The Elgar Companion To Economics and Philosophy
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The Elgar Companion To Economics and Philosophy

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Edited by John B. Davis, Alain Marciano and Jochen Runde

The Elgar Companion to Economics and Philosophy aims to demonstrate exactly how these two important areas have always been linked, and to illustrate the key areas of overlap. The contributors are well-known and distinguished authors from a variety of disciplines, who have been invited both to survey and to provide a personal assessment of current and prospective future states of their respective areas of philosophical interest.
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Chapter 10: Constructivism: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge

D. Wade Hands


10 Constructivism: the social construction of scientific knowledge D. Wade Hands Introduction Philosophers have traditionally approached the subject of scientific knowledge from the ‘What is ____?’ perspective. ‘Scientific Knowledge’ of course fills the blank in the most general case, but a variety of more specific expressions have been inserted to cover various special topics that have been of interest to philosophers of science: ‘explanation’, ‘testing’, ‘scientific inference’, etc. This approach to science, scientific knowledge, and related topics, of course reflects the way that philosophers have traditionally approached most subjects of inquiry: ‘What is Truth?’, ‘What is Beauty?’, ‘What is the Good?’ … While this approach to scientific knowledge is part of a grand philosophical heritage, and perhaps even has a certain edictal charm, it frankly makes it rather difficult to understand much of the work that goes on within contemporary science theory: particularly the work informed by social constructivism and its cognates. The social constructivist view of scientific knowledge is much easier to understand if we begin with a different question than the standard philosophical point of embarkation. Rather than asking ‘What is scientific knowledge?’, it is more useful to begin an inquiry into the social construction of scientific knowledge by asking the question ‘What determines scientific beliefs?’ Scientists, qua scientists, clearly hold a wide array of different scientific beliefs. Some of these beliefs are rather mundane and are widely accepted outside of...

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