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Christina's LIS Rant
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
  Longino: Theoretical Pluralism in the Sciences of Human Behavior
I attended this colloquium today in the Philosophy department at Maryland. Dr. Longino is now at Stanford (although I believe very recently).

She spoke about the different ways scientists study the causes of aggression. She has been studying 5 fields:

She says this is pluralist because they all develop research questions and methods specific to their own work while either holding constant, neglecting, ignoring (as inactive or causally irrelevant), or treating as noise influences from the other sciences.

She discussed these "causal spaces"

genegenomeintrauterinephysiologynon-shared spaces (e.g., birth order)shared spaces (intra family)social/economic

From this view, you can't integrate these into a whole picture -- can't compare one space to another. She recommends for STS to appreciate the partiality of each with distinctive approaches - it's not helpful to compare. She believes knowledge is through social mechanisms as well as through scientific investigations.

An audience member suggested that "mechanisms" is more appropriate than "causes" and that scientists who operate in these spaces appreciate the other spaces...

Other audience members expressed incredulity that there really are monists who believe their way accounts for all variation.

A thought expressed by a scientist in the audience was whether this is destined to always be pluralist or if they are breaking down an otherwise intractable problem and that eventually these methods will converge...

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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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