Last week Professor Peterson discussed feminist philosophy, especially work of Latour, to suggest that we have never truly been revolutionary. Latour argues that science often works to reinforce the dominant forces in society. If this is true then important scientific progress, which may be considered revolutionary by some, actually only reinforces social dualisms. Many feminist philosophers note that science is always conditioned. This idea contrasts the basic principle of objectivity which is seen as necessary for traditional scientific thought. The unachievable idealism of objectivity does not mean that all science is false or “bad science”.
According to Latour, conditioned knowledge is not false knowledge because it is relevant or applicable in the society where it is born. The sociological approaches to conceptions of scientific thought work to support science, but also to explain the the idealist terms of science derived from scientific realists are illegitimate since they ignore influential social aspects of society. Latour also argues that knowledge production is a socially conditioned and norm governed process.
The ideas of sociological conceptions of science differ vastly from traditional scientific realist conceptions of knowledge even though both are considered epistemological approaches to the conceptions of the production of knowledge. Scientific realists believe that science independent from the social realm, and science only affects society. The sociological approach sees science as a process that is governed by the norms and conditions of a given society, and thus society can influence science and science can affect society. Traditional western thought processes, those of scientific realists, tend to create false dualities that reinforce Western society as the dominant counterpart in all processes. Professor Peterson mentioned that this phenomenon lead to an us versus them distinction that lead Western scientific processes as inherently different from and better than knowledge producing processes in all other tribes and societies.
Feminist philosopher, Val Plumwood, writes of five tenants that create dualisms-relationships between two separate counterparts where one is considered superior to the other- as opposed to dichotomies-relationships that consider two separate but equally respectable entities. In creating the us-them duality, traditional Western scientific thinkers enacted Plumwood’s idea of homogenization to insist that all non-western conceptions of knowledge had less access to true science and were thus inferior or lacking in rational knowledge. The sociological conception of science arose much later than scientific realism, which really became influential during the scientific revolution. Sociological scientists examined this duality and were able to realize that it is not the inherent superiority of one society that leads to differences in conceptions of knowledge but rather the social construction of a given society that influences what kinds of knowledge are explored and how.