Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-36Q

Editor’s Note:

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brexit_ep

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Max Weber famously presented three principles of social ‘stratification’ (‘organization’ would be better): status, class and party. The ongoing saga of Brexit brings to light some interesting features of the last category, which otherwise tends to be neglected or treated as subordinate to the other two.

At the outset, it is worth recalling that Weber conceptualised these three principles as alternative ways in which the law channels power in society. His own presentation stressed the mutually orthogonal character of the three principles, resulting in three distinct dimensions through which power relations can be understood. This way of framing matters enabled Robert Merton to coin the phrase ‘sociological ambivalence’ in the 1970s for conflicts in role-expectations generated by these rather different sources of personal identity.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Harry Collins, Cardiff University, CollinsHM@cardiff.ac.uk

Collins, Harry. “Knowledge as It Says on the Tin: Response to Moodey.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 50-51.

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paint_tins1

Image credit: Abhisek Sarda, via flickr

The problem I am having is that it all seems terribly simple. Think of it like paint—red paint in this tin, blue paint in that tin, green paint in that tin. Take a human and dip it in one tin and it will come out red, dip it in another tin and it will come out blue and so on. The tins are, of course, societies and, of course, societies are more complicated than tins of paint: for one thing society-tins are found at a hugely different scales—some tins being enormous and some being very small. Worse, in the weird multi-dimensional space in which society-type tins exist, tins are found inside other tins are found inside other tins and it is possible humans get dipped into lots of tins at all the different scales at once: this is the fractal model of societies. What you get is that each human winds up coloured by all the different paints it has been dipped into—English speaker, cricketer, Christian, gravitational wave physicist, and so on.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Kevin Dew, Victoria University of Wellington, kevin.dew@vuw.ac.nz

Dew, Kevin. “Public Health and the Necessary Limits of Advocacy.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 26-29.

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vaccination

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Whilst I was an academic member of a department of public health I gained a great deal of respect for my colleagues. For most of them there was a strong sense of social justice underlying their work and a commitment to improving the health of the population. Brian Martin makes a compelling argument decrying the poor scholarship and argumentation offered by two Australian public health academics who have misrepresented the work of one of his PhD students. Professors David Durrheim and Alison Jones (2016) lapse into the unscientific argument that if research findings are critical of public health policy then public health policy people should have the power to suppress them.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Sandra Harding, University of California Los Angeles, sharding@gseis.ucla.edu

Harding, Sandra. “An Organic Logic of Research: A Response to Posey and Navarro.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 22-25.

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harding_objectivity_diversity

Image credit: University of Chicago Press

The review by Kamila Posey and María G. Navarro of Objectivity and Diversity: Another Logic of Scientific Research is so generous to me and to this book. They clearly grasp arguments that have simply puzzled others (at best!). It is rare to get such a fine review of a book that, as they note, is challenging mainstream ways of thinking about the production of knowledge and ways of justifying it.

My only hesitation is that Posey and Navarro are too generous. A number of the positions that they attribute to me are ones that appeared first in writings of other authors.[1] And I am not just being gracious here. Some of these authors are advocating for the knowledge production needs of social justice movements around the globe—postcolonial, indigenous, and feminist. Others are critically revisiting the role that political interests played in the history of the Vienna Circle and subsequent emergence of logical positivism (logical empiricism).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Silvia Tossut, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, silvia.tossut@gmail.com

Tossut, Silvia. “Which Groups Have Scientific Knowledge? A Reply to Chris Dragos.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 18-21.

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lab

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In a recent paper in Social Epistemology, Chris Dragos (2016) tackles the question of groups having scientific knowledge, arguing for the failure of Kristina Rolin’s argument that the general scientific community can know. Although I find Dragos’ paper to be a valuable reflection on an important theme, I also have some remarks concerning his argument. I sincerely hope a fruitful discussion will follow this short reply.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Danielle DeVasto, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, dmhartke@uwm.edu

DeVasto, Danielle. “Matters of Concern and the Politics of Who: A Response to Herndl.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 14-17.

