Author Information: Samuel Rickless, University of California, San Diego,

Rickless, Samuel. “Critical Appreciation of Jonathan Schaffer’s The Contrast-Sensitivity of Knowledge Ascriptions’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 4 (2015): 1-6.

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Editor’s Note: With Samuel Rickless’ post, we initiate our “critical appreciation” series. In this series, we ask scholars to examine Social Epistemology’s most cited articles over the last 3 years (according to statistics sourced from CrossRef). We seek both a re-appraisal and re-imagining of the articles since their publication, and a sense of where the arguments and ideas might go in the future.


Image credit: Michael J. Moeller, via flickr

Jonathan Schaffer’s 2008 article is part of a burgeoning trend, one that attempts to uncover previously unrecognized contrastive elements in a wide variety of different relations and properties (including knowledge, causation, freedom, belief, and confirmation of theory by evidence). My aim here is to provide a critical appraisal of the article, with a view to determining what it can teach us about how best to understand knowledge ascriptions, and how best to conduct research in epistemology and the philosophy of language more generally.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Dwight Holbrook, Adam Mickiewicz University,

Holbrook, Dwight. “Closing in on Dualism.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 57-62.

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Image credit: SantiMB.Photos, via flickr

Let us start with what appears to be a congruence of viewpoint shared by Jesse Butler (Butler 2015) and myself (Holbrook 2014). We both agree on two things:

(1) Objectless knowing is not tantamount to mere personal bias, false impressions, illusions, distortions imposed by the mind, or in other words is not tantamount to subjectivity in contradistinction to whatever may constitute objective truth. As Butler writes, “I do not mean that the knowledge [of my own experience] is subjective in the sense of being inaccurate with regard to the objective world” (Butler 2015, 23).

(2) Objectless knowing is infallible in that it is not about propositional statements of truth. Hence, it is neither falsifiable nor verifiable. “I do say that phenomenal knowledge is infallible, but only in the deflationary sense that it contains no propositional content by which it could possibly be fallible, or inaccurate” (Butler 2015, 23).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Lyudmila Markova, Russian Academy of Sciences,

Markova, Lyudmila. “Comment on ‘Scientist as Fiction Writer: Soviet Science-Fiction and Space Exploration'”. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 56.

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Image credit: Joseph Morris, via flickr

Tatyana Sokolova (2014) states that her paper examines “the interaction between philosophical ideas and technical achievements based on an analysis of Soviet science fiction literature from 1920s to 1957 (the year of the launch of Satellite-1), as well as of its critics from the scientific community” (3). I maintain that Sokolova’s paper also speaks to the contemporary landscape since the issue of the relationship between science and art is explored in many ways with many different results. In the 20th century, scientific knowledge was understood as justified more by the process of its receiving, and by the author of this process, than by the object of study. It was a radical turn from classical thinking where the purpose of study was to get true knowledge—which meant its correspondence with the object of investigation. The personality of the scientist, their human characteristics, as well as environmental circumstances should be eliminated from the results obtained. At the same time, the matter is quite different in art where the significance of creative activities remains much more noticeable. It is interesting for observers to know who the painter of the picture is, when they lived, and where, and in what cultural circumstances, they worked. And readers cannot be indifferent to the information about the author of the fiction they read.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Justin Cruickshank, University of Birmingham, and Ioana Cerasella Chis, University of Birmingham,

Cruickshank, Justin and Ioana Cerasella Chis. “Big Data, TTIP and the Hubris of Techno-Capitalism.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 45-55.

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forging _freedom

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For Raphael Sassower (2014), public intellectuals need to play a key role in enhancing the quality of debate in dialogic democracies. Political radicalism, he holds, denigrates this, neglecting the real possibilities for an intellectual (and socio-economic) elite to enhance democracy, and for technology, in the ‘Digital Age’, radically to undermine nefarious social relations by creating a ‘Postcapitalist’ society. In a previous essay (Chis and Cruickshank 2014) we rejected the concept of public intellectuals and held that a dialogic democracy was antithetical to the elitist privileging of certain interlocutors.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Rana Dajani, Hashemite University,

Dajani, Rana. “A Response to Damian Howard.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 43-44.

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In response to Damian Howard’s reflections (“Some Reflections on Stefano Bigliardi’s ‘On Harmonizing Islam and Science’”, 2014) on Stefano Bigliardi’s piece, I have two points to make.

1. I quote Howard:

If, as Bigliardi suggests, they are favourable to the idea of biological evolution (which, I think we have to admit is not present as an idea in either the Qur’an or the Bible) can that in any way enhance their religious outlook, beliefs and practices? And if not, why not?

I disagree on two counts.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick,

Fuller, Steve. “Who Needs the Science Wars When You’ve Got This on the Homefront?” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 40-42.

