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)
Philosophy may relate to interdisciplinarity in two distinct ways On the one hand, philosophy may play an auxiliary role in the process of interdisciplinarity, typically through conceptual analysis, in the understanding that the disciplines themselves are the main epistemic players. This version of the relationship I characterise as ‘normal’ because it captures the more common pattern of the relationship, which in turn reflects an acceptance of the division of organized inquiry into disciplines. On the other hand, philosophy may be itself (...) the site for the production of interdisciplinary knowledge, understood as a kind of second-order understanding of reality that transcends the sort of knowledge that the disciplines provide, left to their own devices. This is my own position, which I dub ‘deviant’ and to which most of this article is devoted. I begin by relating the two types of interdisciplinarity to the organization of inquiry, especially their respective attitudes to the history of science. Underlying the two types are contrasting notions of what constitutes the ‘efficient’ pursuit of knowledge. This difference is further explored in terms of the organization of the university. The normal/deviant distinction was already marked in the institution’s medieval origins in terms of the difference between Doctors and Masters, respectively, an artefact of which remains in the postgraduate/undergraduate degree distinction. In the context of the history of the university, the prospects for deviant interdisciplinarity were greatest from the early sixteenth to the early nineteenth century—the period called ‘early modern’ in the philosophy curriculum. Towards the end of that period, due to Kant and the generation of idealists who followed him, philosophy was briefly the privileged site for deviant interdisciplinarity. After Hegel’s death, the mantle of deviant interdisciplinarity increasingly passed to some version of ‘biology’. I explore the ‘Natur-’ and ‘Geisteswissenschaft’ versions of that post-philosophical vision, which continue to co-exist within today’s biological science. I then briefly examine the chequered reputation of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, someone who exemplified the promise and perils of deviant interdisciplinarity over the past 200 years. I conclude with an Epilogue that considers contemporary efforts to engage philosophy in interdisciplinary work, invoking William James as an exemplar. (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)
In this paper I make more explicit a position that I have being advocating for more than two decades (gathered together in Fuller 2002, Fuller 2010), though its full force does not seem to have been felt. I write in defence of the *commodification* rather than the simple *commercialisation* of knowledge. The two italicised terms are often spoken about in the same breath—and, to be sure, they are related to each other. But they are not the same. Commercialisation refers to (...) the subjection of social life to the price mechanism, something that Adam Smith believed happened spontaneously, if it was not impeded by churches and states. And while Smith’s celebration of commercial culture makes him the philosophical father of capitalism, he would probably not approve of capitalism’s long-term tendency to turn aggregated versions of these spontaneous exchanges into objects that are themselves subject to exchange relations, which is commodification. Nevertheless, it is precisely in this sense of ‘commodification’ that I defend the university as a producer of knowledge as a public good, both in terms of teaching and research. I place the shi from commercialisation to commodification in a larger historical context first clearly identified by Ernst Cassirer – namely, a shi in metaphysical consciousness that accompanied the treatment of substances as the bearers of functions, which is associated with the introduction of algebra as a unifying principle of mathematical reasoning in the early modern era, initially through Descartes, which then became the basis of the modern physical world-view. (shrink)
Chris Renwick’s recent research into the fate of William Beveridge’s attempt to establish social biology as the foundational social science at the London School of Economics is history at its best by uncovering a moment in the past when decisions were taken comparable to ones being taken today. In this case, the issues concern the political and scientific foundations of the welfare state. By connecting Beveridge’s original reasoning to recruit Lancelot Hogben for the Rockefeller-sponsored social biology chair with his later (...) formative role in the design of the British welfare state, we are able to witness an alternative vision of the left, one associated with the Fabian movement, which proceeded independently of its Marxist cousin. The Fabian focus on taxing “inheritance” in the broadest sense remains relevant to how we think about the human condition in an era when capitalism has come to encompass the ownership of genetic material. (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)
First, I would like to thank Mike Thicke (2011) for his very perceptive and civil review of Science: The Art of Living. He himself alludes to the difficulty that reviewers have had with my previous books defending intelligent design as a necessary condition for the possibility of science, a point I have discussed in this journal (Fuller 2008b). Fuller (2010) has no less polarised reviewers. Here readers are invited to contrast the rather sophisticated critical review of Science that has already (...) appeared in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (Fagan 2011) and the bigoted one in Quarterly Review of Biology (Malaterre 2011), which ascribes to me views I make a point of denying. Both reviews appeared in high-profile venues in their respective fields and both were written by younger people trained in both philosophy and biology. I am happy to let future historians sort this one out. (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.
The ‘critique of intellectuals’ refers to a genre of normative discourse that holds intellectuals accountable for the consequences of their ideas. A curious feature of the contemporary, especially American, variant of this genre is its focus on intellectuals who were aligned with such world-historic losers as Hitler and Stalin. Why are Cold War US intellectuals not held to a similar standard of scrutiny, even though they turn out to have been aligned with the world-historic winners? In addressing this general question, (...) some self-serving tendencies of intellectual history are observed, in particular the asymmetry between the ease with which intellectuals are credited with the good consequences of their ideas and the difficulty with which they are blamed for the bad consequences. This asymmetry is particularly noted in Richard Rorty, whose pragmatism treats past ideas as a legacy intended for the (American) reader’s benefit. As a corrective, I advocate, in Paul Ricoeur’s terms, a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ that treats intellectual life as fraught with danger, as our adoption of ideas always amounts to passing judgement over those who have borne them in the past. (shrink)