Re: [asa] HPSS - Survey of Views

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sun Apr 06 2008 - 08:47:12 EDT

The purpose of HPSS is not simply 'to provide practical value to natural scientists.' Who ever said that is was? Just to 'serve' natural science is not becoming of social-humanitarian thought. There are other reasons to study 'science' from historical, philosophical and sociological views as well.
  The implications of 'we just do science' are similar to religious believers 'checking their minds at the door.' The broader context is waiting, sometimes begging, even politely asking to be explored. Sure, do the science, but don't forget that most people do not speak specialized scientific jargon (terminology), while nevertheless believing that science helps them.

  It may be possible to post a short summary on these HPSS 'big four' in the coming weeks for those natural scientists at ASA who may be interested. As it is, there are summaries available at Wiki and other places. An important features is the transition from history and philosophy of science (HPS) to sociology of science (SoS), which is sometimes combined under the umbrella HPSS.
Randy Isaac <> wrote:
    Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify. I didn't intend to convey the implications that you inferred. I do not think that philosophy of science is either irrelevant or uninteresting. I enjoy it and would like to learn more. I merely tried to express the simple reality that in all my career of dealing with scientists of many flavors, the topic of philosophy of science seldom arose, at least not the formal philosophers. Few took the time to read more than a cursory summary of the topic. That is not at all to say it isn't of interest, only that it isn't of a lot of practical value for most scientists. Perhaps it could be. I have urged my alma mater to include a course on scientific methodology and philosophy so that students do get introduced to the basics before they launch their career.
  For my part, rather than taking the time to read their original works, in light of my long backlog of reading material, I'd appreciate concise summary statements on this list of what these philosophers actually said and contributed.
    ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Randy Isaac
  Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2008 2:46 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] HPSS - Survey of Views

  Randy -- I'm never quite sure to make of it when practicing scientists waive aside POS by saying "we just do the science." I guess there's an analogue here between legal academia and law practice -- I think much more deeply now about jurisprudence and legal philosophy than I did in practice. In practice, my view of the world was very pragmatic -- I had cases to handle and little time to think about the broader context of what I was doing.
  But I never thought the broader context was just irrelevant. Actually, it bothered me sometimes that I didn't have the luxury of thinking more deeply about my work -- which is one reason I'm glad I've had the chance to move into academia. I suppose we could say the same about just about any field in which there are both theoretical and practical questions -- e.g., theology and pastoring, pedagogical theory and teaching, communications theory and journalism, sociological theory and social work, and so on.

  So, sure, the typical working scientist doesn't think very deeply about the broader context of his or her work. But that doesn't make those broader questions irrelevant. I mean, to say "we just do the science" is really just question begging, isn't it?

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Received on Sun Apr 6 08:48:46 2008

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