Live Blogging: Stories, Texts and Technoscience (3)

In methodology, three of the core areas

1) The question of “facts” – the way in which the word “finding” gets tossed about. In a literal sense – “what you find” or the activity of doing the findings. But in Fleck (or Latour), it is the “what are you producing”? What does “findings” imply – something that you come upon (“wow, there it is!”).

Building on that, the possibility of sociology is the idea of social construction (without which you don’t have sociology). Durkheim – Facts, Marx – Reifications (Etc). Natural scientists believe that the science will eventually explain all (i.e. poverty). Metaphysical fairy tales.

This gets us to the notion of the “science wars” – we might go larger and talk about the “reality wars” – nothing less than the nature of reality. We can also use Helen Veran’s descriptive terms – universalists vs relativists. Also: Internalist vs externalist. We have to remember that these are simply metaphors.

Externalists always want to place things in a broader contexts – there are only values that are sustained by a sufficiently enforced consensus. There are various mechanisms to do this, to find what counts. If you want to sustain, you have to enroll sufficient allies and get them to back your explainations (Actor-Network theory). Ironic in Hacking’s view. You have something that is ontologically subjective – medicine is only there because of social arrangements that acknowledge it as there.

Internalists think that this is not the case, medicine is what it is because bodies are there, that work the way they do universally. Regardless of the rest of the historical contingencies that may have shaped the where and the when, you would still get the same result because bodies break down in the same way.

Mol, John Law and Veran – are there multiple ontologies? Are there multiple objects of whatever there is (Numbers in Veran’s book). What does it mean to advance the claim that things internalists understand as singular, externalists understand as multiple.

For an internalist, method is a guide to a discovery of true facts in the social world – things are there to be discovered. America was always there to be discovered! It was always there.

Degrees of constructionism – Hacking’s three dimensions.

2) Method is a consensus by which certain practices are considered to have produced facts, and these facts are understood as being there, waiting.

Sociology as another actor (in medicine, in criminology). So, what kind of actor do you want to be, given that you are functioning as another actor. Sociology cannot guide you ethically as you intervene. Internalists can discover “value neutral”, though it depends on what Weber is calling you to. For an Externalist, Weber is recognizing the need for ethical considerations (and since you have these facts, what are you going to do with this ethically).

If method is a conventional understanding, then we need to enroll people to do method another way. Gathering like minded people to advance claims. For an internalist to apply internalist standard to an externalist argument doesn’t work. They can’t talk to one another.

Hackings six grades of construction commitment (p. 19)
A. Historical
1. Argues that X has been constructed over historical
2. X is not inevitable but contingent result of
historical processes — statement (1)
3. No commitment as to whether X is good or bad
4. not much different than just history

B. Ironic
1. shows that something we thought was inevitable is
actually highly contingent, the product of social
history (19-20)
2. yet somehow feels that in our present lives, we are
pretty much forced to accept it (20)

Ironist is much more identifiably a constuctionist. What we think to be inevitable, could be different. Pullman’s His Dark Materials existing in a parallel world (inquisition still happening). Really get an alternative physics that notices different things. Understands things that could have been different. Like Nietzsche – understands genealogy as a succession of roads not taken (that could have been taken). Ironist perceives the dangers of revolution (end up with the gulag).

C. Reformist
1. accepts that X is a bad thing — statement (2)
2. and wants to make it a little less bad

Reformist – once recognizing that something can be different, modify things accordingly. Max Weber’s switchmen of history – revolutionaries want to derail the train.

D. Unmasking
1. wants to undermine ideas by exposing the functions (or
interests) they serve
2. a reformer and an unmasker may be one and the same

Alongside with the reformist. Secret History of the Cancer Wars. “Running for the cure” is dangerous because it takes you in the wrong direction that is positively unproductive. Not that things should be done differently, but this is how things are.

Foucault – pointing out inconvenient facts (Weberian term), which is a way of showing something as different.

E. Rebellious — also accepts statement (3): that X should
be done away with (20)
F. Revolutionary — goes beyond ideas and actually tries to
change the world

How much are you willing to sharpen your guillotine?


