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:
- quantitative/behavior/population genetics
- molecular genetics
- developmental systems theory (which is attractive to me, but to no one in the room who knew anything about it so?)
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"
|gene||genome||intrauterine||physiology||non-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...
Labels: philosophy of science