The social organisation of science as a question for philosophy of science

Dissertation, University of Tartu (2016)
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Philosophy of science is showing an increasing interest in the social aspects and the social organisation of science—the ways social values and social interactions and structures play a role in the creation of knowledge and the ways this role should be taken into account in the organisation of science and science policy. My thesis explores a number of issues related to this theme. I argue that a prominent approach to the social organisation of science—Philip Kitcher’s well-ordered science—runs into a number of problems. They undermine its philosophical plausibility and practical usefulness. I agree with Kitcher that arguments about the social organisation of science should recognise profound societal consequences of science. Kitcher argues that the appropriate organisation of science should therefore take into account laypersons’ values and needs when making decisions concerning research planning, evaluation and application. My criticisms show that this is not enough. Drawing on Helen Longino ideas, I argue that laypersons’ perspectives and knowledge may also be relevant when doing research. In order to show how more inclusive research practices may be possible, I discuss connections between philosophy of science and some developments in science policy, which has also recently shown considerable interest in democratic participation. I demonstrate how public participation experiments in science policy may sometimes be close enough to what the philosopher would recommend. Their analysis can thus be helpful for understanding how societal developments may provide opportunities for the involvement of laypersons in science and what factors may endanger its success. I conclude that a way to pursue a more socially relevant philosophy of science is to focus on the points of contact and possibilities of cooperation between philosophical proposals and these public participation initiatives.
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