Objectivity and Diversity
Another Logic of Scientific Research
University of Chicago Press 2015
Sandra Harding‘s new book Objectivity and Diversity: Another Logic of Scientific Research (University of Chicago Press, 2015) raises new questions about two central concepts in STS – objectivity and diversity – and in doing so it allows us to animate them in new kinds of relationships and shows that objectivity and certain forms of diversity can be mutually supportive. Harding does this in two major ways: by considering specific cases where science has been shaped by social values and interests and drawing conclusions about the “logical positivist legacy” from them; and by locating these issues within particular historical contexts. Though the “social” tends to be treated as an impediment to scientific research rather than a source of new resources and pathways, social and political movements have deeply shaped the practices and philosophy of science. Ch. 1 offers a historical context in which to understand the approaches that dominate today’s analytic philosophy of science, describing and analyzing the ways in which the social conditions for scientific research and its philosophy were created in two eras of significant institutional change: the postwar era of the 1940s-1950s, and the 1960s-1970s. Three science studies research fields that have emerged since the 1960s – science studies, postcolonial STS, and feminist STS – show that sciences and their societies co-produce and co-constitute each other and they deeply influence the project of the book and its remaining chapters. Ch. 2 – 7 explore six major arguments for the claim that the “social norm of diversity and the epistemic norm of objectivity can provide mutual support for each other” and they introduce helpful case studies that both illustrate Harding’s arguments and model a methodology for bringing about the kind of integration of philosophy and socially-aware STS that the book advocates. It’s a wonderful, clear read and is highly assignable in undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to science, policy, philosophy, and/or STS!