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PHILOSOPHICAL
LITERARY
JOURNAL
ISSN 0869-5377
Author: Shapin Steven

Shapin Steven

Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science, shapin@fas.harvard.edu.
Harvard University, 1 Oxford St., 02138 Cambridge, MA, USA.

Publications

How to Be Antiscientific / Logos. 2020. № 1 (134). P. 159-191
annotation:  This article is a response to the science wars that broke out in the mid-1990s. It focuses on an analysis of pragmatics and the nature of the use of statements about science by scientists. What triggered the science wars were the relativistic and constructivist claims of sociologists and historians of science about their field, but the author demonstrates that scientists themselves indulge in similar judgments. As an interested observer, he shows through a series of examples that the metascientific claims of scientists about the nature of science and the scientific method are diverse and often contradict each other. Possible conclusions to be drawn from this variability are then analyzed. The first one is that some metascientific statements by scientists are true and others are false. The second one suggests that all metascientific statements made by working scientists should be ignored. The author shows that both these conclusions are unsatisfactory.
The main thrust of the article pertains to the variability of metascientific statements and their relationship with science itself. According to the author, metascientific statements, which often oppose each other, do not describe a single essence of science or a universal scientific method, but they highlight instead specific aspects of scientific practices localized in space, time and cultural context. This makes the relationship between metascience and science contingent, and the question of how to be antiscientific becomes problematic. The author outlines invalid ways to be antiscientific and shows how a relativistic position could be not antiscientific. One can have confidence in the sciences and yet be skeptical about the metascientific statements which offer a single essence of science. The author finds that being for or against a certain essence of science in general means being against nothing very much in particular. What matters is local criticism within a science itself or in the separate parts of it which are associated with specific research or institutional issues.

Keywords:  science; science wars; scientific method; sociology of science; history of science; philosophy of science

Shapin Steven

Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science, shapin@fas.harvard.edu.
Harvard University, 1 Oxford St., 02138 Cambridge, MA, USA.

Publications

How to Be Antiscientific / Logos. 2020. № 1 (134). P. 159-191
annotation:  This article is a response to the science wars that broke out in the mid-1990s. It focuses on an analysis of pragmatics and the nature of the use of statements about science by scientists. What triggered the science wars were the relativistic and constructivist claims of sociologists and historians of science about their field, but the author demonstrates that scientists themselves indulge in similar judgments. As an interested observer, he shows through a series of examples that the metascientific claims of scientists about the nature of science and the scientific method are diverse and often contradict each other. Possible conclusions to be drawn from this variability are then analyzed. The first one is that some metascientific statements by scientists are true and others are false. The second one suggests that all metascientific statements made by working scientists should be ignored. The author shows that both these conclusions are unsatisfactory.
The main thrust of the article pertains to the variability of metascientific statements and their relationship with science itself. According to the author, metascientific statements, which often oppose each other, do not describe a single essence of science or a universal scientific method, but they highlight instead specific aspects of scientific practices localized in space, time and cultural context. This makes the relationship between metascience and science contingent, and the question of how to be antiscientific becomes problematic. The author outlines invalid ways to be antiscientific and shows how a relativistic position could be not antiscientific. One can have confidence in the sciences and yet be skeptical about the metascientific statements which offer a single essence of science. The author finds that being for or against a certain essence of science in general means being against nothing very much in particular. What matters is local criticism within a science itself or in the separate parts of it which are associated with specific research or institutional issues.

Keywords:  science; science wars; scientific method; sociology of science; history of science; philosophy of science
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