This work discusses whether Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was revolutionary. Steve Fuller argues that Kuhn held a profoundly conservative view of science and how one ought to study its history.
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)
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)
"The Knowledge Book" is a unique interdisciplinary reference work for students and researchers concerned with the nature of knowledge. It is the first work of its kind to be organized on the assumption that whatever else knowledge might be, it is intrinsically social. The book consists of 42 alphabetically arranged entries on key concepts at the intersection of philosophy and sociology - what used to be called "sociology of knowledge" but is now increasingly called "social epistemology". The entries include concepts (...) common to disciplines that in recent years have devoted more of their attention to knowledge: cultural studies, communication studies, information science, education, policy studies and business studies. Special attention is given to concepts from the emerging field of science and technology studies. Each entry presents a short, self-contained essay providing an overview of a concept and concludes with suggestions for further reading. All the entries are fully cross-referenced, allowing readers to both make connections and follow their own interests. (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.
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 or that the revolution would not have happened at all. 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)
Thomas Kuhn's _Structure of Scientific Revolutions_ has sold over a million copies in more than twenty languages and has remained one of the ten most cited academic works for the past half century. In contrast, Karl Popper's seminal book _The Logic of Scientific Discovery_ has lapsed into relative obscurity. Although the two men debated the nature of science only once, the legacy of this encounter has dominated intellectual and public discussions on the topic ever since. Almost universally recognized as the (...) modern watershed in the philosophy of science, Kuhn's relativistic vision of shifting paradigms -- which asserted that science was just another human activity, like art or philosophy, only more specialized -- triumphed over Popper's more positivistic belief in science's revolutionary potential to falsify society's dogmas. But has this victory been beneficial for science? Steve Fuller argues that not only has Kuhn's dominance had an adverse impact on the field but both thinkers have been radically misinterpreted in the process. This debate raises a vital question: Can science remain an independent, progressive force in society, or is it destined to continue as the technical wing of the military-industrial complex? Drawing on original research -- including the Kuhn archives at MIT -- Fuller offers a clear account of "Kuhn vs. Popper" and what it will mean for the future of scientific inquiry. (shrink)
"Social epistemology" refers here to the work of analytic epistemologists and philosophers of science interested in providing an empirically adequate account of organized knowledge systems, with special emphasis on scientific inquiry. I critically survey the last ten years of this research. Unlike the pragmatist and Continental schools of philosophy, for which knowledge is "always already" social, progress in analytic social epistemology has been plagued by an oversharp distinction between individual and collective cognition; and a failure to query the ends of (...) science in addition to its means. Consequently, most analytic social epistemologists operate with a relatively weak sense of "normativity," one modelled more on taken-for-granted logical principles than legislated policy correctives. (shrink)
Philip Tetlock underestimates the import of his own Expert Political Judgment. It is much more than a critical scientific evaluation of the accuracy and consistency of political pundits. It also offers a blueprint for challenging expertise more generally-in the name of scientific advancement. “Thinking the unthinkable”-a strategy Tetlock employs when he gets experts to consider counterfactual scenarios that are far from their epistemic comfort zones-has had explosive consequences historically for both knowledge and morality by extending our sense of what is (...) possible. Thinking the unthinkable might also put into question contemporary assumptions about the legitimacy of science. (shrink)
An assessment of Joel Isaac’s recent, well-researched attempt to provide a context for the emergence of Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. That context consisted in the open space for cross-disciplinary projects between the natural and social sciences that existed at Harvard during the presidency of James Bryant Conant, from the early 1930s to the early 1950s. Isaac’s work at the Harvard archives adds interesting detail to a story whose general contours are already known. In particular, he reinforces the view (...) that the guiding intellectual presence of what Isaac dubs Harvard’s “interstitial academy” was the biochemist Lawrence Henderson, someone who was enamored of Vilfredo Pareto’s version of scientism and was materially supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s interest in increasing worker productivity. Isaac fails to consider the normative implications of Henderson’s vision, which influenced Talcott Parsons even more deeply than Kuhn. Isaac’s book is read in light of this concern, which reveals a profound sense of what is required of the sort of future elite policy maker that Harvard hoped to train: namely, a systems-based orientation that is at the same time tolerant of considerable intrasystemic incommensurability. The epistemological and ethical aspects of this prescription are analyzed. (shrink)
This article is a response to William Lynch’s, ‘Social Epistemology Transformed: Steve Fuller’s Account of Knowledge as a Divine Spark for Human Domination,’ an extended and thoughtful reflection on my Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History. I grant that Lynch has captured well, albeit critically, the spirit and content of the book – and the thirty-year intellectual journey that led to it. In this piece, I respond at two levels. First, I justify my posture towards my predecessors and contemporaries, which (...) Lynch shrewdly sees as my opposition to deference. However, most of the response concerns an elaboration of my theodicy-focussed sense of social epistemology, which is long-standing but only started to become prominent about ten years ago, in light of my involvement in the evolution controversies. Here I aim to draw together a set of my abiding interests – scientific, theological and philosophical – in trying to provide a normative foundation for the future of humanity. (shrink)
Because of its novel application of social psychological theories and methods, this book will be useful as a primary text or a secondary text in courses on science studies in psychology, sociology, or philosophy departments.
