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**Can scientific knowledge be simultaneously objective and contingent?** - Within contemporary historical, philosophical, and social studies, there is view of scientific knowledge that remains consistent across many differing accounts of how specific sciences are practiced. This view builds on demonstrations that the [singular idealised scientific method](https://osf.io/c2fbk/?view_only=158acca582214332b109396e51e49aef) fails to account for the wide varitiey of activities that contribute to actual scientific practices. In doing so, they seek to offer accounts of how these diverse practices can contribute to trustworthy scientific knowledge. While the details vary, these accounts converge on the suggestion that scientific knowledge can provide accounts of the world that are simultaneously [objective](https://osf.io/c9adt/wiki/home/) and [contingent](https://osf.io/duzjx/wiki/home/). For instance, scientific knowledge can be objective in the sense that it is generated via [robust](https://osf.io/ytzdv/wiki/home/) practices that incorperate intersubjective perspectives. Meanwhile, objective scientific knowledge is also contingent in the sense that all knowledge reflects the conditions within it emerges - including contingencies such as material resistances, social forces, existing knowledge, conceptual assumptions, and so forth. This view of scientific knowledge rejects both ahistorical universalism (associated with some versions of [scientific realism](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-realism/)) and social-constructionism (associated with some [relativistic views of scientific knowledges](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/#RelAboSci)). For example, studies of the material contingencies that contribute to objective scientific knowledge are often distanced from the human-centric relativism. For example, Lorraine Daston (2000, 3) argues that “that scientific objects can be simultaneously real and historical”; explicitly positioning a collection of essays on the historically contingent ontologies of scientific objects as standing orthogonal to the plane of the realist/constructionist debates. Likewise, Galison (1995) explicitly rejects relativism; emphasising that there is a myriad of interacting constraints – material as well as social – that lie behind the strength of scientific endeavours. Similarly, Joseph Rouse (1996, 176) argues for the relevance of both social and material ‘[resistances](https://osf.io/qyaed/wiki/home/)’ to epistemic alignments within scientific practice. Meanwhile, Karan Barad (2007, 32) describes how the material, social, and conceptual conditions within which knowledge-making practices support the relationship between knower and known generate objective descriptions about the nature of reality. In short, although disagreeing on the details, these scholars all reject the ahistorical ‘view from nowhere’ notion of universal scientific objectivity; focusing instead on the objectivity of intersubjective accounts of a mind-independent reality. Far from suggesting this as a redefinition of the presumed stable term objectivity, this focus highlights that the multiple uses of the concept objectivity have a long history (Daston and Gailson 2007; Hacking 2015). The differences within these accounts provide a range of different arguments for **how** the objectivity of these intersubjective accounts of reality are generated. For example, rejecting the possibility of neutral witnesses, Donna Haraway (1991; 2006) positions objective knowledge as located at the crossroads of multiple partial and situated perspectives of the real world. Yet, far from denying the reality of scientific objects or meanings, Haraway’s approach affirms them (Munnik 2001, 110). In doing so, objective knowledge is positioned as generated in scientific practice via the situated dynamics of the ongoing practices of being and doing the world (Lykke, Markussen, and Olesen 2003, 53–54). Meanwhile, Don Ihde (2012, 371) shifts the site of objectivity away from the unmarked witness and towards the inter-relational ontology of technical practice. In doing so, Ihde (2012, p. 371) presents robust] knowledge as produced through the variational and critical perception of multiple converging technically-mediated results (rather than perspectives). Another possibility can be seen in Isabelle Stengers’ (2011, 374–77) argument that the specificity of experimental practices assembles heterogeneous ‘competent colleagues’ to verify the reliability of scientific facts; producing “things that exist for themselves and by themselves”. In the words of Naomi Oreskes (2019, p.55), "There is now broad agreement among historians, philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists of science that there is no (singular) scientific method, and that scientific practice consists of communities of people, making decisions for reasons that are both empirical and social, using diverse methods". *Suggested Readings to Start Discussion*: - Boon, Mieke. 