PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE: OBJECTIVITY - Spring 2016
Of all the epistemic ideals that have come in for critical reassessment in recent decades, ‘objectivity’ is perhaps most sharply contested. What counts as objectivity has been shown to have a history, to be contingent and changeable depending on context, interest, and the specific types of epistemic failings it is meant to counteract, and sometimes to mask the operation of the very distorting interests researchers are meant to transcend in the name of objectivity. The aim of this seminar is to take stock of this epistemic ideal and assess what is at issue in debates that turn on claims of ‘objectivity’. Readings include Kitcher’s philosophical assessment in Science, Truth and Democracy (2001); Daston and Galison’s social history of Objectivity (2007); Longino's The Fate of Knowledge (2002), and recent pragmatic and procedural accounts of objectivity.
META-ARCHAEOLOGY: EVIDENCE - Spring 2016
This is a seminar about evidence: what counts as archaeological evidence and as best practice reasoning with evidence in archaeological contexts. We’ll be reading selections from Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice (ed. Chapman and Wylie, 2015) and Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology (Chapman and Wylie, in press), juxtaposed with philosophical accounts of evidential reasoning that bring into focus a number of different ways of conceptualizing the nature and role of evidence in empirical inquiry. The approach we’ll take is resolutely case-based; the central aim of this seminar is to tease out the assumptions about evidence that underpin archaeological debate, and to build a framework for thinking critically and constructively about evidential reasoning in archaeological practice.
RESEARCH ETHICS IN ARCHAEOLOGY – Winter 2015
Archaeological practice raises profoundly challenging ethics issues. The central question we address in this seminar is: to whom and to what are archaeologists accountable? More specifically: What responsibilities do archaeologists have to those whose cultural heritage they study?; Do archaeologists have an obligation, or a right, to serve as “stewards” of archaeological resources?; Is it ever legitimate to work with archaeological material that has been looted and commercially traded? These issues are central to debates that are changing the way archaeology is practiced, so we address them through analysis of cases juxtaposed with theoretical and philosophical literature on research ethics. Course readings include selections from The Ethics of Archaeology (Scarre & Scarre, 2006), and Ethical Issues in Archaeology (Zimmerman, Vitelli & Hollowell, 2003); and Atalay’s Community-Based Archaeology (2012).
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE COLLOQUIUM - Winter 2015
Agnotology: Historical and Philosophical Approaches to the Study of Ignorance
Co-taught with Bruce Hevly (History)
Historians and philosophers of science have traditionally been concerned with knowledge: what counts as scientific knowledge, how it is produced and ratified, whether its authority is warranted, whose interests it serves, whether it is distinctive or in what ways it is continuous with everyday, practical understanding. Recently, however, they have turned their attention to questions about ignorance. How are we to understand knowledge if we don’t understand ignorance, ask the proponents of “agnotology” – the study of ignorance? We begin an exploration of this emerging body of HPS research with a set of readings on “values in science” and arguments for pluralism that draw attention to ways in which scientific inquiry is inevitably selective, and then consider a selection of contributions to Agnotology (Proctor & Schiebinger, 2008), the collection of essays that brought the topic of ignorance to prominence. At the end of the quarter we focus on a particular sustained study of ignorance by Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt (2010).
PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE – Spring 2015
Can human, social subjects be studied “scientifically” or do they require, instead, a distinctive interpretive methodology? We’ll address this question, first, in relation to Winch’s classic, Idea of a Social Science (1958), and the debate it generated about ideals of objectivity in the social sciences. We then turn to a related set of ontological questions: what kind of subjects are social entities and social kinds? The focus here is Hacking’s account of the impact of “looping effects” on what he calls “interactive kinds.” We end the quarter with recent reappraisals of social identity constructs due to feminist and critical race theorists, and arguments based on them for various forms of standpoint theory. This seminar is designed to complement the proceedings of the 2015 joint meeting of the Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable and the European Network for Philosophy of the Social Sciences (RT/ENPOSS) which will be hosted by the Simpson Center May 8-10.
HISTORIES OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL THEORY AND PRACTICE - Winter 2013
Archaeology has not been much studied by professional historians of science, but archaeologists have been prodigious historians of their own field, and they have put histories of various kinds to work in a number of quite different ways. In this seminar we will explore the variety of internal histories that are in play, identifying several distinct genres of history-making ranging from tsweeping histories of disciplinary formation and program-defining histories that have legitimated one after another “new archaeology,” to a range of critical counter-histories that call into question pivotal ideas and forms of practice that are now taken for granted. We will consider, as well, examples of histories that play a direct role in archaeological research, recontextualizing evidence and bringing into view new interpretive possibilities.
PHILOSOPHIES OF FEMINISM – SPRING 2012
PHIL 206 / POLS 212 / WS 206
In this interdisciplinary, introductory course we explore key theoretical concepts and philosophical arguments that feminists have developed in response to the forms of oppression that are the subject of feminist scholarship and that animate feminist activism. We focus, in particular, on four clusters of philosophical assumptions that are articulated in very different ways by feminists and that underpin a broad spectrum of feminist perspectives: Focal questions include conceptions of oppression, and of sex/gender identity, theories of knowledge, and questions of justice. These provide a framework for learning about the diverse, sometimes complementary and sometimes antagonistic, philosophical positions that feminists have developed. Readings are drawn from The Feminist Philosophy Reader (Bailey and Cuomo) and include such authors as Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Marilyn Frye, Donna Haraway, Nancy Hartsock, Uma Narayan, and Iris Young, among others.
