Central Question 10

What philosophical perspectives of either Latour or Fuller do you agree or disagree with concerning the role social science can take?

This question is based on Colin Barron’s paper titled “A strong distinction between humans and non-humans is no longer required for research purposes: a debate between Bruno Latour and Steve Fuller” and Steve Fuller’s book titled The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies. Below is a rationale of what motivated the questions along with a critique of the question.

Motivated by debate between Latour and Fuller which took place on June 2002 at the University of Hong Kong, on lookers of the debate witness a difference in philosophical perspectives between Bruno Latour and Steve Fuller concerning the role social science can take. (Barron, 93)

Latour’s saw the role social science can take was to encourage academics to acknowledge that things act and that there was no distinction between the human and non-human. (Barron, 77) Fuller on the other hand believed in a strong distinction between humans and non-humans, privileging moralist Kantian theories (Barron, 83) and a constructivist project for science studies. (Fuller, 9) Latour took exception to Fuller’s belief by interjecting that Fuller’s perspective was based upon a dichotomous relationship between subject-object, which Latour rejected. (Barron, 78)

What Latour sought was to make a distinction between human and non-human which was based upon encouraging better social research (Barron, 78-79), while Fuller interpreted Latour’s proposal for researcher’s to embrace Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a “make work” project which he rejected “in a time when academia is imperiled and not able to set its own agenda.” (Barron, 87)

The question is good because it causes the respondent to consider what philosophical perspectives of either Latour or Fuller one was willing to privilege in either his or her social science research work. In addition to de-privileging Latour’s ANT, Fuller also de-privileged the normative resources of “feminists- and technology studies practitioners perspectives, “focusing instead on topics and claims that arise specifically from the self-understanding of the field called “Science and Technology Studies.”” (Fuller, 8) For me, it was easy to see that the debate between the two men involved cross-purposes, a point made in the concluding remarks by Barron. (Barron, 98)

Word Count: 348 (excludes question)

Reexamine Question 10

Based upon the class discussion and the defense of the answer, I still believe that the question is good as it draws out from the respondent to make a distinction between the philosophical differences between Latour and Fuller. What could perhaps be done is to extend the question by having it focus more on what Fuller was advocating specifically versus Latour.

Specifically my take away was that Fuller sought not what Latour was advocating (privilege non-human and follow around scientists – actors) but rather wanted researchers to take on a philosophical framework which entailed looking at normative distinctions considering moral role when it comes to social science studies.

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