2012. [‘Understanding Scientific Practices: The Role of Robustness Notions’](https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2759-5_12). In Characterizing the Robustness of Science: After the Practice Turn in Philosophy of Science, edited by Léna Soler, et alm, 289–315. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands - Eglash, Ron. 2011. [Multiple Objectivity: An Anti-Relativist Approach to Situated Knowledge](http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03684921111160223). Kybernetes 40 (7/8): 995–1003.\ - Oreskes, Naomi. 2019. Why Trust Science? Princeton University Press. (pp 49-59 attached) - there is also a [TED talk version](https://www.ted.com/talks/naomi_oreskes_why_we_should_trust_scientists) - Tsou, J. Y., Richardson, A., & Padovani, F. (2015). [Introduction: Objectivity in Science](https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-14349-1_1). In F. Padovani, A. Richardson, & J. Y. Tsou (Eds.), Objectivity in Science (Vol. 310, pp. 1–15). Springer International Publishing. After discussing the contingencies of scientific objectivity, there are many more specific questions you could ask about scientific practices. As an example, consider the readings sets we've prepared for supporting discussions of role of [structural racism in the sciences](https://osf.io/y6j2n/wiki/home/). *List of references & further resources* * Barad, Karen Michelle. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. * Daston, Lorraine, ed. 2000. Biographies of Scientific Objects. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. * Daston, L., & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. Zone Books and MIT Press. - for an overview, see the recorded lecture by Peter Gailson (2016) [Objectivity: The Limits of Scientific Sight](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPnJ8ENDNwg). * Galison, Peter L. 1995. ‘Context and Constraints’. In Scientific Practice: Theories and Stories of Doing Physics, edited by Jed Z. Buchwald, 13–41. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. * Harding, S (2015) [Objectivity and diversity: Another logic of scientific research](https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo19804521.html) * Koskinen, I. (2017) [Where is the epistemic community? On democratisation of science and social accounts of objectivity](https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-016-1173-2). Synthese, 194(12), 4671–4686 * Hacking, I. (2015). Let’s Not Talk About Objectivity. In F. Padovani, A. Richardson, & J. Y. Tsou (Eds.), Objectivity in Science: New Perspectives from Science and Technology Studies (pp. 19–33). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-14349-1_2 * Harding, S. (2015). [Objectivity and Diversity: Tensions for Feminist Postcolonial Research](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_qa87-54yQ) - a lecture recorded at University of Toronto's Faculty of Information. * Haraway, Donna. 1991. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 183–201. London: Free Association. * Haraway, Donna. 2006. ‘Crittercam: Compounding Eyes in NatureCultures’. In Postphenomenology: A Critical Companion to Ihde, edited by Evan Selinger, 175–88. Albany: State University if New York Press. * Ihde, Don. 2012. ‘“Cartesianism” Redux or Situated Knowledges’. Foundations of Science 17 (4): 369–72. * Lykke, Nina, Randi Markussen, and Finn Olesen. 2003. ‘Interview with Donna Haraway’. In Chasing Technoscience: A Matrix for Materiality, edited by Don Ihde and Evan Selinger. Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. * Ludwig, D., Koskinen, I., Mncube, Z., Poliseli, L., & Reyes-Galindo, L. (Eds.). (2021). [Global Epistemologies and Philosophies of Science](https://www.routledge.com/Global-Epistemologies-and-Philosophies-of-Science/Ludwig-Koskinen-Mncube-Poliseli-Reyes-Galindo/p/book/9780367461379). Routledge * Munnik, René. 2001. ‘Donna Haraway: Cyborgs for Earthly Survival?’ In American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn, edited by Hans Achterhuis, translated by Robert C Crease, 95–119. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. * Padovani, F., Richardson, A. W., Tsou, J. Y., & SpringerLink (Eds.). (2015). Objectivity in science: New perspectives from science and technology studies. Springer. * Rouse, Joseph. 1996. ‘Beyond Epistemic Sovereignty’. In The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts, and Power, edited by Peter Galison and David Stump J, 398–416. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. * Stengers, Isabelle. 2011. ‘Wondering about Materialism’. In The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, edited by Levi R. Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman, 368–80. Melbourne: re.press. For an earlier version of this resource, see the components shared for feedback as part of the [2019 AIMOS Session: Developing Resources in Contemporary Philosophy of Scientific Practices for Scientists](https://osf.io/ect9u/)