SCIENCE AND VALUES – Winter 2012
The focus of this seminar is the vexed debate about “science and values”: whether a well motivated and clearly delineated distinction can be maintained between epistemic (cognitive, constitutive) norms and non-epistemic (social or contextual) values and interests, and whether this distinction can bear the weight of accounts of objectivity and related epistemic ideals that are widely assumed to define the scientific enterprise. Readings include Douglas, Science, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal (2009); Machamer and Wolters, Science, Values, and Objectivity (2004); Lacey, Values and Objectivity in Science (2005); Kincaid, Dupré, and Wylie, Value-Free Science? Ideals and Illusions (2007); and Smith, Science, Truth and the Human (2005).
PHILOSOPHY OF ARCHAEOLOGY – Fall 2011
ARCHY 574 / PHIL 574
A seminar designed to provide graduate students in archaeology and anthropology intensive cross-disciplinary training in the philosophical analyses of scientific reasoning that have played an influential role in internal debates about the status of the archaeology as a science, its orienting goals, and its standards of practice. Topics include: models of explanation; analyses of evidential reasoning (hypothesis testing; hermeneutic and interpretive strategies); strategies of model building and model evaluation; and broader questions about the methodological unity of science, ideals of objectivity, and the role of contextual values and interests in science.
HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE COLLOQUIUM – Winter 2011
Beyond the Science Wars: Recent Engagements between HPS and STS
Co-taught with Simon Werrett (History)
History and Philosophy of Science has long had both a productive and an uneasy relationship with Science and Technology Studies (STS): a family of research programs that focus on the social, cultural dimensions of science. In this capstone seminar we explore the sometimes fierce disputes generated since the 1970s by the sharply contrasting stances that STS and HPS scholars have taken on a range of pivotal issues: questions about the objectivity of scientific knowledge and the unity of the sciences; about whether (or in what sense) scientific knowledge-making is a social, political enterprise; and about how academic studies of science (HPS, STS) bear on the sciences themselves. Readings include classic, field-defining articles drawn from The Science Studies Reader, and selected recent work on two sets of issues: the analysis of scientific expertise, and ideals of objectivity. We conclude with a consideration of how HPS/STS can help us understand such pressing issues as environmental catastrophe and the influence of corporate interests in science, as addressed by Oreskes and Conway in Merchants of Doubt (2010).
ARCHAEOLOGY AND STS - Winter 2011
A directed reading seminar focused on Science, Technology, and Society literature of practical and reflective relevance for archaeology. We first developed some common background in STS and History/Philosophy of Science: a selection of classics drawn from the Science Studies Reader that represent dominant schools of thought, major transitions, key issues in STS. Then we turned to a series of pivotal topics: recent work on expertise and tacit knowledge (Collins and Evans); discussions of "trading zones" and inter/multi-disciplinary forms of practice (Galison's original work, and a selection of later articles); and a juxtaposition of STS work on skilled practice and tacit knowledge (e.g., Shapin, Daston, Collins) with discussions in and of archaeological practice (e.g., Lopes on lithic illustration and with McGuire on Archaeology as Political Action).
RESEARCH ETHICS IN ARCHAEOLOGY: ACCOUNTABILITY, CONSERVATION, STEWARDSHIP - Fall 2010
ARCHY 469 / PHIL 401:
Archaeological practice raises profoundly challenging ethics issues. The central question we address in this seminar is: to whom and to what are archaeologists accountable? In particular, what responsibilities do archaeologists have to those whose cultural heritage they study? Do archaeologists have an obligation to protect the archaeological record--to “save the past for the future”-- and how is this balanced against destructive investigation of the record? Is it ever legitimate to work with archaeological material that has been looted and commercially traded? How should archaeologists navigate conflicts between the demands of employers, oversight agencies, and research goals when they work in industry or in government? These questions are at the center of debates that are changing the way archaeology is practiced; we address them through analysis of cases juxtaposed with theoretical and philosophical literature on research ethics.
GRADUATE MICROSEMINARS - 2008-2009
Feminist Legacies/Feminist Futures: five-meeting microseminar linked to Hypatia 25th anniversary conference (Fall 2009) Course website
Democratizing Science: a bi-weekly seminar run in conjunction with the year-long Science Studies Network graduate/faculty colloquium on "Science in Democracy" (Fall 2008); "Democracy and Diversity in Science" (Winter 2009); "Normative Claims for a Democratic Science" (Spring 2009).
Presuppositions of Practice: Philosophical Issues in the Social Sciences: a bi-weekly seminar on questions about the presuppositions of social inquiry linked to the 10th Annual Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable hosted by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, March 7-9, 2008 (Winter 2008).
PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY – Winter 2007
An honors capstone seminar that focuses on ideals of objectivity and constructivist challenges in history. If history is, as many claim, “rewritten by every generation of historians,” what sort of understanding does it provide of the past? Novick’s history of objectivist ideals, That Noble Dream, and Trouillot’s Silencing the Past, are the point of departure for exploration of this question, which has been as much a concern for practicing historians as for philosophers. Essays drawn from Hacking’s Historical Ontology, and from The Social Construction of What?, provide a philosophical rationale for reframing the stark oppositions that have dominated debate about the status of historical knowledge, and Tucker’s recent philosophy of historiography, Our Knowledge of the Past, offers a model of reasoning from evidence of the past that extends well beyond human, social history to the life sciences (evolutionary bioloy), and geological sciences.
PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE – Fall 2006
A graduate seminar on naturalism and the interpretive social sciences. The focus is a pivotal question in philosophical debates about the social sciences: can human, social subjects can be studied scientifically or do they require, instead, a distinctively interpretive methodology? The anti-naturalist accounts we consider include Winch's Wittgensteinian position (The Idea of a Social Science); debates about the nature and status of translational practice (principles of charity and humanity; Henderson’s argument for treating interpretation as a form of explanation); Risjord’s pragmatic (erotetic) account of ethnographic interpretation; and Hacking’s analysis of “looping effects” and the processes by which social kinds are constructed.