Alison Wylie is one of the few full-time academic philosophers of the social and historical sciences on the planet today. And fortunately for us, she happens to specialise in archaeology! After emerging onto the archaeological theory scene in the mid-1980s with her work on analogy, she has continued to work on philosophical questions raised by archaeological practice. In particular, she explores the status of evidence and ideals of objectivity in contemporary archaeology: how do we think we know about the (...) past? Her other key interests include feminist initiatives in Anglo-American archaeology, and ethical conflicts in current archaeological practice. Kathryn Denning recently asked about her adventures in archaeology and academia and her thoughts on archaeology’s past, present, and future. (shrink)
In this long-awaited compendium of new and newly revised essays, Alison Wylie explores how archaeologists know what they know. -/- Preprints available for download. Please see entry for specific article of interest.
Feminist standpoint theory has been marginal to mainstream philosophical analyses of science–indeed, it has been marginal to science studies generally–and it has had an uneasy reception among feminist theorists. Critics of standpoint theory have attributed to it untenable foundationalist assumptions about the social identities that can underpin an epistemically salient standpoint, and implausible claims about the epistemic privilege that should be accorded to those who occupy subdominant social locations. I disentangle what I take to be the promising core of feminist (...) standpoint theory from this conflicted history of debate. I argue that non-foundationalist, non-essentialist arguments can be given (and have been given) for attributing epistemic advantage (rather than privilege) to some social locations and standpoints. They presuppose a situated knowledge thesis, and posit contingent advantage relative to epistemic purpose. I illustrate these claims in terms of the epistemic advantages that accrue to a fictional character, from Neely’s novel Blanche on the Lam, who represents a type of standpoint invoked by diverse advocates of standpoint theory: that of a race, class, and gender disadvantaged “insider-outsider” who has no choice, given her social location, but to negotiate the world of the privileged while at the same time being grounded in a community whose marginal status generates a fundamentally different understanding of how the world works. (shrink)
In Feminist, Queer, Crip Alison Kafer imagines a different future for disability and disabled bodies. Challenging the ways in which ideas about the future and time have been deployed in the service of compulsory able-bodiedness and able-mindedness, Kafer rejects the idea of disability as a pre-determined limit. She juxtaposes theories, movements, and identities such as environmental justice, reproductive justice, cyborg theory, transgender politics, and disability that are typically discussed in isolation and envisions new possibilities for crip futures and feminist/queer/crip (...) alliances. This bold book goes against the grain of normalization and promotes a political framework for a more just world. (shrink)
John Fischer and Mark Ravizza defend in this book a painstakingly constructed analysis of what they take to be a core condition of moral responsibility: the notion of guidance control. The volume usefully collects in one place ideas and arguments the authors have previously published in singly or jointly authored works on this and related topics, as well as various refinements to those views and some suggestive discussions that aim to show how their account of guidance control might fit into (...) a more comprehensive account of moral responsibility. (shrink)
Understanding causal structure is a central task of human cognition. Causal learning underpins the development of our concepts and categories, our intuitive theories, and our capacities for planning, imagination and inference. During the last few years, there has been an interdisciplinary revolution in our understanding of learning and reasoning: Researchers in philosophy, psychology, and computation have discovered new mechanisms for learning the causal structure of the world. This new work provides a rigorous, formal basis for theory theories of concepts and (...) cognitive development, and moreover, the causal learning mechanisms it has uncovered go dramatically beyond the traditional mechanisms of both nativist theories, such as modularity theories, and empiricist ones, such as association or connectionism. (shrink)
In this wide-ranging interview with three members of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sao Paolo (Brazil) Wylie explains how she came to work on philosophical issues raised in and by archaeology, describes the contextualist challenges to ‘received view’ models of confirmation and explanation in archaeology that inform her work on the status of evidence and contextual ideals of objectivity, and discusses the role of non-cognitive values in science. She also is pressed to explain what’s feminist about feminist (...) research and in that connection outlines her account of feminist standpoint theory and the relevance of feminist analysis to science. (shrink)
This paper argues that, by construing emotion as epistemologically subversive, the Western tradition has tended to obscure the vital role of emotion in the construction of knowledge. The paper begins with an account of emotion that stresses its active, voluntary, and socially constructed aspects, and indicates how emotion is involved in evaluation and observation. It then moves on to show how the myth of dispassionate investigation has functioned historically to undermine the epistemic authority of women as well as other social (...) groups associated culturally with emotion. Finally, the paper sketches some ways in which the emotions of underclass groups, especially women, may contribute to the development of a critical social theory. (shrink)
I argue that understanding why p involves a kind of intellectual know how and differsfrom both knowledge that p and knowledge why p (as they are standardly understood).I argue that understanding, in this sense, is valuable.
