Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

The Elusive Sociological Imagination and the Pursuit of the Hard Case Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute & Nottingham University UK Fireside.

Similar presentations


Presentation on theme: "The Elusive Sociological Imagination and the Pursuit of the Hard Case Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute & Nottingham University UK Fireside."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Elusive Sociological Imagination and the Pursuit of the Hard Case Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute & Nottingham University UK Fireside Chat: 1976 and all that… Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting November 1 st, 2006 Vancouver, British Columbia CA

2 Since its beginnings, STS has undergone numerous modifications and reincarnations, yet the initial work stands as an early articulation of its continuing provocative potential. We need to understand the dynamics whereby the “disobedience” fostered by STS can flourish and persist. STEVE WOOLGAR, 2004

3 Emile Durkheim Anti-science and relativism are not necessary ingredients of social constructionism. Durkheim (1961: 31-32) himself already remarked that Anti-science and relativism are not necessary ingredients of social constructionism. Durkheim (1961: 31-32) himself already remarked that “From the fact that the ideas of time, space, class, cause or personality are constructed out of social elements, it is not necessary to conclude that they are devoid of all objective value.” “From the fact that the ideas of time, space, class, cause or personality are constructed out of social elements, it is not necessary to conclude that they are devoid of all objective value.”

4 Karl Marx Marx (1958: 104): Marx (1958: 104): Even when I carry out scientific work, etc., an activity which I can seldom conduct in direct association with other men – I perform a social, because human, act. It is not only the material of my activity – like the language itself which the thinker uses – which is given to me as a social product. My own existence is a social activity.

5 A What were your aspirations for the field in 1976 or whenever you started)? What did you want to achieve in terms of our understanding of science, technology, and society? B How have those aspirations been fulfilled or disappointed? What do we know now that we did not know then? C How, as a result of the unfolding of events or understanding, have your aspirations changed? D What are today's aspirations, especially in respect of how we are to build on our new knowledge?

6 JOE NEEDHAM THE NEEDHAM PROBLEM Sch ematic diagram to show the roles of Europe and China in the development of ecumenical science (Source: Needham (1970b), p. 414.)

7 the laboratory ethnographies The mysterious morphology of immiscible liquids

8 Ethnography of engineering labs

9 Physics and Mysticism contra-Capra

10 Sociology of mathematics Girl power: a study of girls, mathematics and society Girl power: a study of girls, mathematics and society Dr Margaret Walshaw Dr Margaret Walshaw It is generally agreed that being good at maths is a real plus in society, but traditionally, girls have had more trouble achieving in mathematics education than boys. These days, however, things have changed, and girls are doing as well as, if not better than, boys in maths. These figures would seem to indicate that girl-power has made its debut, and that New Age women have what it takes for success as responsible numerate citizens. But does this new success in mathematics actually represent what is happening when it comes to the success of women in the real world? It is generally agreed that being good at maths is a real plus in society, but traditionally, girls have had more trouble achieving in mathematics education than boys. These days, however, things have changed, and girls are doing as well as, if not better than, boys in maths. These figures would seem to indicate that girl-power has made its debut, and that New Age women have what it takes for success as responsible numerate citizens. But does this new success in mathematics actually represent what is happening when it comes to the success of women in the real world? Dr Margaret Walshaw of the Department of Technology, Science and Mathematics Education, at Massey University, is trying to find the answer to this question. Funded by a Fast-Start Marsden grant, Dr Walshaw's national study, "Girl Power: Explorations into the making of our future numerate citizens", is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the connections between girls, mathematics and social practices. Dr Margaret Walshaw of the Department of Technology, Science and Mathematics Education, at Massey University, is trying to find the answer to this question. Funded by a Fast-Start Marsden grant, Dr Walshaw's national study, "Girl Power: Explorations into the making of our future numerate citizens", is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the connections between girls, mathematics and social practices.

