SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A Critique of Longino's Theory Choice Justifications
(Philosophy of Science, English)


Helen Longino argues in her 1990 book, Science as Social Knowledge that if the underdetermination thesis is true, then we should allow political and other non-cognitive values -- which she calls ''contextual'' values -- to guide our choice of which scientific theories to adopt when competing theories have the same amount of empirical evidence.

In this paper, I focus on Longino's justifications for her choice of favoring a theory of the role of the brain in behavior, which Longino calls the ''selectionist model,'' over a conflicting theory which she calls the ''linear-hormonal model,'' based on her desire for a model that allows for human agency and therefore fits with her values.

I first explain the relevant differences in the two models and then outline Longino's justifications for her preference of the selectionist model over the linear-hormonal model. Second, I offer general criticisms of her approach and explain why I believe her rationale for the choice is misguided. I don't comment on the choice itself, however---it may indeed be true that her selectionist model is a superior theory. I explain here why the idea that we should increase the use of ''good'' social and political values does not necessarily follow from Longino's claim that incorporating some amount of contextual values in theory choice is inevitable. Third, I discuss some of the specific dangers in using Longino's justifications for theory choice. I provide a hypothetical example where using her strategy for theory choice could be problematic. I end by providing possible alternative methods for theory choice in the face of underdetermination.

Chair: Laurenz Hudetz
Time: 15:10-15:40, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.006
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

Samantha Hirshland 
(Northeastern University, USA)

Currently an undergraduate student at Northeastern University. Main research areas are bioethics and philosophy of science. Graduated from Deerfield Academy in 2013.

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