The Beloved Self is about the holy grail of moral philosophy, an argument against egoism that proves that we all have reasons to be moral. Part One introduces three different versions of egoism. Part Two looks at attempts to prove that egoism is false, and shows that even the more modest arguments that do not try to answer the egoist in her own terms seem to fail. But in part Three, Hills defends morality and develops a new problem for egoism, (...) an epistemological problem. She shows that it is not epistemically rational to believe the most plausible versions of egoism. The first part of the book will be most relevant to those interested in moral theory, as it contains detailed discussions of recent interpretations of virtue ethics and especially of Kant's moral theory. The second and third part of the book turn to epistemology, particularly moral epistemology, and include an account of the relationship between knowledge and action, a new theory of moral understanding, and a discussion of the epistemically rational response to various kinds of disagreement. Hills also defends a new account of virtue and of morally worthy action. (shrink)
We propose that children employ specialized cognitive systems that allow them to recover an accurate “causal map” of the world: an abstract, coherent, learned representation of the causal relations among events. This kind of knowledge can be perspicuously understood in terms of the formalism of directed graphical causal models, or “Bayes nets”. Children’s causal learning and inference may involve computations similar to those for learning causal Bayes nets and for predicting with them. Experimental results suggest that 2- to 4-year-old children (...) construct new causal maps and that their learning is consistent with the Bayes net formalism. (shrink)
I argue that explanation should be thought of as the phenomenological mark of the operation of a particular kind of cognitive system, the theory-formation system. The theory-formation system operates most clearly in children and scientists but is also part of our everyday cognition. The system is devoted to uncovering the underlying causal structure of the world. Since this process often involves active intervention in the world, in the case of systematic experiment in scientists, and play in children, the cognitive system (...) is accompanied by a theory drive, a motivational system that impels us to interpret new evidence in terms of existing theories and change our theories in the light of new evidence. What we usually think of as explanation is the phenomenological state that accompanies the satisfaction of this drive. However, the relation between the phenomenology and the cognitive system is contingent, as in similar cases of sexual and visual phenomenology. Distinctive explanatory phenomenology may also help us to identify when the theory-formation system is operating. (shrink)
Standpoint theory is an explicitly political as well as social epistemology. Its central insight is that epistemic advantage may accrue to those who are oppressed by structures of domination and discounted as knowers. Feminist standpoint theorists hold that gender is one dimension of social differentiation that can make such a difference. In response to two longstanding objections I argue that epistemically consequential standpoints need not be conceptualized in essentialist terms, and that they do not confer automatic or comprehensive epistemic privilege (...) on those who occupy them. Standpoint theory is best construed as conceptual framework for investigating the ways in which socially situated experience and interests make a contingent difference to what we know (well), and to the resources we have for determining which knowledge claims we can trust. I illustrate the advantages of this account in terms of two examples drawn from archaeological sources. (shrink)
What did Leibniz have to contribute to the philosophy of mind? To judge from textbooks in the philosophy of mind, and even Leibniz commentaries, the answer is: not much. That may be because Leibniz’s philosophy of mind looks roughly like a Cartesian philosophy of mind. Like Descartes and his followers, Leibniz claims that the mind is immaterial and immortal; that it is a thinking thing ; that it is a different kind of thing from body and obeys its own laws; (...) and that it comes stocked with innate truth-tracking intellectual ideas and an epistemically troubling habit of forming confused sensory ideas on the occasion of external corporeal events. Nothing is new. Of course, Leibniz adds unconscious perceptions to the mind in the form of his famous petites perceptions, and he offers a unique solution to the problem of mind-body interaction in the form of his infamous pre-established harmony. In the overall scheme of things, however, these look like minor alterations in a philosophy of mind that the Cartesians had been advocating for some fifty years. Or so it appears. (shrink)
