Author Information:Martin Beckstein, University of Zurich, martin.beckstein@philos.uzh.ch

Beckstein, Martin. “Addressing Ruben’s ‘Internal and External Perspectives’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 35-36.

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In his reply, David-Hillel Ruben (2014) argues that “internal perspectives” on disputes over true succession (i.e. of the parties involved) might well rely on counterfactuals, but that “external perspectives” (i.e. of scholars) ought to dispense with them because they are hard to verify. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Taylor Loy, @taylorAloy, taylor.loy@gmail.com

Loy, Taylor. “Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, J. Craig Venter.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 31-34.

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Part history, part primer, part argument for a Nobel Prize nomination, J. Craig Venter’s Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life provides one man’s privileged perspective on the burgeoning synthetic biology (synthbio) industry. This text also serves as another step in the largely successful campaign to rebrand the nefarious-sounding discipline of genetic engineering. In opposition to the dystopic (pre)cautionary concerns of the Frankenstein paradigm, Venter frames his story with some of science fiction’s more optimistic, proactionary tales such as Isaac Asimov’s robot novels as he promotes synthbio’s “limitless potential.”[1] Despite being jargon thick at times, Venter writes with clarity and conviction to a scientifically literate readership leading indelibly toward the cusp of digital life’s titular DawnContinue Reading…

Author Information: Maya J. Goldenberg, University of Guelph, mgolden@uoguelph.ca

Goldenberg, Maya J. “Diversity in Epistemic Communities: A Response to Clough.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 25-30.

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Abstract

In Clough’s reply paper to me (2013a), she laments how feminist calls for diversity within scientific communities are inadvertently sidelined by our shared feminist empiricist prescriptions. She offers a novel justification for diversity within epistemic communities and challenges me to accept this addendum to my prior prescriptions for biomedical research communities (Goldenberg 2013) on the grounds that they are consistent with the epistemic commitments that I already endorse. In this response, I evaluate and accept her challenge.

Introduction

In “Feminist Theories of Evidence and Biomedical Research Communities: A Reply to Goldenberg” (2013a), Sharyn Clough addresses the feminist concern of lack of diversity within the composition of scientific communities. She correctly notes that this problem gets sidelined by the form of feminist empiricism that both she and I endorse—what I called “values as evidence” feminist empiricism, and differentiated from the predominant “community-based social knowledge” feminist empiricism of Helen Longino (1990) and Lynn Hankinson Nelson (1990; 1993) (Goldenberg 2013). Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steven Lukes, New York University, sl53@nyu.edu

Lukes, Steven. “How Relativist Should We Be? A Reply to Stenmark.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 13-16.

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Mikael Stenmark’s article is admirably short, succinct and lucid. It proffers an explanation of relativism’s current appeal to people in general and in the humanities and social sciences in particular; an analysis of its central claims in the form of four ‘theses’; and it ends by challenging the reader to assess its scope. How relativist should we be? Continue Reading…

Author Information: Justin Cruickshank, University of Birmingham, J.Cruickshank@bham.ac.uk

Cruickshank, Justin. “From Ex Cathedra Legislators to Dialogic Exemplars? Popper, Rorty and the Politics and Sociology of Knowledge.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 5 (2014): 1-12.

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I would like to thank Raphael Sassower for his response to my article on Popper and Rorty. Sassower argued that ‘if we contextualise the writings of Popper and Rorty we could easily understand their respective difference in focus or attitude rather in substance’ (58), with this standing in contrast to the ‘partisan politics of the academy’ which produced dogmatic and superficial readings of their work (57-58). For Sassower (2006a, 2006b, 2014) it is the case that politics can legitimately influence philosophy, not only with normative commitments influencing the solutions proffered for problems, but with normative commitments influencing the construal of what constitutes a legitimate and interesting problem. So, whilst it was the case that Popper and Rorty were engaging in different ways with different traditions in different historical contexts, they nonetheless shared a similar normative motivation which shaped their philosophies. Specifically, neither were conceptualising themselves as ‘disembodied’ intellectuals engaging in purely technical problems abstracted from any socio-political and historical context. Instead, both regarded themselves as engaging in a public conversation about the dialogic nature of knowledge and socio-political problem-solving, where a recognition of fallibilism or contingency precluded appeal to any source of certainty. For both it was important to avoid the authoritarian follies that lurk in intellectuals’ clerical tendency to presume a privileged access to a higher domain of reality, with this being used monologically to legislate on the beliefs and actions of others; as well as avoiding the parochialism of holding that philosophical problems, in effect, have no import for life outside technical philosophy. In place of the intellectual as ex cathedra legislator basing their authority on a particular metaphysical doctrine, or parochial technician, intellectuals were to move public dialogue forward by being interlocutors.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Abby Kinchy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, kincha@rpi.edu

Kinchy, Abby. “Explaining Absolute Absences: A Critical Reply to Scott Frickel.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 24-29.