11 Social Robotics

12 From Math to a Mathematician’s Brain Paul Erdos as a Social Network Paul Erdos as a Social Network

13 Einstein’s Brain

14 Einstein, or Einstein’s Brain? “When I meet Albert Einstein’s brain, I meet Einstein.” Professor Kenji Sugimoto

15 Leslie Brothers Friday’s Footprint: How Society Shapes the Human Mind

16 Data from application of Restivo Draw a Brain protocols. Drawing of “mind” by 10 year old boy.

17 ETHNOGRAPHY OF MAGIC THE MAGIC CASTLE AND ACADEMY OF MAGICAL ARTS

18 The Sociology of the Brain

19 The Sociology of God

20 Putting the social back into social constructionsism AND OH, BY THE WAY, “SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM” IS NOT A PHILOSOPHICAL IDEA, IT IS NOT A CRITICO-POLITICAL TOOL, AND IT IS NOT ANYTHING LIKE WHAT SOME FRENCH ÜBER-THINKERS CLAIM IT IS. IT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL THEOREM OF GENERAL SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY, THE CENTRAL DOGMA OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION. AND OH, BY THE WAY, “SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM” IS NOT A PHILOSOPHICAL IDEA, IT IS NOT A CRITICO-POLITICAL TOOL, AND IT IS NOT ANYTHING LIKE WHAT SOME FRENCH ÜBER-THINKERS CLAIM IT IS. IT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL THEOREM OF GENERAL SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY, THE CENTRAL DOGMA OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION.

21 Since its beginnings, STS has undergone numerous modifications and reincarnations, yet the initial work stands as an early articulation of its continuing provocative potential. We need to understand the dynamics whereby the “disobedience” fostered by STS can flourish and persist. STEVE WOOLGAR, 2004 Since its beginnings, STS has undergone numerous modifications and reincarnations, yet the initial work stands as an early articulation of its continuing provocative potential. We need to understand the dynamics whereby the “disobedience” fostered by STS can flourish and persist. STEVE WOOLGAR, 2004 Modern Science and Anarchism Modern Science and Anarchism Peter Kropotkin Peter Kropotkin the sciences and science studies in permanent revolution

22 ANARCHY AND INQUIRY Irving Louis Horowitz: Irving Louis Horowitz “…INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY ANARCHIST IN POSTURE.”

23 Kropotkin Anarchism is one of the sociological sciences. Anarchism is one of the sociological sciences. Called for the application of the methods of the natural sciences to the study of human institutions. Called for the application of the methods of the natural sciences to the study of human institutions.

24 The Final Frontier The Transcendental Fallacy The Transcendental Fallacy that there is a world or that there are worlds beyond our own – transcendental worlds, supernatural worlds, worlds of souls, spirits and ghosts, gods, devils and angels, heavens and hells. that there is a world or that there are worlds beyond our own – transcendental worlds, supernatural worlds, worlds of souls, spirits and ghosts, gods, devils and angels, heavens and hells. The sociological imagination has been from at least Durkheim onwards aligned with the rejection of the transcendental (as well as the immanent and the psychologistic). The “many worlds interpretation” in quantum mechanics may be contaminated by this fallacy as a result of mathegrammatical errors or illusions. No doubt the world, the universe, is more complex than we can know or imagine – but that complexity does not include transcendental or supernatural features. The sociological imagination has been from at least Durkheim onwards aligned with the rejection of the transcendental (as well as the immanent and the psychologistic). The “many worlds interpretation” in quantum mechanics may be contaminated by this fallacy as a result of mathegrammatical errors or illusions. No doubt the world, the universe, is more complex than we can know or imagine – but that complexity does not include transcendental or supernatural features.

