ultimate court of appeal for disputes between philosophers and sociologists. As against this, this essay argues that such disputes may be better treated by experimental (...) psychology. Humanistic methods typically (though not always) blind the historian to cognitive biases and limitations that make it difficult for philosophers and sociologists to mobilize historical research for settling their differences. It is also observed that the failure of philosophers to incorporate the methods and findings of experiemental psychology is symptomatic of an artificially restrictive understanding of the normative dimension of their enterprise. (shrink)
I argue that the recent "cognitive turn" in the philosophy of science does not challenge nearly as much of traditional philosophy of science as it proponents have claimed. However, the turn has forced philosophers to embody such hallowed abstractions as knowledge, theories, rationality, and concepts in flesh-and-blood human thinkers. While I welcome this newfound ontological awareness, I criticize four "mistaken identities" committed by two representative cognitivists, Howard Margolis and Ronald Giere. Generally speaking, the misidentifications turn on a fundamental naivete about (...) the social dimension of thought. (shrink)
This paper lays the groundwork for normative-yet-naturalistic social epistemology. I start by presenting two scenarios for the history of epistemology since Kant, one in which social epistemology is the natural outcome and the other in which it represents a not entirely satisfactory break with classical theories of knowledge. Next I argue that the current trend toward naturalizing epistemology threatens to destroy the distinctiveness of the sociological approach by presuming that it complements standard psychological and historical approaches. I then try to (...) reassert, in Comtean fashion, the epistemologist's credentials in regulating knowledge production. Finally, I consider how social epistemology may have something exciting and relevant to say about contemporary debates in the theory of knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I challenge Laudan's recent attempt to ground the distinctiveness of science in its consensus formation patterns. I argue that Laudan's model is more appropriate to a forensics tournament than to an activity with the complex organizational structure of science. After reviewing several more realistic models of consensus formation, I conclude that there is no reason to think that any strong sense of consensus of belief is ever present in science, though there have been periods (...) such as the eighteenth century, when various beliefs could find expression in a common scientific language of Newtonian mechanics. (shrink)
This paper considers Richard Rorty's thesis that philosophy has yielded all its subject matter to the sciences so as to no longer qualify as an autonomous discipline. We do not question his controversial historical diagnosis, but instead argue that all it shows is that the practice of philosophy does not depend on any particular subject-matter. The "philosophical turn" is taken whenever a problem is posed or an explanation is needed, for in either case one needs to go beyond the given (...) phenomena in order to account for excluded possibilities, the choice of which makes the explainer's presence integral, in a manner that is often obscured by naive prose canons. Furthermore, the emphasis on subject matter has led philosophers to misconceive the source of difficulty in raising metaphysical questions, which is largely a matter of setting up the right narrative perspective, a point often made by literary critics. (shrink)