Tag Archives: objectivity

Sandra Harding interview on News Books in Sci, Tech, & Soc

9780226241364New Books in Science, Technology, and Society‘s Carla Nappi recently interviewed Sandra Harding about her volume Objectivity and Diversity: Another Logic of Scientific Research (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

From the back of the book:

Harding calls for a science that is both more epistemically adequate and socially just, a science that would ask: How are the lives of the most economically and politically vulnerable groups affected by a particular piece of research? Do they have a say in whether and how the research is done? Should empirically reliable systems of indigenous knowledge count as “real science”? Ultimately, Harding argues for a shift from the ideal of a neutral, disinterested science to one that prizes fairness and responsibility.

In the podcast Harding discusses her personal background to the program of research which led to the book, as well as touching on the themes of the volumes’ various chapters: the relevant socio-political conditions for the current positivist and secularist conceptualizations of scientific objectivity within the philosophy of science; the development of research fields in science studies which have provided critical perspectives thereof; strategies for engaging in her ‘stronger’ objectivity that can provide resources for identifying how values and perspectives constitute what research is undertaken, how it is undertaken, and the conclusions we derive from it; and arguments for a pluralistic definition of science that validates ways of knowing that have traditionally been marginalized. In conclusion she provides an introduction to her latest research on postcolonialist science and technology studies in relation to Latin America.

Find Nappi’s interview here.

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Titchener & Scientific Objectivity in Isis

The latest issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, features an article on the importance of scientific objectivity in Edward Bradford Titchener’s experimental psychology. The piece, authored by Christopher Green, extends the analysis of scientific objectivity made by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison in their recent book on the subject.

“Scientific Objectivity and E. B. Titchener’s Experimental Psychology,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,

Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s recent book on the history of scientific objectivity showed that, over the course of the nineteenth century, natural scientists of many stripes became intensely concerned with the issue of the distorting influence that their own subjectivities might be having on their observations and representations of nature. At very nearly the same time, experimental psychology arose specifically to investigate scientifically the nature and structure of subjective consciousness. Although Daston and Galison briefly discussed some basic psychological issues—especially the discovery of differences in human color perception—they did not strongly connect the widespread European concern with scientific objectivity to the rise of experimental psychology. This essay critically examines the theoretical and empirical activities of the experimental psychologist who most energetically strove to discover the structure of subjective conscious experience, Edward Bradford Titchener. Titchener’s efforts to produce an objective study of subjectivity reveal important tensions in early experimental psychology and also serve to situate experimental psychology at the center of an important intellectual struggle that was being waged across the natural sciences in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.

Pictured at the right is Titchener’s plan for his psychology laboratory at Cornell University (click to enlarge).

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Objectivity reviewed in Isis

ObjectivityIn the first issue of the one hundredth volume of Isis, Martin Kusch provides an extensive review of Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s Objectivity (pictured right).

Objectivity is the long-awaited expansion of Daston and Galison’s influential 1992 paper, “The Image of Objectivity,” into a hefty book-length investigation. Undoubtedly, Objectivity will be required reading for anyone in the history, sociology, and philosophy of science for years to come. This is because the book not only throws a striking new light on the last two hundred years of science, art, and philosophy; it also outlines and exemplifies a provocative, bold, and historically as well as philosophically sophisticated approach to the history of thought more generally. In its scope and ambition Objectivity reminds one of classics in the Annales school, like Philip Ariès’s L’homme devant la mort, or of Michel Foucault’s Les mots et les choses. It is likely that Daston and Galison’s chef d’oeuvre will prove equally influential. (p. 129)

For those interested in discussing how some of the ideas in Objectivity can be applied to psychology, AHP‘s own Chris Green will be presenting such a paper at the forthcoming meeting of Cheiron at Penn State: it is entitled, E. B. Titchener and the New History of Objectivity. 

For more information about Cheiron, the international society for the history of the behavioral and social sciences, click here. Also, get the updated conference program here.

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Historiographic essay: “Whither history?”

In her presidential address to the American Historical Association, Gabrielle Spiegel (pictured right) equated the problematic ungroundedness of postmodern histories with the psychological impossibility of feeling grounded following the Holocaust:

Both for those who survived and for those who came after, the Holocaust appears to exceed the representational capacity of language, and thus to cast suspicion on the ability of words to convey reality. And for the second generation [those who inherited the wound but did not experience its infliction], the question is not even how to speak but, more profoundly, if one has a right to speak, a delegitimation of the speaking self that, turned outward, interrogates the authority, the privilege of all speech. (Spiegel, 2009, p. 7)

It is for this reason, Spiegel suggests, that the historians who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s became suspicious of their ability to represent truth. Not only were the events of the Holocaust fundamentally indescribable to any adequate degree, but the language itself seemed stricken to silence. There were simply no words to describe the reality. Only grammars — conjugations of understood essences — retained their capacity to convey; to construct meaning.

Pretensions of intellectual objectivity died at Auschwitz. Or rather, argues Spiegel, they died following innumerable failed attempts to describe what it was like to have been there. And this had a fundamental impact on what it meant to do history.

the emergence of poststructuralism under the sign of the linguistic turn bespoke the end of the confident, optimistic era of European Enlightenment with its faith in the continual progress of human history under the aegis of scientific learning and methods and, not least among them, scientific history. (Spiegel, 2009, p. 8 )

A new call was thus raised; rather than celebrating individual events or actors, context became king. For thirty years, social and cultural histories reigned.

But there has recently been some disgruntlement.  Analyses of language and its constructions are beginning to sound hollow. Continue reading Historiographic essay: “Whither history?”

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