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)
This essay introduces a Focus section on “Neurohistory and History of Science” by distinguishing images of the brain as governor and as transducer: the former treat the brain as the executive control center of the body, the latter as an interface between the organism and reality at large. Most of the consternation expressed in the symposium about the advent of neurohistory derives from the brain-as-governor conception, which is rooted in a “biologistic” understanding of humanity that in recent years has become (...) bound up in various nefarious “neoliberal” political and economic agendas. However, given the sophisticated attitude that neurohistory’s leading champion, Daniel Smail, displays toward evolutionary theory’s potential impact on historical practice, he is perhaps better understood as part of the brain-as-transducer tradition. This tradition, largely suppressed in current representations of neuroscience, has a strong theological provenance, ultimately concerned with our becoming attuned to the divine frequency, not least by extending the powers of the human nervous system through technology. This essay sympathetically explores the implications of this perspective for historical practice. (shrink)
I should like to offer my greatest thanks to Paul Griffiths for providing the opportunity for this exchange, and to commentators Gillian Brown, Steven Fuller, Stefan Linquist, and Erika Milam for their generous and thought-provoking comments. I shall do my best in this space to respond to some of their concerns.
I argue that the 21st century will be marked by a realignment of science and religion, which I call the “anthropic” versus the “karmic” perspectives. The former is aligned with the major Western religions and was secularized in the 19th century as positivism, with its identification of social science with the religion of humanity. The latter is aligned with the major Eastern religions, but also Epicureanism in the West. It was secularized as the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in the 20th century, since (...) when it has made major inroads in wider precincts of normative thought. In this context, I focus specifically on the work of E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Singer — all of whom, in somewhat different ways, argue on naturalistic grounds for the removal of humanity's normative privilege. Moreover, the karmic sensibility enjoys somewhat surprising support from postmodern quarters, where anti-humanism tends to be strong. These emerging trends, even when articulated by scientists, have also been associated with a decline in scientific meliorism. Against all this, I argue for a reassertion of the anthropic perspective, mainly by suggesting how monotheists and positivists may join to reinstate the collective project of humanity. A crucial part of the strategy is to regard participation in science as a civic obligation, if not (à la Comte) a religious service. (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)
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)
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)
Although The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most influential books of this century, its author, Thomas Kuhn, is notorious for disavowing most of the consequences wrought by his text. Insofar as these consequences have appeared "radical" or "antipositivist," this article argues that they are very misleading, and that Kuhn's complaints are therefore well placed. Indeed, Kuhn unwittingly succeeded where Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology tried and failed, namely, to alleviate the anxieties of alienated academics and defensive (...) policy-makers by teaching them that they could all profit from solving their own paradigmatic puzzles. The influence of tructure is traced from the philosophy of science into the social sciences and science policy. Special attention is paid to the import of the General Education in Science curriculum at Harvard, in which Kuhn taught for most of the period prior to writing tructure. Harvard President James Conant had designed this curriculum in order to keep "pure science" in the good favor of the American public, in whose eyes it suffered after the use of the atomic bomb. While Conant was keen to stress the distinctiveness of science from other social practices, Kuhn's model seemed to provide a blueprint for reconstituting any practice as a science. This enabled potentially antiscientific academics to become scientists themselves, thereby neutralizing any radical challenges to the ends of scientific inquiry. The article concludes by reconstructing some of the inchoate possibilities for radical critique that Kuhn's success preempted, and by making some suggestions for how they may be recovered in the present academic environment. (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)