Archives For philosophy

Author Information: Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas,


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Image credit: valkrye131, via flickr

As we do every holiday season, last night we watched the 1951 version of Dicken’s Christmas Carol. It was deeply comforting, and deeply troubling. It’s great because the director (Desmond-Hurst) treats the subject matter with the gravity and modesty it deserves. This is the version that haunted my childhood: how Marley’s face on the door knocker frightened me, as did his banging of chains. Ditto the hand that juts out from the black figure of the ghost of Christmas Future.

But what frightens me now is what the story portends for our future. The movie declares that it’s a story of redemption, or as it says, of (individual) reclamation. But it is about something more fundamental than that. It assumes the existence of a moral and metaphysical order. The accounts always balance: Marley wears the chains he forged in life, and if Scrooge is to avoid the same fate he must come to his senses. Of course, terrible injustices exist in Dicken’s London, but there is a stability to the world that is intensely consoling. Now, however, it’s this stability and consolation that’s been lost.

I feel that the greatest task of the philosopher—I mean the term in a generic sense, which includes STSers and many others—is to try to identify the deepest, most profound, and most significant problem of his or her time and think it through. Of course, people will differ in their evaluation of what this is. But that’s ok. In fact it’s good, for it increases the chances that someone will get lucky and hit upon the right problem. This is what led me to environmental philosophy, and then to interdisciplinarity, and most recently to what might be called policy studies but which is really about thinking through the problem of the mismatch between the supply and the demand for knowledge.

Now, all these issues remain central. But I am increasingly gripped by the sense that it is our loss of a moral and metaphysical order that is the chief problem of our time—an instability that is being driven by science and technology. It’s a point that Ted Kaczynski spotted early, though I reject his methods. When I read about the latest developments in AI and DIYbiology I feel a world spinning out of control—and feel that it is this feeling, mis-interpreted, that has led us to Trump. It’s spawned a wildness that expresses itself in Trump’s statements and behavior, and of some of those who support him, a feeling that things have been spinning out of control (MAGA); but rather than trying to react in a conservative or Burkean manner to reestablish order, the urge has now become nihilistic, expressing itself as authoritarianism and irrationality—Bannon’s ‘let’s blow up the entire system’ and the GOP’s ‘who cares if Putin threw the election, our guy won’.

So it is that here, teaching in Texas, I find myself saying repeatedly to my classes: you guys say you are christian; you picket abortion clinics; but why aren’t you picketing the biology building, which represents a much greater threat to your world order? In this sense I think Fuller is correct, that our political choices are reorienting themselves from left-right to what might be called black-green—that the real debate before us is between those who seek deification via technoscience, versus those hoary old metaphysicians who declaim the folly of that path and call for the observance of some type of larger order and limit.

It’s a battle that I fear I am on the losing side of. Which goes a long way to explain my love of old movies like A Christmas Carol, where I can (for all the Jim Crow or sexism or other stupidities) for an hour or two find a moral and metaphysical order that offers me solace.

Author Information: Lyudmila A. Markova, Russian Academy of Sciences,

Markova, Lyudmila A. “A Brief Reply to Maya Frodeman.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 9 (2014): 53-54.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink:

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I would like to consider briefly three points in connection with issues raised by Maya Frodeman.

1. Academics’ approval or disapproval in transforming the knowledge production system in universities does not mean much. Certainly the majority of academics do not want such changes, but the main reason is not that they fear losing their position in the social structure of the university. Rather, a serious difficulty follows in recognizing and taking up new ideas. Many academics believe sincerely that new knowledge policies will destroy science. And they are right if science is considered by politicians, in the same way as by academics, and if the science policy does not take into consideration the changes outlined by Robert Frodeman. Philosophy offers the ability to see the current features of contemporary science that make it fundamentally different compared to classical science (which some scientists and philosophers perceive as the only possible one).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas, and Adam Briggle, University of North Texas,


Editor’s Note: Bob Frodeman and Adam Briggle were kind enough to share a draft (further abridged) of the introduction to their proposed book Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st Century Philosophy. The book is under consideration for publication in our “Collective Studies in Knowledge and Society” series. A reply to their Frodeman and Briggle’s introduction is forthcoming.


