Subprojects

1) Objectivity and Evidence (2004-present)

In the age of science, objectivity is paired with the notion of evidence. Evidence is considered the benchmark of objective knowledge. However, evidence, just like objectivity, is neither monolithic nor unchanging. What counts as evidence varies from discipline to discipline, and/or from research tradition to research tradition. It also differs from epoch to epoch. Besides, what justifies a claim largely depends on what we are going to do with that claim: evidence for one use may provide no support for others. So, when we put science to use, what models of evidence will work (objectively) in the face of widespread variability and controversy? How can different sources of evidence be combined objectively? By what means can the 'evidence' provided by both established and less recognised sources be weighed and assembled in view of a final 'objective' judgment?

2) Rationality in Question (2001-2003)

In what sense can we claim that our beliefs are held 'for a reason'? Is rationality a normative or a descriptive notion? When does a reason qualify as 'good' or as 'objective'? Can reasons always be compared, and/or under what circumstances can they not be? What are the limits of the definition of rationality in rational choice theory? What does evolutionary science contribute to our understanding of rationality? What makes an explanation rational? What model/s of rationality is/are assumed and used in social science? These are some of the questions which this part of the project has explored, discussing both their analytic implications (background: John Broome on reasons and intentions; reasons and incommensurable values; normative practical reasoning, and Joseph Raz on reasons, values and action; practical reason and norms) and of the empirical issues emerging from applying them to various fields of knowledge (what counts as 'reasons' within specific sciences).

3) Social Objects (2001-2003)

By studying a number of examples from specific social sciences (anthropology, sociology, history, economics and human geography) this part of the project promotes a reflection on what counts as an 'object' of social scientific investigation. It draws attention to the practical as well as theoretical procedures involved in the identification and analysis of such complex objects in various domains of social inquiry. It also questions the objectivity of these procedures in relation to the actual questions addressed and formulated about specifically 'designed' objects, rather than wonder whether the procedures in question comply with some ideal, fixed standard of objective inquiry.

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