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In 2012 Social Epistemology celebrates its 25th anniversary. For this reason, we repost Steve Fuller’s original statement of purpose from 1987. Let’s revisit Social Epistemology’s initial mission after twenty-five years.

SOCIAL EPISTEMOLOGY, 1987, VOL. 1, NO. 1, 1-4

 

Editor’s Note: In anticipation of Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) October 17-20, 2012, at the Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark, and the publication of Social Epistemology 26. 3-4, a special issue on the journal’s 25th anniversary, later this year, please take a look at, and feel free to comment on, Steve Fuller’s original statement of purpose (1987).

Social Epistemology:a statement of purpose

STEVE FULLER

What is knowledge? During a contemplative mood, philosophers have defined it as truths that are believed for the right sort of reasons. In contrast, the more energetic members of the sciences have taken knowledge to be whatever allows us to control more of the world more reliably. Despite this discrepancy, these accounts are nevertheless about roughly the same thing, a set of texts that are produced so that, when read in the right way, afford human beings a greater understanding of their world. Being as sure as they are about what knowledge is, both the philosophers and the scientists try to come up with ways of increasing the production of these knowledge-bearing texts, usually under the rubric of ‘methodology’. This part of the story is familiar to the practitioners of many disciplines. Social Epistemology is founded, in part, on the idea that much of this story, as it has traditionally been told, seriously misrepresents the nature of our knowledge enterprises.

It is one thing to identify something, but quite another to specify the role it plays in the greater scheme of things. Although identifying the primary sources of knowledge — written matter — is easy enough, specifying the exact social function served by this written matter is much more difficult. Unfortunately, philosophers and scientists have traditionally obscured this issue by taking knowledge at face value, in terms of its ‘intended use’, so to speak. For example, a book on Newtonian mechanics is intended to be used as an abstract representation of much of the physical universe. If the book succeeds at its intended use (if it does represent physical reality), then the philosophers and scientists believe that they are well on their way toward their respective definitions of knowledge. And were you to ask them what exactly is the function of knowledge in society, they would simply repeat their definitions. For the philosophers and the scientists operate on the assumption that the function of knowledge in society is merely its intended use writ large. And so, if one book on Newtonian mechanics succeeds at representing the physical universe to one person, then many books in the hands of many people will have the same effect. Continue Reading…

Collective Judgment Forum

As the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective is constantly seeking new formats of academic writing that do not find space in common academic journal writing, The New York Times’ Room for Debate provided an excellent piece of inspiration for promoting short, engaged discussions. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate Three or four debaters write a short opinion-piece (max. 400 words) on an important, contemporary topic which is then commented on by readers.

In a similar vein, we are now launching our own Collective Judgment Forum. It serves as a space where three or four debaters (350 to 450 words max. each) kick off a debate around a central question regarding social epistemology and related matters. These short argumentative snippets provide plenty of material to initiate a debate that can be joined by everyone on the web.

The Collective Judgment Forum will be open with a new topic every six to eight weeks. Potential debaters can suggest a topic of their choice to the online editors who will assist in finding other participants.

The first Collective Judgment Forum is kicked off by three debaters from the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective. Verusca Simões dos Reis, Adam Riggio and Elisabeth Simbürger discuss the question ‘Does the Public University Still Exist?’

Author Information: Verusca Simões dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro State University, verusca.reis@gmail.com, Adam Riggio, McMaster University, adamriggio@gmail.com, and Elisabeth Simbürger, Universidad Diego Portales, elisabeth.simbuerger@uv.cl,

Simões dos Reis, Verusca, Riggio, Adam and Simbürger, Elisabeth. 2012. “Does the Public University Still Exist? ” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (3): 14-17.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-15j

Please refer to:

Does the Public University Still Exist?

Continue Reading…

Author Information: William Davis, Virginia Tech, williamdavis@vt.edu

Davis, William. 2012. “Interdisciplinarity and Pedagogy: Disciplining Collaboration in Academia. An Interview with Carl Mitcham” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-54

Please refer to:


This interview between Carl Mitcham and William Davis (SERRC) took place by phone on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011. Carl Mithcam, Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University, directs the Hennebach Programme in the Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines, and has held posts at a number of US and European universities.  He has published regularly since the 1970s, including Philosophy and Technology (1972), Thinking through Technology (1994), and the Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics (2005).  More recently, he co-edited the Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (2010), and this book serves as the stimulus for much of the interview. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Susan Dieleman, Ryerson University, susan.dieleman@ryerson.ca

Dieleman, Susan. 2012. Review Essay of ‘Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance.’ and ‘Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance’ Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (2): 11-25.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-7J

Please refer to:

  • Proctor, Reobert N. and Londa Schiebinger, eds. Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. 312 pp.
  • Sullivan, Shannon and Nancy Tuana, eds. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. 284 pp.

