Archives For Naomi Scheman

Author Information: Jennifer Jill Fellows, University of British Columbia,

Fellows, Jennifer Jill. 2013. “Eddies and Currents: A Reply to Sassower.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (11): 29-37.

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I am grateful for the critical review of my article “Downstream of the Experts: Trust-building and the Case of MPA’s” recently written by Raphael Sassower. His detailed review, as well as the invitation by Social Epistemology to reply to the review, has afforded me the opportunity to carefully reexamine and reiterate some points in my own work that will, I hope, clarify the overall intentions of my argument, and the places where Sassower and I disagree. Sassower and I agree that the challenges facing communication between scientific and lay communities are real, serious and messy, to say the least. And Sassower seems to support my call to amend Grasswick’s argument on the importance of knowledge-sharing in order to stress the need for this knowledge-sharing to be reciprocal. However, Sassower raises seven observations with regards to my arguments. Some of these observations are just that, observations. Some take the form of questions or suggestions. And some are critical of claims made in my paper. At the heart of many of Sassower’s observations is a call for more homogonized democractic communities, and more transparency in access to data.  Sassower seems to suggest that communities are (or should be) homogonized. That is, he argues that everyone in a community has an equal ability to become knowledgeable about the facts on their own. Everyone, then, begins from the same standpoint. He further suggests that, once we recognize communities as homogonized we no longer need to engage in investigations of trust. In effect, he seems to claim that, once everyone has access to the same data, everyone can draw their own conclusions, and no one need trust the expertise of others. I, by contrast, argue that communities are not, at present, homogonized. I argue that power imbalances do exist and that trust cannot be removed from the discussion. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota,

Scheman, Naomi. 2013. “Reply to Louise Antony.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (9): 1-11.

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I would like to thank Louise Antony for her characteristically thorough and thoughtful response to my paper. That the problems I point to are political is something we agree about, as I am reasonably sure we largely agree both about diagnoses and about desirable directions of change; where we disagree is in my seeing those problems as also, and inextricably, epistemological. I suspect that the main reason that our disagreements have, over many years, been so intractable is that we are not offering different answers to the same questions but are, rather, addressing different questions. Fundamentally, I think, we disagree about how to understand the tasks of epistemology and how to characterize the problems it ought to be addressing. My work has aimed, literally, at changing the subject, by thinking about what problems concerning knowledge and belief are especially pressing now, hence what questions we should be asking, and arguing that those questions are importantly different from those — concerning the nature of knowledge as pursued by generic individuals — that are at the heart of analytic epistemology as currently practiced, however much those who pursue it may disagree about how to answer those questions. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Louise Antony, University of Massachusetts Amherst,

Antony, Louise. 2013. Epistemology or Politics? Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (4) 16-23.

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Please refer to: Scheman, Naomi. 2012. “Toward a Sustainable Epistemology.” Social Epistemology 26 (3-4): 471-489.

Naomi Scheman calls attention to a number of cases in which science, as it is currently institutionalized in wealthy capitalist societies, neglects human needs or thwarts human values, specifically by neglecting the perspectives of marginalized people, or by disparaging the knowledge they possess. I share Scheman’s indignation about these cases, and about many other outrages perpetrated by the elite classes of the industrialized, capitalist West against subordinated people within and outside the societies they dominate. But I am not convinced by her analysis of the problem. Where Scheman sees a cognitive problem, I see a political one. Continue Reading…