Review of “Science and Other Cultures: Issues in Philosophies of Science and Technology” [Book Review]

Essays in Philosophy 5 (1):182-189 (2004)
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Dialogue between feminist and mainstream philosophy of science has been limited in recent years, although feminist and mainstream traditions each have engaged in rich debates about key concepts and their efficacy. Noteworthy criticisms of concepts like objectivity, consensus, justification, and discovery can be found in the work of philosophers of science including Philip Kitcher, Helen Longino, Peter Galison, Alison Wylie, Lorraine Daston, and Sandra Harding. As a graduate student in philosophy of science who worked in both literatures, I was often left with the feeling that I had joined a broken family with two warring factions. This is apparent in the number of anthologies that have emerged on both sides in the aftermath of the “Science Wars” (Gross, Paul R., Norman Levitt, and Martin W. Lewis, eds. 1996; Koertge, Noretta, ed. 1998; Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont. 1998; etc.) Depending on one’s perspective on the Science Wars, the breadth of illustrative cases and examples found in Science and Other Cultures can either give more ammunition for the battle, or grounding for a much needed treaty of accord. The most important feature of this book is that it does not merely claim that science is only political, and it does not merely dismiss science as a social phenomenon to be deconstructed using the standard postmodern conceptual tools. Instead, the collection illustrates ways in which postcolonial analysis and multicultural examples can enrich our understanding of “good” science and ethics. Here, the concept of “strong objectivity” from Harding’s earlier books is fleshed out through a variety of cases. The anthology is the culmination of a series of research activities funded by a National Science Foundation grant to the American Philosophical Association. The grant, under the auspices of the NSF Ethics and Values Program, sponsored fourteen summer research projects and thirty-six presentations at four regional APA meetings.
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