(Editor’s Note: Jim Lang replies to Susan Dieleman and further reviews both volumes in “Situated Ignoramuses?”) Continue Reading…

Author Information: John Wettersten, Universität Mannheim, wettersten@t-online.de

Wettersten, John. 2012. “The Social Scientific Study of Rationality: A Response to Joseph Agassi”
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (2): 5-10.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-7t

Please refer to:

In his comment on my essay on the rationality of extremists, Joseph Agassi has sought, first, to explain the theoretical framework in which my research has taken place, second, to use this explanation to appraise the results of my research, which he finds of some value, and third, to determine what consequences it may have for good or effective reactions to extremism today. In regard to the first task he describes the theoretical background of contemporary social scientific research. He then interprets my own research program as a response to the establishment’s discussion of established programs. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Joseph Agassi, Tel Aviv University and York University, Toronto agass@post.tau.ac.il

Agassi, Joseph. “Reply to ‘The Rationality of Extremists’ by John Wettersten.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1, no. 2 (2012): 1-4.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-7n

Please refer to:

Wettersten investigates rationality. He begins with the principle of rationality; action is always explained as the outcome of some rational decision. Two or three disputes traditionally surround this principle. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Joseph C. Pitt, Virginia Tech, jcpitt@vt.edu

Pitt, Joseph C. 2011. “Standards in Science and Technology Studies.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (1): 25-38.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/s1Bfg0-413

Please refer to:

In the 1660’s living in Altdorf, Gottfried von Wilhelm Leibniz, later credited as the co-inventor of the calculus with Isaac Newton, was a newly minted Doctor of Laws. Seeking intellectual stimulation, he went to visit some scholars in Nuremburg, who told him about a secret society of alchemists who were seeking the Philosopher’s Stone. [1] Continue Reading…

Author Information: Stephen Norrie, University of Warwick, SERRC, sjenorrie@gmail.com

Norrie, Stephen. 2011. “Three Social Contracts for an Academic Collective” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (1): 14-24.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-5l

The Methodological Issue

The Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (SERRC) is an experimental foundation, with several facets. Firstly, it is intended to be an experiment with more collective forms of academic work. Secondly, it is an offshoot of the journal Social Epistemology and is intended to develop the research program that gives that journal its title, as expounded in the work of its founder, Steve Fuller.[1] Thirdly, its members were initially drawn from graduate students meaning that, with some of those now having graduated, it is now additionally an organisation of ‘early-career’ or peripheral academic workers. This paper is an attempt to consider the relations among these different facets. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Gregory Jones-Katz, University of Wisconsin, Madison joneskatz@wisc.edujoneskatz@wisc.edu

Jones-Katz, Gregory. 2011. “On How (Not) to Turn the Senses into Food for Thought; or, When Context is King.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (1): 5-13.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-5f

Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History
Mark M. Smith, University of California Press, 192 pp.

There is yet another ‘turn’ in US History departments: sensory history. Touted by historians in The American Historical Review, with prospective scholarship to ‘examine hitherto ignored phenomena,’ thereby ‘opening unexplored territories of the past,’ the history of the senses has a promising future.[1] Mark Smith, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and president of The Historical Society, has been a prominent contributor to the field for almost a decade. Smith makes his case for sensory history in Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History, published a few years before the current interest. In Sensing, Smith traces the importance of the senses for chief cultural developments from antiquity to the pre-Enlightenment era, focusing on how the senses informed the modern emergence of ‘social classes, race and gender conventions, industrialization, urbanization, colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, [and] ideas concerning selfhood and the “other”’ (1). This review essay concentrates on and challenges Smith’s views of how the historian should produce, assess, and validate histories of the senses. Rather than offer a new understanding of how to write sensory history, Smith’s approach is disappointedly status quo. Continue Reading…