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Douglas, Heather. Values in Social Science
2014, In: Philosophy of Social Science A New Introduction. Edited by Nancy Cartwright and Eleonora Montuschi
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Karoline Paier

Introduction: The social sciences have long had an inferiority complex. Because the social sciences emerged as distinct disciplines after the natural sciences, comparisons between the mature and successful natural sciences and the fledgling social sciences were quickly made. One of the primary concerns that arose was over the role of values in the social sciences. There were several reasons for this. First, the social sciences did not have the clear empirical successes that the natural sciences did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to bolster confidence in their reliability. Some postulated that an undue influence of values on the social sciences contributed to this deficit of empirical success. Second, social sciences such as economics and psychology emerged from their philosophical precursors gradually and often carried with them the clear normative trappings of their disciplinary origins. Third, although formal rules on the treatment of human subjects would not emerge until the second half of the twentieth century, by the time the social sciences emerged, it was obvious there were both ethical and epistemic challenges to experimenting on human subjects and human communities. Controlled settings were (and are) often difficult to achieve (or are unethical to achieve), making clear empirical success even more elusive. Finally, there is the additional com-plication that social sciences invariably study and/or comment upon human values. All of these considerations lent credence to the view that social sciences were inevitably more value-laden, and as a result less reliable, than the natural sciences.

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Rochberg, Francesca. Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science
2016, Chicago University Press
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, Contributed by: Quentin Pharr
Publisher’s Note: In the modern West, we take for granted that what we call the “natural world” confronts us all and always has—but Before Nature explores that almost unimaginable time when there was no such conception of “nature”—no word, reference, or sense for it. Before the concept of nature formed over the long history of European philosophy and science, our ancestors in ancient Assyria and Babylonia developed an inquiry into the world in a way that is kindred to our modern science. With Before Nature, Francesca Rochberg explores that Assyro-Babylonian knowledge tradition and shows how it relates to the entire history of science. From a modern, Western perspective, a world not conceived somehow within the framework of physical nature is difficult—if not impossible—to imagine. Yet, as Rochberg lays out, ancient investigations of regularity and irregularity, norms and anomalies clearly established an axis of knowledge between the knower and an intelligible, ordered world. Rochberg is the first scholar to make a case for how exactly we can understand cuneiform knowledge, observation, prediction, and explanation in relation to science—without recourse to later ideas of nature. Systematically examining the whole of Mesopotamian science with a distinctive historical and methodological approach, Before Nature will open up surprising new pathways for studying the history of science.

Comment: For students wondering whether or not "philosophy" was done before Socrates and the Pre-Socratics, this text is a fairly comprehensive overview of how ancient Assyro-Babylonians conceived of "nature," their place within it, studied it, and recorded their findings about it. But, more than anything else, this text also shows that ancient Near Eastern cuneiform texts are not to be ignored by budding scholars of ancient philosophy or historians and philosophers of the sciences and their methodologies. Some prior engagement with ancient Greek philosophy, as well as the history and philosophy of science, will help to understand this text.

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Tulodziecki, Dana. Underdetermination, methodological practices, and realism
2013, Synthese 190(17): 3731-3750.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez
Abstract: In this paper, the author argues (i) that there are certain methodological practices that are epistemically significant, and (ii) that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining case-studies in the history of science. Analysing a particular episode from the history of medicine, she explains how this can help us resolve specific cases of underdetermination. She concludes that, while the anti-realist is (more or less legitimately) able to construct underdetermination scenarios on a case-by-case basis, he will have to abandon the strategy of using algorithms to do so, thus losing the much needed guarantee that there will always be rival cases of the required kind.

Comment: Using the case study of the origin and pathology of cholera, this article argues for an expanded conception of epistemic criteria besides the empirical evidence. A really useful reading for studying realism and under-determination. It is suitable for both postgraduate and undergraduate courses in philosophy of science.

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