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Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science

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Social constructivists maintain that we invent the properties of the world rather than discover them. Is reality constructed by our own activity? Or, more provocatively, are scientific facts--is everything--constructed? Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science is a clear assessment of this critical and increasingly important debate.

Andre Kukla presents a comprehensive discussion of the philosophical issues involved and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of a range of constructivist arguments, illustrating the divide between the sociology and the philosophy of science through examples as varied as laboratory science, time, and criminality. He argues that current philosophical objections to constructivism are drastically inconclusive, while offering and developing new objections. Throughout, Kukla distinguishes between the social causes of scientific beliefs and the view that all ascertainable facts are constructed.

The literature of (scientific) constructivism has been generated both by sociologists, who tend to be enthusiastic supporters, and by philosophers of science, who tend to be incredulous critics. I will discuss both literatures. I won’t, however, spend much time going over or criticizing the details of the constructivists’ analyses of specific scientific facts. For the most part, I’ll take the empirical pronouncements of sociologists at face value. My question is whether these data can be made to sustain the metaphysical, epistemological, and (to a far lesser extent) ethical conclusions that have been drawn from them.

The primary audience I have in mind for this book is the community of philosophers of science. However, I have tried to make it accessible both to students of philosophy and to social scientists with philosophical interests. The result is a work which I think would be suitable as a primary text for a graduate or advanced undergraduate course in the philosophy of constructivism.

Are scientific facts constructed by scientists rather than discovered - in the same way as we construct all reality? This book presents a full discussion of the philosophical issues that arise out of this controversial debate.

About the Author
Andre Kukla is Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Toronto and the author of Studies in Scientific Realism (1998).
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