25 “There is no there, there:” A Manifesto in Defiance of The Cult of der Reine Vernunft[1] [1] We must wonder about the resistance of Platonic and transcendental thinking to the lessons of modernity and postmodernity. These lessons, admittedly, are buried beneath the rubble of the wars, holocausts, political economic failures, and ecological disasters of the twentieth century. The brilliant flare-up of the very idea of “the social” between 1840 and 1912 and the discovery sciences it gave form to has remained virtually invisible on the intellectual landscape formed over the last one hundred and fifty years. Until and unless we uncover that revolution, we will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of Plato, Descartes, and God. These ghosts cannot be banished by materialism per se. What is required is a sociological materialism, a cultural materialism. It is no simple ideological or political victory we champion but an adaptation, an evolutionary matter of life and death. So long as these ghosts haunt us, we will be unable as a species to take advantage of whatever small opportunities are left to us to make something worthwhile flourish on this planet for even a little while. The issues here are that big. So it is that we must chase these ghosts down at every opportunity. Every time a critic of social and cultural thinking about science raises the banner of the “brute fact” he or she raises the banner of belief in God. We can, as David Bloor, Karin Knorr-Cetina, and Restivo have demonstrated over and over again for thirty years, have a critically robust realism sans Plato, Descartes, and God that is consistent with a social and cultural theory of science, mathematics, and logic. We must wonder about the resistance of Platonic and transcendental thinking to the lessons of modernity and postmodernity. These lessons, admittedly, are buried beneath the rubble of the wars, holocausts, political economic failures, and ecological disasters of the twentieth century. The brilliant flare-up of the very idea of “the social” between 1840 and 1912 and the discovery sciences it gave form to has remained virtually invisible on the intellectual landscape formed over the last one hundred and fifty years. Until and unless we uncover that revolution, we will continue to be haunted by the ghosts of Plato, Descartes, and God. These ghosts cannot be banished by materialism per se. What is required is a sociological materialism, a cultural materialism. It is no simple ideological or political victory we champion but an adaptation, an evolutionary matter of life and death. So long as these ghosts haunt us, we will be unable as a species to take advantage of whatever small opportunities are left to us to make something worthwhile flourish on this planet for even a little while. The issues here are that big. So it is that we must chase these ghosts down at every opportunity. Every time a critic of social and cultural thinking about science raises the banner of the “brute fact” he or she raises the banner of belief in God. We can, as David Bloor, Karin Knorr-Cetina, and Restivo have demonstrated over and over again for thirty years, have a critically robust realism sans Plato, Descartes, and God that is consistent with a social and cultural theory of science, mathematics, and logic. So long as we allow ourselves to be deluded by the “transparent” claim that Gödel, Einstein, and Heisenberg have given us the three most important insights into who and what we are, a claim made by Rebecca Goldstein (2005), we will be stuck on a path of almost daily and almost universal suffering, and face a future that can only promise more of the same without respite. In fact it is to Darwin, Marx, and Durkheim that we must turn for the more important insights. We do So long as we allow ourselves to be deluded by the “transparent” claim that Gödel, Einstein, and Heisenberg have given us the three most important insights into who and what we are, a claim made by Rebecca Goldstein (2005), we will be stuck on a path of almost daily and almost universal suffering, and face a future that can only promise more of the same without respite. In fact it is to Darwin, Marx, and Durkheim that we must turn for the more important insights. We do great harm to ourselves and our planet if we rely on Gödel, Einstein, and Heisenberg for our self-image as persons and as a species. We are, indeed, thermodynamic systems and we run at some level according to the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry. But what we are above all is a social and a cultural thing, a society, a social being, a cultural entity sui generis. We are, individually and collectively, social facts.[2] great harm to ourselves and our planet if we rely on Gödel, Einstein, and Heisenberg for our self-image as persons and as a species. We are, indeed, thermodynamic systems and we run at some level according to the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry. But what we are above all is a social and a cultural thing, a society, a social being, a cultural entity sui generis. We are, individually and collectively, social facts.[2][2] The mysteries of intuitions, geniuses, and eternal truths outside space and time nourished by philosophers like Goldstein are no mere exercises in pure reason for the sake of pure reason. They sustain a worldview that is more medieval than modern. We social ones must take our stand again and again against those, however well intentioned, who continue to support knowingly and unknowingly, the One Logic, the One God, and the separation of the realm of faith and belief from the realm of science and knowledge. The most pernicious dogmas flourish in this atmosphere. For example, undergraduates are fond of repeating this “truism” learned from the masters: “You can’t prove or disprove God.” And what leg do you stand on when public intellectuals like Stephen Jay Gould, a scientist of unimpeachable brilliance, argue for the separation of science and religion? Proofs are social constructions, social institutions, indexical. Claims such as this one can only make sense in a world of science that excludes social science. Once we admit social science to the halls of verifiable, validated, discovery sciences and proof communities such claims evaporate. Within a framework that includes the social sciences we can determine what God (in whatever guise s/he-it appears) is, that is, the