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(2015) Objectivity in science, Dordrecht, Springer.

Let's not talk about objectivity

Ian Hacking

pp. 19-33

The trajectory of objectivity, as an idea, is the triumph of bumbling public good sense over great but bad European philosophy (Descartes, Kant). The public in question is primarily that of querulous western democracies as they entered the age of technocracy, and it did a good if unplanned job of dealing with novelty. It is often hard to be objective in the face of a real-life debate, but there is no problem about objectivity itself—except what is foisted on it by highbrow idealization and misguided polemics. The adjective "objective" does the work for the abstract noun, "objectivity", but in a negative way: in any single situation, one or more of the host of ways to fail to be objective is what matters. Objectivity is not a virtue: it is the proclaimed absence of this or that vice. When public virtues compete—evidence-based versus clinical medicine, for example—we need to think harder, not more objectively. When objectivity is declared to be the cardinal virtue of science, it at once gets bashed (rightly)—or else abused (deservedly), as in "NAOS: The National Association for Objectivity in Science" (q.v.). So let's get down to work on cases, not generalities.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-14349-1_2

Full citation:

Hacking, I. (2015)., Let's not talk about objectivity, in F. Padovani, A. Richardson & J. Y. Tsou (eds.), Objectivity in science, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 19-33.

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