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The Fate of Knowledge. [Paperback]

By Helen E. Longino (Author)
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Item description for The Fate of Knowledge. by Helen E. Longino...

Helen Longino seeks to break the current deadlock in the ongoing wars between philosophers of science and sociologists of science--academic battles founded on disagreement about the role of social forces in constructing scientific knowledge. While many philosophers of science downplay social forces, claiming that scientific knowledge is best considered as a product of cognitive processes, sociologists tend to argue that numerous noncognitive factors influence what scientists learn, how they package it, and how readily it is accepted. Underlying this disagreement, however, is a common assumption that social forces are a source of bias and irrationality. Longino challenges this assumption, arguing that social interaction actually assists us in securing firm, rationally based knowledge. This important insight allows her to develop a durable and novel account of scientific knowledge that integrates the social and cognitive.

Longino begins with a detailed discussion of a wide range of contemporary thinkers who write on scientific knowledge, clarifying the philosophical points at issue. She then critically analyzes the dichotomous understanding of the rational and the social that characterizes both sides of the science studies stalemate and the social account that she sees as necessary for an epistemology of science that includes the full spectrum of cognitive processes. Throughout, her account is responsive both to the normative uses of the term knowledge and to the social conditions in which scientific knowledge is produced.

Building on ideas first advanced in her influential book "Science as Social Knowledge," Longino brings her account into dialogue with current work in social epistemology and science studies and shows how her critical social approach can help solve a variety of stubborn problems. While the book focuses on epistemological concerns related to the sociality of inquiry, Longino also takes up its implications for scientific pluralism. The social approach, she concludes, best allows us to retain a meaningful concept of knowledge in the face of theoretical plurality and uncertainty.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.18" Width: 6.36" Height: 0.64"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 18, 2001
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691088764  
ISBN13  9780691088761  

Availability  56 units.
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More About Helen E. Longino

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Helen E. Longino is chair and the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University. She is the author of "Science as Social Knowledge" and "The Fate of Knowledge".

Helen E. Longino currently resides in the state of Minnesota. Helen E. Longino has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Minnesota.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Epistemology
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
3Books > Subjects > Science > General
4Books > Subjects > Science

Reviews - What do customers think about The Fate of Knowledge.?

Uggghhhhhh!!!!!  Mar 22, 2004
I had to read this book for a Philosophy of Science graduate seminar. It started out very promising. Longino points out the social nature of science. Scientists read each other's work, work together in labs, etc.. There is a tremendous amount of interaction and critical dialogue that goes into the creation of data and the establishment of theories and ideas. She criticizes sociologists of science and philosophers alike for what she calls the rational-social dichotomy: the idea that rationality and sociality are mutually exclusive. The chapter on the sociologists of science (ch 2) was very interesting to me.

But then Longino gets to her positive theory. She wants to claim that knowledge is "irreducibly" social and that knowledge is pluralistic. I'm more sympathetic to the latter but the former is ... uhhh... not well taken. She has a complicated argument about theory underdetermination and how we need a properly structured community to select justified assumptions to properly bridge the gap between data and theory. But I see no reason to think that a community adds justification to assumptions or bridging principles that are not somehow reducible to what individuals do. She also claims that observation and reasoning are social processes, at least in the sciences. But, if we take a good analogy, is production and social cooperation through the division of labor "irreducibly" social? Are the material goods, like cars and computers, or the processes through which we produce them in factories or offices irreducibly social? Or are they simply the product of the combined actions of individuals? The latter seems the default position and Longino doesn't present any arguments for her position besides for underdetermination.

I didn't read the stuff on pluralism which, like I said, I'm more sympathetic to.

There is some interesting stuff in this book but alot of it is complex, incomprehensible, philosophical arguments. The arguments she makes are pretty technical alot of times and, most importantly, her theory didn't really add anything to my understanding of science. This book had alot of promise and I was dissapointed by it. An account of the social nature of science could be alot better.

Greg Feirman (


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