referent for whatever we mean by “God.” That referent is always going to be a sociocultural one, rooted in the material earth and its peoples and not in some supernatural or transcendental realm. The mysteries of intuitions, geniuses, and eternal truths outside space and time nourished by philosophers like Goldstein are no mere exercises in pure reason for the sake of pure reason. They sustain a worldview that is more medieval than modern. We social ones must take our stand again and again against those, however well intentioned, who continue to support knowingly and unknowingly, the One Logic, the One God, and the separation of the realm of faith and belief from the realm of science and knowledge. The most pernicious dogmas flourish in this atmosphere. For example, undergraduates are fond of repeating this “truism” learned from the masters: “You can’t prove or disprove God.” And what leg do you stand on when public intellectuals like Stephen Jay Gould, a scientist of unimpeachable brilliance, argue for the separation of science and religion? Proofs are social constructions, social institutions, indexical. Claims such as this one can only make sense in a world of science that excludes social science. Once we admit social science to the halls of verifiable, validated, discovery sciences and proof communities such claims evaporate. Within a framework that includes the social sciences we can determine what God (in whatever guise s/he-it appears) is, that is, the referent for whatever we mean by “God.” That referent is always going to be a sociocultural one, rooted in the material earth and its peoples and not in some supernatural or transcendental realm. Even the strongest opponents and upholders of this claim tremble as they make it. They tend to leave openings for Even the strongest opponents and upholders of this claim tremble as they make it. They tend to leave openings for believers, including themselves in some cases, because the barriers to banging the last nails into the coffin of religious faith and belief are, let us admit, formidable. They are formidable, as both Marx and Durkheim recognized, because they have something to do with keeping society and individuals from becoming unglued. So let’s put this bogey man out to pasture right away. It is not religions and belief in God or gods that are universal but rather moral orders. All societies, all humans, require a moral order to survive, to move through the world and their lives. That is, they require, to put it simply, rules about what is good and bad, right and wrong. Religion is just one way to systematize these rules. There are other ways to do this: we can organize moral orders around almost any human interest from politics to physical fitness.[3] And there are ways to construct moral orders that do not depend on unreferred entities. The more general problem we are faced with here is the problem of abstraction. How does one account for abstract ideas without falling into the traps of transcendental and supernatural realism? The solution is to stop making a distinction between concrete and abstract ideas. [1] “There is no there, there” was famously uttered by Gertrude Stein when she went to find a childhood home and found the space empty. believers, including themselves in some cases, because the barriers to banging the last nails into the coffin of religious faith and belief are, let us admit, formidable. They are formidable, as both Marx and Durkheim recognized, because they have something to do with keeping society and individuals from becoming unglued. So let’s put this bogey man out to pasture right away. It is not religions and belief in God or gods that are universal but rather moral orders. All societies, all humans, require a moral order to survive, to move through the world and their lives. That is, they require, to put it simply, rules about what is good and bad, right and wrong. Religion is just one way to systematize these rules. There are other ways to do this: we can organize moral orders around almost any human interest from politics to physical fitness.[3] And there are ways to construct moral orders that do not depend on unreferred entities. The more general problem we are faced with here is the problem of abstraction. How does one account for abstract ideas without falling into the traps of transcendental and supernatural realism? The solution is to stop making a distinction between concrete and abstract ideas. [1] “There is no there, there” was famously uttered by Gertrude Stein when she went to find a childhood home and found the space empty.[3][1][3][1] [2] We acknowledge the gendered danger of standing on the shoulders of these giants but remind you that they and we stand on the [2] We acknowledge the gendered danger of standing on the shoulders of these giants but remind you that they and we stand on the [2] shoulders of so many other giants that gender, race, and class may not matter. If we contradict ourselves, if we fail to stand apart from our shoulders of so many other giants that gender, race, and class may not matter. If we contradict ourselves, if we fail to stand apart from our own gender, race, and class we can remain silent or carry on. We choose to carry on. own gender, race, and class we can remain silent or carry on. We choose to carry on. [3] One of the most articulate exemplars of a political basis for a moral order is Michael Harrington’s (1983) essay on “the spiritual crisis of western civilization.” Harrington described himself as, in Max Weber’s phrase, “religiously musical” but a non-believer. His goal was to fashion a coalition of believers and non-believers to challenge the wasteland of nilihism, hedonism, and consumerism spreading across the western cultural landscape. [3] One of the most articulate exemplars of a political basis for a moral order is Michael Harrington’s (1983) essay on “the spiritual crisis of western civilization.” Harrington described himself as, in Max Weber’s phrase, “religiously musical” but a non-believer. His goal was to fashion a coalition of believers and non-believers to challenge the wasteland of nilihism, hedonism, and consumerism spreading across the western cultural landscape. [3]


Download ppt "The Elusive Sociological Imagination and the Pursuit of the Hard Case Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute & Nottingham University UK Fireside."

Similar presentations


Ads by Google