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In science and technology studies, the recent turn to studies of ignorance (including secrecy, suppression of research agendas, and abandoned knowledge) has offered new ways of revealing that “things could have been otherwise”. In his insightful contribution on how to study what is absent in modern technoscience practice, Scott Frickel observes that most of the new research in this vein considers “’things that are not there’ but were there once, or have become hidden, or are somewhere else” (Frickel 2014, 87). In contrast, however, he calls on us to attend to “absolute” absences, the “things that are not there or anywhere else and probably never were” (87-88). Continue Reading…

Author Information: Joanne Gaudet, University of Ottawa, jgaud041@uottawa.ca

Gaudet, Joanne. “Absence and Presence in Science: Critical Reply to the Special Issue on ‘Absences’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 16-23.

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Introduction

With this critical reply, I am pleased to engage in conversation with Social Epistemology’s special issue on ‘Absences.’ More specifically, I engage in conversation on absences in science and its ensemble of epistemic (cf., knowledge and ignorance) practices with Jennifer Croissant (2014) and Scott Frickel’s (2014) contributions.

Before I launch into the reply, however, I clarify my starting point. Here, I do not take what I deem to be a mostly Eurocentric view that technology can always be conflated with science (cf., technoscience). I avoid this view because in Canada, for example, engineers do not hold the same educational training as engineers in Europe where engineer researcher educational credentials can be closer to those of scientists in the natural sciences. I advance that the absence of a technical/scientific education and practices distinction has sometimes led social scientists to conflate risk and epistemic issues and conflate the roles of engineers and scientists (where engineers mainly focus on risk and scientists typically focus on epistemic dynamics). [1] Although I do not tackle the conflations per se, I do so implicitly by focussing squarely on scientists and science practices. By extension, this means that empirical research into absences should take account of contextual actor education when constructing practices as scientific or technological.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ryan Cochrane, Ryan.Cochrane001@umb.edu

Cochrane, Ryan. “A Conversation with Henry Stapp.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 11-13.

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Ryan Cochrane (RC): How did you become interested in physics and how did you end up working with Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg?

Henry Stapp (HS): Already in high school I was solving every mathematical puzzle I could find, and was proposing theories about how the world works for example how light is propagated. As a junior, I read a book Inside the Atom that described, in effect, the double-slit experiment, and I decided that this was a puzzle that I needed to solve. As a junior in college, at the University of Michigan, I carried out, during Easter vacation a double-slit experiment where the photons were, on average, 1 km apart, and verified that effect was not due different photons interfering with one another. As a young post-doc at UCB [University of California, Berkeley] in 1956, I was chosen to write up the lecture notes describing lectures that Pauli was giving. I talked often to Pauli, and expressed my objections to a theory that he was then working on with Heisenberg. Pauli invited me to come to Zurich. I arrived in September, we talked every weekday, and he treated me with great kindness and respect. In December he went to the hospital for a check-up, and sent a message that he wanted me to come to the hospital. But because I knew he was not at work, I worked at my apartment. When I returned to my office I found out that he had died. After his death I completed what we had been working on together, and then read von Neumann’s book. I wrote for myself as essay “Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics”. I pursued the topic as a sideline to my main more practical work at the lab, and in 1993 published a book with the same title.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ryan Cochrane, Ryan.Cochrane001@umb.edu

Cochrane, Ryan. “Beyond the Mind-Body Stalemate: An Interview with Stuart Kauffman.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 7-10.

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Ryan Cochrane (RC): Since the 17th Century and Newton, we have been locked into Reductive Materialism. What are the implications for the Mind -Body problem?

Stu Kauffman (SK): It all starts with Descartes in 1640, who proposed his famous Dualism, Res Extensa, the mechanical worldview, and Res Cogitans or thinking stuff, a substance dualism. But with Newton, Res Extensa won and we have since then lost the subjective pole of, “cogitans”, conscious experience. Res extensa matured with Newton; Newton invented classical physics, differential and integral calculus, three laws of motion and universal gravitation. Imagine six billiard balls rolling on a billiard table. What will happen to the balls? Newton told us to write down the initial conditions of all the balls, that is their positions and momenta, and the boundary conditions of the edges of the table, and his laws in differential equation form giving the forces between the billiard balls. Then to find out how the balls will move, we are to integrate his differential equations to derive the trajectories of the balls moving on the table. But integration is deduction of the consequences of the differential equations for those deterministic trajectories. Continue Reading…

Author Information: William Davis, widavis@vt.edu; Susan Dieleman, Susan.Dieleman@Dal.Ca; Robert Frodeman, frodeman@unt.edu; Francis Remedios, francisxr28@gmail.com; Adam Riggio, adamriggio@gmail.com; Elisabeth Simbürger, elisabeth.simbuerger@uv.cl; Todd Suomela, tsuomela@utk.edu

Davis, William, Susan Dieleman, Robert Frodeman, Francis Remedios, Adam Riggio, Elisabeth Simbürger, Todd Suomela. “Sustainable Knowledge: An Exchange.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 4 (2014): 11-20.

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Adam Riggio (AR): Universities have too much institutional inertia to become academically sustainable; true reform will only come from without. How?

Robert Frodeman (RF): Your claim is distressingly close to the truth. Universities are the second oldest institution in the West (after the Catholic Church). The institutional conservatism of our purportedly radical colleagues is striking: their radicalism is limited within disciplinary bounds. Professors are hidebound in terms of institutional matters — too often, the result of tenure. Stray outside disciplinary conventions and you are quickly labelled ‘not serious’.  Continue Reading…