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Engaging Science: How to Understand Its Practices Philosophically Paperback – January 10, 1996

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


"An ambitious attempt to outline an alternative to the dominant philosophical and social constructivist efforts to make sense of science . . . extends his examination of practice, local knowledge, and the politics of science into a full-fledged conception of philosophy of science as cultural studies."―Thomas Nickles, Isis, Vol. 88, No. 2, 1997

From the Back Cover

Summarizing this century's major debates over realism and the rationality of scientific knowledge, Joseph Rouse believes that these disputes oversimplify the political and cultural significance of the sciences. He provides an alternative understanding of science that focuses on practices rather than knowledge. Rouse first outlines the shared assumptions by ostensibly opposed interpretive stances toward science: scientific realism, social constructivism, empiricism, and postempiricist historical rationalism. He then advances cultural studies as an alternative approach, one that understands the sciences as ongoing patterns of situated activity whose material setting is part of practice. Cultural studies of science, the author suggests, take seriously their own participation in and engagement with the culture of science, rejecting the purported detachment of earlier philosophical or sociological standpoints. Rather, such studies offer specific, critical discussions of how and why science matters, and to whom, and how opportunities for meaningful understanding and action are transformed by scientific practices.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 10, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801482895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801482892
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,654,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Rouse's work develops in detail and depth a justification of an approach to science more similar to the cultural studies approach than to the so-called Science and Technology Studies approach. Rouse uses and reviews his use of Foucault on practices and combines with with use of analytical philosophers such as Arthur Fine and Donald Davidson. Rouse claims that both the traditional philosophy of science and the Science and Technology Studies and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge approaches of recent decades grapple with the issue of a global or abstract general legitimation of science. Traditional philosophy of science does so in a positive manner, attempting to supply such a legitimation, while the latter socially oriented approaches do so in a skeptical manner with respect to intellectual justification but with a non-evaluative approach to accepting science as a craft. Rouse wishes to evaluate particular scientific enterprises, but thinks any sort of attempt to legitimate science in general, as opposed to particular projects and practices is misguided and misleading. Rouse, like Richard Rorty, denies that natural science is a natural kind. He denies the possiblity of any sort of universal demarcation of science in general from non-science, whether of the positivists, of Popper, or of Steve Fuller. This is an excellent work, whether one agrees with Rouse's rejection of legitimation and demarcation or not.
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