Elevator word: “social” “generalizability”

John Searle -rules that only make sense in the context of certain games. “thou shalt not kill… within the ingroup.” Epistemological objective (strikes in Baseball). Ontologically subjective (certain kinds of things – rent for example – only makes sense within complex arrangements). Is it a four-fold table to fill in other categories? Ontological objectivity? Epistemological subjectivity?

Indifferent and interactive – Quarks (p. 30).

Hacking thinks the analogy with baseball did more harm than good. I.e. quarks are not like strikes.
Strikes are “ontologically subjective” — that is, hey would not exist without human rules and ractices but quarks, if they are real, do not depend on us in this way

Perhaps Fish should have said that it is the idea of uarks that was socially constructed. However, Pickering, the author of Constructing Quarks, denies that it is just the idea of them that is constructed. What he meant is, is that if you come at the world in certain way, you can get results that can be construed as evidence for quarks (30, q.v.). Hacking finds this less interesting than the converse claim: if you come at the world a different way, you get evidence for a different, successful physics (31). In effect, what Pickering says is that physics would have evolved in a different way (q.v.) For Hacking, this is a highly significant issue:

1. most physicists think that the road taken was inevitable
2. for the social constructavist, on the other hand, a successful science could have developed along an
entirely different path (32-33, q.v.)
3. for Hacking, this disagreement whether there is something contingent about the development of science
is sticking point # 1 in the science wars (more in chapter 3).

Interactions (31)
He’s given several examples how ideas or classifications and objects interact with each other
1. child viewer of television or 2. woman refugee. One obvious way in which these classifications interact with their objects is that these are classifications of people, who are aware of how they are being classified (31-32). But, also of course, inanimate objects are not aware of how they are being classified, and hence do not interact with their classifications (32)

D. interactive kinds
1. classifications of people are interactive kinds because they interact of things with that kind
2. only classifications in the social sciences are interactive kinds, not those in the natural sciences

Indifferent classifications. Quarks are there whether you know about them or not. America was always there. To hold out the category of indifferent classifications is to hold out a bit of internalism. Microbes were always there – they were also interactive (antibiotic resistant infections – came to be due to human intervention). Indifferent and interactive.

Veran: can you do more than decompose? How would she have done “the arithmetic logic” multiple?

Psychopathologies: indifferent and interactive. Biolooping? Thinking about more psychological diseases? Autism wars? ADHD wars?

Main critique of construction: one way street. “it’s social construction” is taken to be the answer for everything. Right, what is the research project. Just identifying it as a construction isn’t particularly interesting. It ignores that 1) construction is two way. Stories: two ways: people make up stories and stories make up people. The interaction determines the physical realities. At this point in time, each is causing the other to be. For those two way things, the metaphor isn’t useful; it tends to get you to see “people constructing X” – X is taken as “the construction of” – people being constructed by the whatevers. Tends to lose the subtlety of interactive classifications. The usefulness of the metaphor comes in Fleck – shows how syphilis is constructed in laboratory practices. Not trying to unmask syphilis.

Worldmaking: Nelson Goodman’s “Ways of World-making.”

Child abuse: if new kinds are selected, then the past can occur in a new world. Description of a bad historical fiction. Ways that we can think about. Perpetually re-reading the past. Capable of re-feeling events in ways that heal. That make these things livable by re-feeling them within this new framework. A lot of what social science does is to re-describe. The power of re-descriptions that provide for re-feeling is to experience a sense of injustice where, at the time, no injustice was felt. In re-feeling it, it comes off as unjust.

The social sciences are thus inherently an ethical practice.  The point is that the value-laden work that sociology has a claim to is accepting that its classifications evaluate who is troubling or in trouble. (p. 131). Two responses: 1. get those responses out 2. this is part of the deal, What is left if you try to be value free? How do we become accountable for the moral implcations of our classifications and incorporate that into our writing?

Kinds are always motley kinds. Think of fabrication mechanisms (Latour). Motley sampling? Loose assumption that these are people that count as X. The sociologist is taking on a lot of the fabrication work.

The motto is “motley.” p. 133 The fundamental question is what those kinds do to us? If what the course is teaching you is we need to look at who makes the world up in what kinds? By asking this question, we have to engage the six grades simultaneously.


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