Innovative modes of collaboration between archaeologists and Indigenous communities are taking shape in a great many contexts, in the process transforming conventional research practice. While critics object that these partnerships cannot but compromise the objectivity of archaeological science, many of the archaeologists involved argue that their research is substantially enriched by them. I counter objections raised by internal critics and crystalized in philosophical terms by Boghossian, disentangling several different kinds of pluralism evident in these projects and offering an analysis of (...) why they are epistemically productive when they succeed. My central thesis is that they illustrate the virtues of epistemic inclusion central to proceduralist accounts of objectivity, but I draw on the resources of feminist standpoint theory to motivate the extension of these social -cognitive norms beyond the confines of the scientific community. (shrink)
Background Planning for the next pandemic influenza outbreak is underway in hospitals across the world. The global SARS experience has taught us that ethical frameworks to guide decision-making may help to reduce collateral damage and increase trust and solidarity within and between health care organisations. Good pandemic planning requires reflection on values because science alone cannot tell us how to prepare for a public health crisis. Discussion In this paper, we present an ethical framework for pandemic influenza planning. The ethical (...) framework was developed with expertise from clinical, organisational and public health ethics and validated through a stakeholder engagement process. The ethical framework includes both substantive and procedural elements for ethical pandemic influenza planning. The incorporation of ethics into pandemic planning can be helped by senior hospital administrators sponsoring its use, by having stakeholders vet the framework, and by designing or identifying decision review processes. We discuss the merits and limits of an applied ethical framework for hospital decision-making, as well as the robustness of the framework. Summary The need for reflection on the ethical issues raised by the spectre of a pandemic influenza outbreak is great. Our efforts to address the normative aspects of pandemic planning in hospitals have generated interest from other hospitals and from the governmental sector. The framework will require re-evaluation and refinement and we hope that this paper will generate feedback on how to make it even more robust. (shrink)
Alison Stone offers a feminist defence of the idea that sexual difference is natural, providing a new interpretation of the later philosophy of Luce Irigaray. She defends Irigaray's unique form of essentialism and her rethinking of the relationship between nature and culture, showing how Irigaray's ideas can be reconciled with Judith Butler's performative conception of gender, through rethinking sexual difference in relation to German Romantic philosophies of nature. This is the first sustained attempt to connect feminist conceptions of embodiment (...) to German idealist and Romantic accounts of nature. Not merely an interpretation of Irigaray, this book also presents an original feminist perspective on nature and the body. It will encourage debate on the relations between sexual difference, essentialism, and embodiment. (shrink)
As a working hypothesis for philosophy of science, the unity of science thesis has been decisively challenged in all its standard formulations; it cannot be assumed that the sciences presuppose an orderly world, that they are united by the goal of systematically describing and explaining this order, or that they rely on distinctively scientific methodologies which, properly applied, produce domain-specific results that converge on a single coherent and comprehensive system of knowledge. I first delineate the scope of arguments against global (...) unity theses. However implausible old-style global unity theses may now seem, I argue that unifying strategies of a more local and contingent nature do play an important role in scientific inquiry. This is particularly clear in archaeology where, to establish evidential claims of any kind, practitioners must exploit a range of inter-field and inter-theory connections. At the same time, the robustness of these evidential claims depends on significant disunity between the sciences from which archaeologists draw background assumptions and auxiliary hypotheses. This juxtaposition of unity with disunity poses a challenge to standard positions in the debate about scientific unity. (shrink)
