Objectivity, also known as value neutrality or impartiality, is one of the highest ideals of science. The principle behind it is that science studies mind-independent reality, i.e., that which continues to exist even if no consciousness is there to perceive or think about it. This mind-independent reality is devoid of all values – there is no such thing as “good and bad” or “useful” or “beautiful” when it comes to, say, galaxy formation or evolution by natural selection. A major criticism of science levied by critical theory is that value neutrality is impossible, even if we are to take the assumption that mind-independent reality exists and that mind-independent reality is value neutral. As such, instead of blinding ourselves to the values and biases that are inextricable from science, we ought to import the “correct” values into science (e.g., feminist science).
In recent years the difference between equality and equity have been discussed more and more. Equality is taken to be the idea that people have equal opportunity while equity is the idea that people (ought to) have equal outcomes. In the former, it means there should be no legal or political impediment to someone entering the market, whether that’s the buying and selling of goods and services or of one’s labor. The latter, equity, says that things like racial, sex/gender, and economic disparities need to be corrected through legal and political policies. But are these the only notions of equality?
The Listening Society: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book One (Metamodern Guides), by Hanzi Freinacht; Metamoderna ApS (March 10, 2017), 414 pages
A common refrain in the news media during these COVID years has been to “trust the science.” This is also a popular mantra when it comes to climate science. Yet, in the United States at least, trust in experts and institutions is at an all time low. The political right is skeptical of climate science, COVID vaccines, and scientific institutions like the NIH and CDC, seeing them as a means for the government to take away rights and for liberals to impose their will. The political left views science as a white colonialist means of subjugating those with other “ways of knowing” and upholding white, male privilege. So the question is: should we trust the science?
A number of conservative thinkers are coming to the conclusion that liberalism, in the classical sense (the way it will be used hereafter), ought to be jettisoned. Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen published Why Liberalism Failed in 2018 where he argued that liberalism is an ideology in the same sense that fascism or communism are. It is not the natural order of things of which human history has been blundering about for millennia in its quest to achieve. What is happening in the world today is not in spite of liberalism, but a result of it.
In science, objectivity is the greatest virtue. In an ideal world, a scientist would be impartial, disinterested in the outcomes, never desiring one result over another. They would run the experiment, gather the data, and report the findings, even if the data showed something that refuted the scientists’ hypothesis or gave an uninteresting negative result. Experiments would be replicated by multiple different people to more rigorously determine the veracity of the results. Negative results would get published as often as positive results. Topics for study would be determined by a mixture of intellectual curiosity and potential for improving society in some measurable way. Science, to say the least, does not live up to this ideal. But is science redeemable?
I just finished watching Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special “The Closer” after hearing about the backlash against his alleged transphobic jokes. I have some thoughts. Here they are.
There has lately been controversy about whether schools – both at the primary and secondary education level – are teaching kids critical race theory, otherwise known as CRT. School administrators and CRT theorists have both denied this, claiming that CRT is not taught to children. But this is sort of misleading.
Ludwig Wittgenstein famously talked about language as an interconnected assemblage of language games that make up a world-picture. A world-picture are all of the assumptions, norms, and grounds that a community holds as certain, and from there certain propositions in the language games the community employs will be either true or false. While I somewhat disagree with Wittgenstein’s conclusion that the truth criteria of any proposition is its proper usage within a language game, rather than the proposition’s correspondence with reality, I think his analysis gives a good framework for examining the epistemic disunity in the culture of the west.
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Copyright 2020, Pitchstone Publishing, 352 pages.
Critical Theory is a methodology of critiquing power relations within society. It takes as axiomatic the new-Marxist analysis of oppressor-oppressed dynamics being inherent in all human relationships. As such, Critical Theory is not about whether such power dynamics exist, but in what ways they manifest. There is little talk about why these dynamics manifest.