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Scientific Perspectivism Annotated edition Edition
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About the Author
Ronald N. Giere is professor of philosophy emeritus at the University of Minnesota, a former director of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, and a past president of the Philosophy of Science Association. He is the author or editor of many books, including, most recently, Science without Laws, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Top customer reviews
Giere argues the case effectively and with very detailed examples that far. The pivotal argument however seems to rest on whether we can apply the same reasoning to scientific theories, treating them fundamentally as theoretical models that fit data models more or less well rather than law-like statements that are more or less true.
Do the multiple perspectives we have necessarily always collapse into a single one, or do they sometimes remain multiple perspectives? Giere argues that those at the extremes of scientific realism are also making the excessive additional claim that persectives must collapse into a single true account, and for several reasons he argues against that.
However Giere remains closer to the realists than to the constructionists, with whom he agrees only to the extent that scientific models do involve a social process and motivated information gathering and sometimes can take different trajectories to result in different perspectives of the same real world.
A powerful argument that I found very compelling and very illuminating.
Of course, human cognition, scientific instruments, community values and structures can all shape these perspectival claims. In this way he gives considerable ground to the constructivists, but it's ground that is hard not to yield. Having done that, Giere can still argue for substantial intersubjective validity.
Extended examples such as color vision in human cognition, and various forms of brain scan (CAT, PET, MRI . . .) lay out how perspectives of the same reality can differ without contradicting each other. He also works through various objections to his position, and develops his responses. Many of those responses end up with a defense of fuzzy standards that some people will doubtless find difficult to accept.
Giere's final chapter seems unnecessary to me, arguing that we can see knowledge production as a system of distributed cognition. That may be, but that position does not seem to engage his central perspectival thesis, and it wasn't clear to me what was at stake in the claim. The chapter also leaves the book without a conclusion that would return to the larger issues of the volume; it ends rather flat.
Still, in less than 200 pages, Giere makes a strong perspectival position in clear language that will be accessible far beyond philosophy. I strongly recommend it for your consideration even if you may not agree with it.