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Unhastening Science: Autonomy and Reflexivity in the Social theory of Knowledge

Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Unhastening Science
    Book Description:

    This book offers a new account of what makes science special among other human pursuits, critically engaging with a variety of approaches, especially constructivist and relativist studies of science and technology. It focuses on the studied ‘lack of haste’ of science, its relative stress-freeness and its socially sanctioned withdrawal from the swift pace of ordinary life. Unhastening Science offers a balanced and thoughtful argument which emphasises the dangers of cosseting science from the ‘scourge’ of internal competition while at the same time highlighting the need for ‘distance’ between the process of scientific thought and the faster machinery of politics, business, sports, and the media.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-432-2
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Dick Pels
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Timescape of Science
    (pp. 1-24)

    This book offers a new account of what makes science special in the company of other human pursuits.¹ It engages critically with a variety of current approaches, especially constructivist and relativist studies of science and technology, which tend to level science down to an ordinary enterprise that is just as idiosyncratic, localized, interest-ridden, and ‘political’ as other forms of social endeavour. This view is now widely shared by a large tribe of those whom I frivolously call the ‘nothing-specialists’. Taking up the challenge of their ‘knowledge-political’ demystification of science, I shall mount a defence of scientific autonomy, albeit in a...

  5. CHAPTER 2 What (Again) is So Special about Science?
    (pp. 25-50)

    Twenty-five years of irreverent thinking and thick empirical description have done much to dislodge the long-standing philosophical conviction that science has a special, singularly compelling, and context-spanning rationality that legitimately dominates and adjudicates ordinary, local forms of reasoning (what used to be called ‘common sense’). It is no longer seen as the supreme legislator of all human knowledge, setting standards of truth and logic that automatically bridge disparate social and historical experiences, and defining universal principles of right reasoning and rules of proper method that explain its unique capacity to produce a truthful picture of the world. Increasingly, also, ‘science’...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Two Traditions in the Social Theory of Knowledge
    (pp. 51-73)

    The preceding chapter has cleared a path for a more detailed inventory of the resources for developing a more pragmatically levelled and ‘earthly’ perspective on scientific rationality and objectivity. This chapter will sketch a field map of recent positions and divisions in the sociology of knowledge and science that have been influential in establishing such a disenchanted view. The next chapter will then enter into a sociological depth analysis of the fact/value distinction, which, like similar dualisms such as truth/power or knowledge/interest, has often acted as an epistemological placeholder and enforcer of a more ordinary and relative distinction between unhastened...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Natural Proximity of Facts and Values
    (pp. 74-107)

    Values, the cultural pessimist laments, are no longer what they used to be. The language and practice of contemporary morality, critics such as MacIntyre, Bloom, Scruton and Finkielkraut agree, suffers from a deplorable state of confusion: ethical judgments are permanently contested and seem no longer capable of being rationally justified. But Facts also, fellow pessimists hasten to add, are only a slim shadow of their former self. Ever since Popper exchanged the inductivist metaphor of the rock-bottom of knowledge for the critical-rationalist one of the swamp, empirical science appears to have lost all solid footing, rendering Kant‘s first question ‘What...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Knowledge Politics and Anti-Politics: Bourdieu on Science and Intellectuals
    (pp. 108-129)

    In this chapter, my aim is to engage more directly with Bourdieu’s field theory of science and his notion of the intellectual ‘politics of reason’, which supply intriguing thought material for a further elaboration of a pragmatic, knowledge-political conception of intellectual autonomy. Similarly to Latour’s theory of translation, Bourdieu’s field theory relativizes the science/politics divide, but does not satisfactorily resolve the conundrum of fact and value. However, while Latour defends the view that the purpose and strength of scientific laboratories is precisely to erode the differences between science and society, Bourdieu continues to profess a principled loyalty to the idea...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Politics of Symmetry
    (pp. 130-156)

    This chapter returns to a more in-depth investigation of some of the core methodological principles in the social studies of science and technology – a family of approaches that we have previously encountered as forming part of the Wittgensteinian impulse in the modern social theory of knowledge. As I have argued before, SSK and STS were drawn towards a form of value-free or ‘a-critical’ relativism that subdued the dilemma of reason vs. power but failed to rise conclusively above the residual dualism of facts and values. Their passion for detached ethnographic redescription and for ‘following the natives’ incurred a systematic normative...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Reflexivity: One Step Up
    (pp. 157-178)

    Ever since Socrates turned the logical thumbscrews on his opponents and fancifully called it ‘dialogue’, the injunction ‘Know thyself’ has exercised an enduring moral fascination on generation after generation of thinkers. Educated in such Socratic dialogues (and by Delphic oracles), many have also come to savour the insight, famously argued but also involuntarily exemplified by Auguste Comte, that the science that comes closest to our own existential concerns is the most intricate and difficult of all.¹ For Kant, who first championed the idea of reflexive philosophical judgment, the quest for self-knowledge was nevertheless equal to a descent into hell – an...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Intellectual Autonomy and the Politics of Slow Motion
    (pp. 179-216)

    The first aim of this concluding chapter is to provide a broader historical background to the minimalist and pragmatic identification of science that I have attempted so far, in order to deepen the description/justification of its weak autonomy over against other professional pursuits in what I have called the ‘social triangle’. My narrative has repeatedly distinguished between the philosophical (dis)guises of traditional demarcative exercises and the more pragmatic operational conditions that determine the sources of variation and the dynamics of interaction between the professional roles of scientists and politicians. Rather than emphasizing the more conventional spatial dimension of autonomy, I...

  12. Epilogue: Weak Social Theory
    (pp. 217-221)

    Philosophy and science, including social science, have always been strongly attracted to strength. Reason has always sought to be a force, denying its own politics of knowledge in order to become that much harder to beat. Epistemology has been a war machine, wielding logical proof and an all-purpose methodology as its main pieces of ordnance. The whole point of Truth is, of course, that it is compelling and compulsory, that you cannot escape from it, that it has an inherent tendency to spread, and that there is something seriously amiss with the unconvinced or recalcitrant (‘Surely you can’t deny that...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 222-245)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 246-268)
  15. Index
    (pp. 269-274)