The vagaries of evidential reasoning in archaeology are notorious: the material traces that comprise the archaeological record are fragmentary and profoundly enigmatic, and the inferential gap that archaeologists must cross to constitute them as evidence of the cultural past is a perennial source of epistemic anxiety. And yet we know a great deal about the cultural past, including vast reaches of the past for which this material record is our only source of evidence. The contents of this record stand as (...) evidence only under interpretation, but however much a construct it is, archaeological evidence has a striking capacity to disrupt settled assumptions, redirecting inquiry and expanding interpretive horizons in directions no one could have anticipated. It is this capacity for constraining inference and interpretation that I am concerned to understand. I outline a model of evidential reasoning based on archaeological practice that integrates insights drawn from philosophical theories of confirmation, model building and hypothesis testing. Given growing interest in the uses of material evidence in fields that had been resolutely text-based, the archaeological principles of evidential reasoning may have much wider reach than this particular social/historical discipline. (shrink)
Archaeological data are shadowy in a number of senses. Not only are they notoriously fragmentary but the conceptual and technical scaffolding on which archaeologists rely to constitute these data as evidence can be as constraining as it is enabling. A recurrent theme in internal archaeological debate is that reliance on sedimented layers of interpretative scaffolding carries the risk that “preunderstandings” configure what archaeologists recognize and record as primary data, and how they interpret it as evidence. The selective and destructive nature (...) of data capture in archeology further suggests that there may be little scope for putting “legacy” data to work in new ways. And yet archaeologists have been strikingly successful in mining old datasets for new insights. I situate these concerns in the broader context of debate about the epistemic standing of the historical sciences, and then consider three strategies by which archaeologists address the challenges posed by legacy data. The first two – secondary retrieval and recontextualization – are a matter of reconfiguring the scaffolding that underpins evidential reasoning. The third turns on redeploying old data in the context of computational models that support the experimental simulation of the cultural systems and contexts under study. (shrink)
Abstract: If anger is the emotion of injustice, and if most injustices have prominent epistemic dimensions, then where is the anger in epistemic injustice? Despite the question my task is not to account for the lack of attention to anger in epistemic injustice discussions. Instead, I argue that a particular texture of transformative anger – a knowing resistant anger – offers marginalized knowers a powerful resource for countering epistemic injustice. I begin by making visible the anger that saturates the silences (...) that epistemic injustices repeatedly manufacture and explain the obvious: silencing practices produce angry experiences. I focus on tone policing and tone vigilance to illustrate the relationship between silencing and angry knowledge management. Next, I use María Lugones’s pluralist account of anger to bring out the epistemic dimensions of knowing resistant anger in a way that also calls attention to their histories and felt textures. The final section draws on feminist scholarship about the transformative power of angry knowledge to suggest how it might serve as a resource for resisting epistemic injustice. (shrink)
Although the concept of food sovereignty is rooted in International Peasant Movements across the global south, activists have recently called for the adoption of this framework among low-income communities of color in the urban United States. This paper investigates on-the-ground processes through which food sovereignty articulates with the work of food justice and community food security activists in Oakland, California, and Seattle, Washington. In Oakland, we analyze a farmers market that seeks to connect black farmers to low-income consumers. In Seattle, (...) we attend to the experiences of displaced immigrant farmers from Latin America and their efforts to address their food needs following migration. In both cases, we find that US based projects were constrained by broader forces of neoliberalism that remained unrecognized by local activists. In Oakland, despite a desire to create a local food system led by marginalized African Americans, emphasis on providing green jobs in agriculture led activists to take a market-based approach that kept local food out of the economic grasp of food-insecure neighborhood residents. In Seattle, the marginalization of the immense agroecological knowledge of Latino/an immigrant farmers rendered local food projects less inclusive and capable of transformative change. Taken together, these very different cases suggest that a shift towards food sovereignty necessitates a broad acknowledgement of and resistance to neoliberalism. (shrink)