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l'aquila - 38

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I am grateful to Carl Herndl for his generous and insightful commentary on my article, in which I propose an expertise of doing as a way of addressing long-standing problems of inclusion and expertise in science-policy decision making. A focus on doing, I argue, might be particularly useful when addressing matters of concern like the trial of the L’Aquila Seven, where six Italian scientists and one political official were convicted (and now partially acquitted) of manslaughter for failing to warn the public of an earthquake in 2009. Professor Herndl has offered me much to consider.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Lee Basham, South Texas College, labasham@southtexascollege.edu

Basham, Lee. “The Need for Accountable Witnesses: A Reply to Dentith.” [1] Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 6-13.

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conspiracy

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Hard pounding this, gentlemen, let’s see who will pound longest. — Wellington at Waterloo

Matthew R. X. Dentith’s paper (2016) explores the important epistemic issue of conspiracy theory as legitimate explanation. He provides, in his characteristically measured and cautious manner, a compelling critique of academic dismissals of conspiracy theorizing, a manner of explanation proven by ordinary experience and history. The critics of conspiracy theory advocate generalism, where conspiracy explanations are by nature extremely suspect. The generalist makes little distinction between any particular conspiracy theory and ignores the justificatory practices of conspiracy theorists, studiously avoiding their actual arguments.[2] Dentith’s project is a gradualist, attrition approach. He undermines one generalist critique after another, gradually dismantling the cumulative generalist case. Dentith’s goal is, as conspiracy-minded novelist Agatha Christie would put it, “And then there were none”. In what follows, I will briefly contrast the attrition approach to an alternative one that critiques primary information sources in our Western information hierarchies.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-34N

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Over London - Challenges below

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Among the most striking features of the aftermath of the Brexit vote has been the speed with which the victorious politicians promoting Brexit have rowed back from their more extravagant promises about the extra funds and fewer migrants which would follow from leaving the European Union. For their part, anti-Brexit politicians have been busily mounting legal challenges to show that the referendum is not binding, or at least not the last word on the topic. And indeed, legally speaking, the anti-Brexit politicians may be correct. But had they—specifically, UK Prime Minister David Cameron—presented matters this way at the outset, it is unlikely that the referendum would have received the highest turnout of any election in British history.  Continue Reading…

Author Information:Steve Fuller, University of Warwick, S.W.Fuller@warwick.ac.uk

Fuller, Steve. “Prolegomena to the Deep Sociology of Brexit: The Long Road Back to Pareto.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 7 (2016): 1-5.

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brexit

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The most relevant sociologist for understanding Brexit—the recently successful British referendum to leave the European Union—may be Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), the Italian political economist who Talcott Parsons counted as one of the field’s modern founders. An older contemporary of Durkheim and Weber, Pareto was known in my schooldays as the ‘Marx of the Master Class’. Having (unwittingly) inspired Fascism, he was made a member of the Italian House of Lords by Mussolini towards the end of his life. Pareto’s legacy is perhaps most recognizable in C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, which was about the breeding of the US ‘military-industrial complex’ during the Cold War in terms of common education, social circles, etc. Of course, this applies even more clearly in the UK, where the much anticipated Tory leadership succession from David Cameron to Boris Johnson was forged on ‘the playing fields of Eton’. As of this writing, both major players are already off the pitch, but the dynamic remains in place.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Robert D’Amico, University of Florida, rdamico@ufl.edu

D’Amico, Robert. “Arguments Concerning Ethical Realism and Rights: A Further Reply to Corlett.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 6 (2016): 50-51.

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links_for_human_rights

Image credit: William Murphy, via flickr

In my “Reply to Corlett’s ‘Searle on Human Rights’” I said I was “perplexed” by his central criticism of Searle. Then concerning a specific point of his criticism of Searle I wrote that either “I didn’t understand this point” or “it was not fully explained in the article.” Furthermore I said that his reading of Searle was “uncharitable.” I consider these expressions polite if not even mild ways of stating disagreements. Disagreement is after all the life of philosophy, but of course one should not then be disagreeable.  Continue Reading…