There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. — Thoreau

Think of organic chemistry; I recognize its importance, but I am not curious about it, nor do I see why the layman should care about much of what concerns me in philosophy. — Quine

Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men. — Dewey


In 1917 John Dewey published “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy.” This essay, a nearly 17,000 word reflection on the role of philosophy in early 20th century American life, expressed Dewey’s concern that philosophy had become antiquated, “sidetracked from the main currents of contemporary life,” too much the domain of professionals and adepts. While taking pains to note that the classic questions of philosophy make inestimable contributions to culture both past and present, Dewey felt that the topics being raised by professional philosophers were too often “discussed mainly because they have been discussed rather than because contemporary conditions of life suggest them.”  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Kelli Barr, University of North Texas, and Wenlong Lu, University of North Texas and Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China,

Barr, Kelli and Wenlong Lu. 2013. “Re-engineering Ethics: Pushing Philosophy Outside of its Comfort Zone at the APPE Annual Meeting.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (4): 24-32.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink:

On the surface the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) annual meeting, held February 28 to March 3 (2013) in San Antonio, Texas, appeared similar to any other philosophy conference. Conference rituals are familiar. Professionals roam from meeting room to meeting room at a metropolitan hotel and listen as other professionals gave careful expositions of their latest research. Between presentations, participants engage in the rite of networking. In an abysmal job climate, in-between moments are key for students and early career professionals seeking to put themselves on the radar of someone whose reputation could help boost their own.

The conference landmarks were made navigable by the extensive map detailing participants and their institutional affiliations, presentation topics, Association news, and advertisements — the APPE program. The program itself merits philosophical study; it both exemplifies and institutionalizes these practices into a succinct and informative navigation tool. Contrary to what one might expect, however, the list of participants includes not only philosophers and professional ethicists, but also academic scientists and engineers, industry members, medical doctors and other health practitioners, sociologists, educators, journalists, anthropologists, publishers, National Academy of Engineering members, communication professionals, and even museum curators. Such a group is remarkably and suggestively diverse. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Daniel A. Kaufman, Missouri State University,

Kaufman, Daniel A. 2013. “Philosophy’s Academic Viability: A Reply to Frodeman, Briggle and Holbrook.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (3): 1-5.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink:

Please refer to: Frodeman, Robert, Adam Briggle and J. Britt Holbrook. 2012. “Philosophy in the Age of Neoliberalism.” Social Epistemology 25 (3-4): 311-330.

This is an important article, one that says things that need saying and which are not said often enough, within philosophy. For a subject that has been known historically for its critical edge and its refusal to pay homage to dogmas or sacred cows, philosophy has become quite uncritical about itself and its role in the University and the larger world. Frodeman, Briggle, and Britt have built upon a conversation that Frodeman started in an article last September, in Synthese, [1] one that I believe is desperately needed, if philosophy is to survive the inevitable changes that are coming to the University over the next several decades and if it is ever going to regain the significance it once had, on the course of human affairs. For the record — and this will bear on the drift of my remarks — I think that the latter is far more important than the former. Continue Reading…

Reply to Rockmore, Ilya Kasavin

SERRC —  January 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

Author Information: Ilya Kasavin, Russian Academy of Sciences,, Ilya Kasavin: Website

Kasavin, Ilya. 2013. “Reply to Rockmore.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 26-29.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink:

Please refer to: Rockmore, Tom. 2013. “Kasavin on Social Epistemology and Naturalism: A Critical Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 8-11.

I appreciate very much the comments Tom Rockmore provided on my paper, putting its main problem into a historical/philosophical context. I will address three claims Rockmore makes that seem not entirely correct in describing my position. Hopefully, my examination will help make the rest of my reply more transparent.

Rockmore (2013) asserts:

1.“I agree with Kasavin that context is indeed problematic” (11).

2. “Kasavin depicts philosophy as relying on science, hence as interdisciplinary” (8).

3. “ … [H]e claims that the result, or so-called discourse, is not bounded, hence is not contextual in principle” (9).


Replying to (1), my intention was not to problematize context as it is, but to confront the oversimplified concept of context and its naïve epistemological application. For instance, the context of science is the whole scope of its current sociality and its cultural history — a kind of independent reality accompanying science during its temporal existence. It is usually conceptualized as a limited scope of socio-cultural phenomena that can be analyzed empirically by sociologists, historians, psychologists, anthropologists etc. So, philosophically speaking, science exits in, and is essentially determined by, context. But, interdisciplinarily speaking, a part of science is always partially determined by a part of context. A philosophical view of science can hardly replace an interdisciplinary one and vice versa. They are complementary.

My negation of (2) follows from my above comments. Philosophy does not rely on science in the sense that philosophical problems can be solved by scientific means. Philosophy does rely on science to provide empirical material for philosophical analysis and offer a counterpart in an exchange of views. An interdisciplinary epistemology means epistemology that takes seriously scientific facts and carries on a dialogue with science (and with other cognitive practices as well), rather than epistemology naturalized and reduced to various concrete sciences.

Evidently I cannot accept (3) as far as any discourse, i.e., vivid cognitive process, non-stop language game, or speech is regarded only in terms of, and in interrelation to, context as relatively stable cognitive results laying outside the research focus and taken for granted (e.g., presuppositions, natural attitudes, spheres of evidence). Discourse is also opposed to text. Text is a system of knowledge linguistically constituted, relatively finished and expressing, therefore, a certain intellectual culture. I use the term “discourse” to dub a process of scientific discovery as opposed to justification; philosophical inquiry or reflexion as contrasted to a philosophical system. Continue Reading…