Engaged Philosophy of Science - And BeyondKelli Barr (University of North Texas)
1117 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh
Abstract: Scientists in the US increasingly are asked to account for the societal impact of their research. Science funders, elected officials, and members of the general public are asking serious questions about the public value of science. At the same time, universities in the US, especially public ones, seem to grow less hospitable to the pursuit of humanistic inquiry for its own sake. These developments suggest a shift both in the societal expectations of science and in the future prospects for academic philosophy. In response, some philosophers of science have proposed models for engaging with non-academic audiences interested in the public role of science. This presentation offers a characterization and analysis of the practical, conceptual, and normative challenges of such a task – how engaged philosophic work can be done, and what it looks like to do it well. After surveying existing models of “engaged philosophy,” I present a taxonomy of typical challenges to doing such work, chief among which are those rooted in disciplinary norms and practices that developed over the course of the 20th century. I then explore what lessons we can learn from two sources of experience grappling with these questions: (1) scientists seeking to understand and account for the impact of scientific research, and (2) fellow philosophers working in applied philosophy, environmental philosophy, and bioethics.
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