Social justice has strong historical roots in public health. This does not mean that we always understand what it entails when conducting an ethical analysis of a particular public health program. This article shows that Powers and Faden’s theory of social justice can provide important insights and nuance to such an analysis. The Ontario human papilloma virus vaccination program that is underway in Canada provides an important and timely case where we can surface ethical issues pertaining to social justice that (...) may otherwise remain unarticulated in the context of this program. This analysis focuses on the normative issues raised by the prioritization of a school-based program for girls only. It also examines the relevant domains of well-being identified in Powers and Faden’s theory to see whether the program is likely to enhance the well-being of those for whom it is most important. Finally, the role of vaccines in general in promoting well-being is discussed. (shrink)
The massive disparity between the relative wealth of most citizens in affluent countries and the profound poverty of billions of people struggling elsewhere for survival is morally jolting. But why exactly is this disparity so outrageous and how should the citizens of affluent countries respond? Political philosopher, Thomas Pogge, has emerged as one of the world’s most ardent critics of global injustice which, he argues, is caused directly by the operation of a global institutional order that not only systematically disadvantages (...) poor countries but is imposed on them by precisely those wealthy, powerful countries that benefit the most from the order’s injustice. In allowing their governments to perpetrate this injustice, Pogge contends that citizens of the wealthy countries collude in a monumental crime against humanity. In this book Pogge’s challenging and controversial ideas are debated by leading political philosophers from a range of philosophical viewpoints. With a clear and informative introduction by Alison Jaggar, and original contributions from Neera Chandhoke, Jiwei Ci, Joshua Cohen, Erin Kelly, Lionel McPherson, Charles W. Mills, Kok-Chor Tan, and Leif Wenar, this volume deepens and expands the debate over global justice and moral responsibility in the world today. (shrink)
I will introduce six constraints that should guide the formulation and use of DE. One goal in listing them is to engage in dialectical fair play by ruling out criticisms of the doctrine that are directed at misformulations of DE or that result from misapplications of it. Each of these constraints should be acceptable to any proponent of DE. Yet when these constraints on the application of DE are respected, it becomes clear that many of the examples provided as illustrations (...) of DE actually illustrate other, more interesting uses of the contrast between intention and foresight. (shrink)
Western moral and political theorists have devoted much attention to the victimization of women by non-western cultures. But, conceiving injustice to poor women in poor countries as a matter of their oppression by illiberal cultures yields an imcomplete understanding of their situation.
Philosophy has the dubious distinction of attracting and retaining proportionally fewer women than any other field in the humanities, indeed, fewer than in all but the most resolutely male-dominated of the sciences. This short article introduces a thematic cluster that brings together five short essays that probe the reasons for and the effects of these patterns of exclusion, not just of women but of diverse peoples of all kinds in Philosophy. It summarizes some of the demographic measures of exclusion that (...) are cause for concern and identifies key themes that cross-cut these discussions: gender stereotypes and climate issues, ‘cognitive distortions’ and disciplinary norms. (shrink)
At least since Augustine, philosophers have constructed developmental just-so stories about the origins of certain concepts. In these just-so stories, philosophers tell us how children must develop these concepts. However, philosophers have by and large neglected the empirical data about how children actually do develop their ideas about the world. At best they have used information about children in an anecdotal and unsystematic, though often illuminating, way.
This paper argues that Spinoza does not take extension in space to be a fundamental property of physical things. This means that when Spinoza calls either substance or a mode “an Extended thing”, he does not mean that it is a thing extended in three dimensions. The argument proceeds by showing, first, that Spinoza does not associate extension in space with substance, and second, that finite bodies, or physical things, are not understood through the intellect when they are conceived as (...) extended in space. I conclude by articulating some suggestions about where we should go from here in trying to understand Spinoza’s account of the attribute of extension and of the physical world. (shrink)