” ‘Have the courage to use your own understanding,’ is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.” -Immanuel Kant
In “The Social Construction of What?” (1999), Ian Hacking argues that constructionist accounts of scientific theories tend to lose sight of a basic question: what, exactly, is it that’s supposed to be constructed?
In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal perpetrated a hoax by submitting a nonsense article to an academic journal of postmodern studies, and subsequently deriding the journal for publishing it. The hoax was, and remains, a significant salvo in the “Science Wars.”
Clifford Geertz (1926–2006) was probably the best known American anthropologist of his generation, famous for his literary approach to ethnography, culture, and religious studies, and his development of the concept of “thick description.”
Because many, if not most, of the things with which science has to deal cannot be directly observed, the central question of science is not “What is the truth about nature?” but “what counts as an empirically adequate explanation?”
Because German science held such a prominent place in culture before WWI, it could not escape the fallout when the war ended in disaster. German physicists needed a way to reestablish their prestige, and this meant repudiating their prewar past in order to make room for an up-to-date theory that would not be tarnished by earlier failures.A new mania for a romantic “life philosophy,” which rejected the mechanical and mechanistic attitudes of the British in favor of an experience-based, intuitive holism became fashionable. In physics, the new model incorporated the values of “life philosophy” by rejecting causality as the principle explanatory mechanism.
In a series of essays written, Robert M. Young argued that scientific theories, like all other products of the human mind, arise out of a specific social context. Theories necessarily incorporate the values and concerns of the people who create them, which are themselves expressions of their specific historical context. Therefore, if we want to understand evolution, we need to understand the history of Victorian England.
According to Boyle, the best method in natural philosophy (and politics) was experiment and observation. Hobbes disagreed. He believed that observation could never displace deduction as a form of reasoning because observation always admitted of multiple explanations, and without rigorous definitions there was no way to decide between them. No number of experiments with air pumps could establish whether a vacuum was present or not unless Boyle could define what vacuum, air, etc., were.
Evelyn Fox Keller is a leader among a generation of feminist scholars interested in questions of gender and science. Although feminist philosophy of science is a complex and controversial field, and these scholars frequently disagree among themselves as to what changes are desirable or realistically attainable, they share a commitment to broadening the scope of science so that it does not devalue feminine perspectives as a kind of structural principle.
Whereas Kuhn had suggested that science might not be an entirely rational activity, and Feyerabend had drawn certain philosophical and political conclusions from a rather more strident belief, David Bloor argued for an approach that ignores the truth status of scientific theories and instead concentrates on their social context of production. Needless to say, the idea that truth claims arising out of science can be ignored at all, let alone as a systematic methodological principle, was and is controversial.
Unlike Thomas Kuhn, who held that a single paradigm dominates all science at once, Lakatos argued that multiple programs compete within or across fields simultaneously.
According to the Vienna Circle, the proper domain of philosophy is logic and language as applied to observation and scientific theory. Philosophers should accept the reduction of their field to an auxiliary discipline of science.
“We begin by making any supposition, even a false one, to see what consequences will follow from it; and by observing how these differ from the real phenomena, we learn what corrections to make in our assumption.”
What is science? In general, answers to this question fall between two poles. The first is the traditional view of science–that it is a process of discovery which, performed correctly, faithfully reveals the mysteries of the universe. The second holds that science is a social process which invents, rather than discovers, models of the universe.
The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994) argued that the standard account of science as an orderly, rational, methodical process is a “fairy tale.” In practice, science is a messy business, and this messiness is essential to creativity.