Participation of the public in science has been the object of an increasing number of social and political philosophical studies, but there is still hardly any epistemological study of the topic. While it has been objected that involvement of the public is a threat to the integrity of science, the apparent indifference of philosophers of science seems to testify to its lack of relevance to conceptions of scientific activity. I argue both that it is not a threat to science and that it is relevant to philosophy of science by showing that it constitutes a new kind of epistemic practice. Two main objections to the idea that the involvement of non-scientists, with their situated perspective and contextual values, can form an epistemic practice will be addressed: the first bears on the epistemic potentialities of the cooperation between scientist and non-scientists; the second on the possibility that this cooperation takes the form of a practice.
The reduction of the concept of heat to that of molecular kinetic energy is recurrently presented as lending analogical support to the project of reduction of phenomenal concepts to physical concepts. The claimed analogy draws on the way the use of the concept of heat is attached to the experience in first person of a certain sensation. The reduction of this concept seems to prove the possibility to reduce discourse involving phenomenal concepts to a scientific description of neural activity. But is this analogy really justified? We will show that if there is an analogy, far from speaking for a reduction of phenomenal concepts, it rather stresses the necessity to integrate phenomenal reports in the scientific study of experience.
In philosophy of science, identity over time emerges as a
central concern in two guises: as an ontological category in the
interpretation of physical theories, and as a problem in epistemology
with respect to the conditions of possibility of knowledge. In
Reichenbach’s and subsequent writers on the problem of
indistinguishable particles in quantum physics we see the return of a
contrast between Leibniz and Aquinas on the subject of individuation.
The possibility that the principle of the identity of indiscernables
can be rejected has certain logical difficulties, which inexorably
lead us from ontology into epistemology.
For the epistemological problem we must attend to the
differences that emerged between the (neo-)Kantian and logical
empiricist traditions, also most saliently displayed in Reichenbach’s
writings. After an examination of the contrast between Kant’s and
Leibniz’ conceptions of empirical knowledge, specifically with respect
to the irreducibility of spatio-temporal determinations, we explore an
application of a neo-Kantian view to that same problem of
indistinguishable particles in physics.
Non-Passivity of Perceptual Experience,
[presented at Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, Bristol UK, July 2007 and
at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte (Brazil), August 2007].
It is a common, often tacit, presupposition that experience is passive, in that it involves no act of thinking. It is so even in a conception like
John McDowell’s, where the content of experience is conceptual: only if experience is passive can its content exert an external (rational)
constraint on empirical thinking and this thinking be directed at the world. The passivity of experience, in that sense, has been hardly discussed
in the literature, let alone called into question. Yet, I will argue that this conception of experience is too reductive and abstract. It reduces
experience to being saddled with content and precludes, accordingly, from the realm of experience all kinds of ordinary situations of
cognitive inquiry where the object of perception emerges through a perceptual process. I will contend, furthermore, that the idea of an
external constraint, which the passivity was meant to ensure, is not necessary to an experience of the world and even conflicts with the
understanding of this experience as the achievement of a dynamical process. Accordingly, the ideas of passivity and constraint will have to
be strongly qualified. I will draw, for that purpose, on instructive analogies to experimental activity.
This paper aims 1) to introduce the notion of theoretical story as a resource and
source of constraint for the construction and assessment of models of phenomena; 2) to
show the relevance of this notion for a better understanding of the role and nature of
values in scientific activity. The reflection on the role of values and value judgments in
scientific activity should be attentive, I will argue, to the distinction between models and
the theoretical story that guides and constrains their construction. The aim of scientific
activity is to develop understanding of phenomena, and something that serves this aim
and contributes to the development of understanding has a cognitive value. Cognitive
values are the features that something that plays a role in scientific activity should have
so that it can serve its aim. I will focus my attention on the features of the theoretical
story and of the models.
Discussions of the role value judgements play in scientific activity generally start by assuming a categorization of values in distinct kinds: epistemic or cognitive and others, political, social, ethical. Second, non-epistemic values are meant to influence, at most, the choice between theories or research programs. Third, this influence would not affect scientific evaluation of scientific claims (Lacey), nor therefore their epistemic/representational content, but would entail however, fourthly, the inability of epistemology to account for the conditions of scientific knowledge (Laudan).
I will call these four points into question. I will consider ethical value judgements, in relation to judgments of responsibility, significance and negligibility, and argue that even though ethical they can have an epistemic function. I will take up two specific cases of development of models, both addressing a ‘knowledge-phenomenon’: in cognitive science I will contrast models pertaining to representational and to embodied theories of cognition. In social science I will contrast deficit and participation models of public understanding of science. In these two cases I will argue that through judgments of responsibility ethical values can first influence the conception of the phenomena to be explained, what has to be accounted for. This conception makes then possible certain judgments of significance which influence the identification of what has to be taken into account, what kind of data count as relevant, and which condition thereby the kind of possible models for the phenomenon under study. Furthermore, through judgements of negligibility ethical values can influence the assessment of a given model. Ethical values can therefore have an influence on the epistemic/representational content and thereby be constitutive of objectivity.
That conclusion doesn’t show however an inability of epistemology to apply to scientific knowledge, but rather a deficiency of traditional epistemology, foundationalist or coherentist, oblivious to the conditions of formation of knowledge. It stresses the need for philosophy of science to enlarge its vision of epistemology and to benefit from recent developments in this domain. The shift in philosophy of science towards the conditions of scientific practice and formation of scientific knowledge, that is associated with the perception of the epistemic function of ‘non-epistemic’ values, was mirrored in epistemology by a shift towards the conditions of acquisition and enunciation of knowledge claims and beliefs. Contextual (DeRose) and virtue epistemologies (Code, Zagzebski), as developed in the two last decades, show the epistemological relevance of considerations relative to the epistemic context in the evaluation of knowledge claims and to the intellectual virtues of the epistemic agents in the formation of beliefs. And I will contend that the epistemological legitimacy of such considerations provides philosophy of science with a promising epistemological framework for conceiving the epistemic relevance of ethical value judgements in the production of scientific knowledge.