There are many heterogeneous activities in regard to the historical and philosophical study of science and technology at each of the universities that partner in the BiCoDa Alliance. And yet, each partner contributes to the shared area of strength that motivates the Alliance:
In close collaboration with Bielefeld’s renown sociologists of science, historical and philosophical research is focused on “Science and Values„ and on “Science in the Context of Application” – including the area of overlap between these larger themes. This encompasses investigations of the “politicization of science,” of epistemic standards under application-pressure, of the organization of scientific communities through research technologies, of expertise and the history of bringing scientific judgment to bear on practical challenges. Consideration of the interplay between epistemic and non-epistemic values provides a background to the philosophical assessment of research methods and theory development in the context of application.
University of South Carolina in Columbia
USC’s contribution can be characterized as “History and Philosophy of science – emphatically writ small.” USC’s Consortium for Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine in Society adopts a liberal conception of science that includes all that has been and can be counted as science. This conception effectively unsettles a notion of “Science writ large” that was formulated in the late 19th and early 20th century by philosophers of science, a conception that still informs much HPS scholarship today. Accordingly, research on the history and philosophy of physics proceeds in critical interaction with work on the history and philosophy of civil engineering, computer science, epidemiology, pharmacology, the environmental sciences, nanotechnology, and medicine.
Technische Universität Darmstadt
The humanities departments, nanoOffice, IANUS-group, and various interdisciplinary graduate schools established TUD’s reputation for doctoral research on the development of technology in society, including a strong focus on urban and environmental studies. This research at TUD and also at Hochschule Darmstadt contributes to a comprehensive “Philosophy of Technoscience.” Since the 1960s, discussions and controversies about the nature of science concerned the proper interaction between philosophy, history, and sociology of science. At TUD, the focus is on the encounter between theories of science and theories of technology. When philosophy of science encounters history, philosophy, and cultural studies of technology, this entails a meeting also of so-called analytic and continental approaches.
What happens when the rather innocuous letter “t” is subversively introduced into the familiar acronym for History and Philosophy of Science – HPtS?
- This much is clear – HPtS does not refer to a subset of the sciences or a kind of science that might be dubbed, most awkwardly, “technological science.”
But what, then, does HPtS refer to? This is best circumscribed by a series of open-ended questions that are subject to further deliberation. And further deliberation of questions like these is what the BiCoDa Alliance seeks to promote.
- Is HPtS an invitation to adopt a technoscientific perspective on all the sciences by considering them in their technological setting?
- Is there a stronger claim here about the technological character of the sciences – about science as technology?
By looking at science in its technological setting, HPtS foregrounds …
- … that much contemporary research takes its problems from a world that is already the product of science and technology
- … that scientific, engineering, and medical research relies on instruments, experimental systems, computational methods, and media technologies
- … that science has always been beholden to demands for technical and social utility
- … that science changes not just how we think about the world but changes the world also materially, to the point of seeking to shape or (re)design it
Two examples: Instead of assuming that science is constitutive of technology, HPtS considers whether, how, or to what extent technology is constitutive of science. And instead of showing merely that scientific knowledge and understanding involves the control of phenomena, HPtS investigates how such control is achieved and what “knowledge and understanding” means in various contexts of research practice.
Philosophers and historians of science are very good at studying how researchers forge an agreement between mind and world, theory and reality. But when research is conducted in a 'design mode' and when it aims to achieve technologically robust control of phenomena, do we need other ways to think about knowledge production and objectivity?
Programmatic Discussion Papers
In order to advance the debate about BiCoDa profiles and the HPtS perspective, several programmatic statements will be posted here. These serve as boundary objects for historians and philosophers of science and technology who are seeking to reconfigure their relations.
- “The BiCoDa Alliance for the History and Philosophy of the technological Sciences (HPtS)” (3 pages)
- Mikael Hård – The Cultural Assessment of Technology and Science (4 pages)
- Alfred Nordmann – The Age of Technoscience (3 pages)
- Mary Demski and Michael Dickson – Discourse on a New Method, or a Manifesto for a Synthetic Approach to History and Philosophy of Science (20 pages)
- [more discussion papers to come]