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There probably is not much more to say beyond this point because Eglash (2015) has shifted the original frame of reference too much. First of all, leave Voltaire out of it. I was not objecting to Eglash’s right to say that Science and Technology Studies (STS) practitioners should speak against creationists (for whatever reason). I was not even objecting to any criticism he might have to my participation in the 2005 intelligent design (ID) trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District). I was opposing a motion he placed before the STS membership that would have its would-be professional body, the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), come out against ID/creationism. Not only would this be out of character for 4S, which has refused all previous efforts at becoming ‘professional’ in any serious sense, but also the grounds that Eglash et al. offered for denouncing ID/creationism amounted simply to ID/creationists’ having turned STS principles to their own advantage. When I said that Eglash et al. were ‘out of their depth’, I was referring specifically to this framing of their proposal—not to my superior erudition (blah, blah). Eglash et al. appear to have expected ID/creationists to be dumber than they turned out to be, or put another way, they were prima facie unwilling to extend to ID/creationists the same epistemic charity that they gladly extend to indigenous peoples.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ron Eglash, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,

Eglash, Ron. “On Intellectual Courage and Accountability.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 36-39.

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I was disappointed to see that Steve Fuller’s essay of December 25, 2014 takes the proposed public statement by the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), which would officially condemn the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in public school science classes, as a personal attack. As the main author of the petition, I can assure you that few scholars better embody the concept of intellectual courage than Steve Fuller, and I had sent an email to him saying as much many years ago. In his essay Fuller refers to Voltaire’s statement, “protect me from my friends.” But it was Evelyn Beatrice Hall, best known for her biography entitled The Friends of Voltaire, who captured the definition of intellectual courage which I believe is strongly shared by both Fuller and myself: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Fuller has every right to continue to appear in court and declare that defense of teaching creationism and intelligent design in public school science classes is a fundamental consequence of STS principles, just as those of us who support the resolution have the right to that form of expression.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Daniel P. Miller, Virginia Tech,

Miller, Daniel P. “SIREN 2015 Keynote Address Review: The Nuclearity of Disaster.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 31-35.

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Nuclear Wetlands

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On 20 January 2015, the Seminar on Interdisciplinary Research and Education in Nuclear Emergency Response (SIREN), hosted by Virginia Tech’s Department of Science and Technology in Society, held its first in a series of monthly talks at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia. SIREN’s objective is to engage in conversation with international experts to examine nuclear emergency response. The keynote speaker, Allison Macfarlane, directs the Center of International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University and is the recent Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Sonja Schmid, host of the SIREN series, introduced Professor Macfarlane’s talk “International Response to Nuclear Emergencies: The Case of Fukushima.” The audience in the room represented social scientists, nuclear engineers, graduate students and those from both government and the private sector nuclear fields.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ilya Kasavin, Russian Academy of Sciences,

Kasavin, Ilya. “Cases of Interdisciplinarity: Between Habitus and Reflexion.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 15-30.

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Abstract [1] [2] [3]

Several cases of broadly viewed interdisciplinary research are considered. Discussed are the disciplinary status of natural philosophy in the middle ages; the dispute about witchcraft in the Renaissance; the disciplinary formation of chemistry in the interaction between peripatetics, jatrochemists, spagirists and atomists; and the conceptual shifts in Maxwell’s electrodynamics. These debates are analyzed using two major notions—habitus and reflexion—that differ from those of Bourdieu. Habitus is taken as a methodological attitude based on natural and historically rooted adherence to a theory, or world picture, based on the shared research practice. Reflexion represents a critical and proactionary stance towards a revision of an established theoretical framework, which is irreducible to the logic of rational criticism. Various cases of habitus-reflexion controversy provide a valuable source for a typological picture of interdisciplinary research. And this, in turn, helps clarify the nature of interdisciplinarity in general, given the topicality of this cognitive pattern in the contemporary science.

Interdisciplinary interaction in modern science has become a usual phenomenon deserving more serious philosophical and scientific understanding. Why is an epistemological analysis of interdisciplinary research significant? The rationale for this attention stems from the nonclassical approaches in epistemology and philosophy of science that emphasize the communicative nature of the cognitive process and, moreover, the essential determination of the content of knowledge by various types and forms of communication.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: William Davis, Virginia Tech,<

Davis, William. “Moving Beyond the Human: Posthumanism, Transhumanism and Objects.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 9-14.

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Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction
Edited by Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften
313 pp.

We must learn to ignore the definitive shapes of humans, and of the nonhumans with which we share more and more of our existence. The blur that we would then perceive, the swapping of properties, is a characteristic of our premodern past, in the good old days of poesis, and a characteristic of our modern and nonmodern present as well (Latour 1994, 42).


First, a confession: I am a late arrival to discussions of posthumanism and transhumanism. In my own work in philosophy of technology, I have struggled to find the direction I think philosophy of technology should take regarding fundamental philosophical positions pertaining to ontology, epistemology and ethics. In that sense, Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction (2014) has served as a useful entry into contemporary discussion of what exists, how we can (and should) go about enquiring after those things that exist, and how we should conceive of ethics in a world inhabited, seemingly equally, by humans and non-humans (or, we might posit, unequally inhabited: there are far more non-humans than humans in this universe). What follows, then, could be fairly called an “unfamiliar” or “uninitiated” review of Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner’s edited text. Perhaps as a testament to the persuasive strategies and flair of the varied contributors to this edited text, I find myself quickly taking sides between posthumanism and transhumanism, only to have that position challenged by the next entry. In the process, my ontological and ethical views have undergone contestation and transformation.  Continue Reading…