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Science, Responsibility, and the Philosophical Imagination

Sample, Matthew (2022) Science, Responsibility, and the Philosophical Imagination. Synthese, 200 (79). ISSN 1573-0964

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If we cannot define science using only analysis or description, then we must rely on imagination to provide us with suitable objects of philosophical inquiry. This process ties our intellectual findings to the particular ways in which we philosophers think about scientific practice and carve out a cognitive space between real world practice and conceptual abstraction. As an example, I consider Heather Douglas’s work on the responsibilities of scientists and document her implicit ideal of science, defined primarily as an epistemic practice. I then contrast her idealization of science with an alternative: “technoscience,” a heuristic concept used to describe nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and similar “Mode 2” forms of research. This comparison reveals that one’s preferred imaginary of science, even when inspired by real practices, has significant implications for the distribution of responsibility. Douglas’s account attributes moral obligations to scientists, while the imaginaries associated with “technoscience” and “Mode 2 science” spread responsibility across the network of practice. This dynamic between mind and social order, I argue, demands an ethics of imagination in which philosophers of science hold themselves accountable for their imaginaries. Extending analogous challenges from feminist philosophy and Mills’s. “Ideal Theory’ as Ideology,” I conclude that we ought to reflect on the idiosyncrasy of the philosophical imagination and consider how our idealizations of science, if widely held, would affect our communities and broader society.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Sample, Matthewmssample@gmail.com0000-0001-5290-1458
Subjects: General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Dr. Matthew Sample
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2022 02:09
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2022 02:10
Item ID: 20204
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: March 2022
Volume: 200
Number: 79
ISSN: 1573-0964

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