“Strong objectivity”: A response to the new objectivity question
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Where the old “objectivity question” asked, “Objectivity or relativism: which side are you on?”, the new one refuses this choice, seeking instead to bypass widely recognized problems with the conceptual framework that restricts the choices to these two. It asks, “How can the notion of objectivity be updated and made useful for contemporary knowledge-seeking projects?” One response to this question is the “strong objectivity” program that draws on feminist standpoint epistemology to provide a kind of logic of discovery for maximizing our ability to block “might makes right” in the sciences. It does so by delinking the neutrality ideal from standards for maximizing objectivity, since neutrality is now widely recognized as not only not necessary, not only not helpful, but, worst of all, an obstacle to maximizing objectivity when knowledge-distorting interests and values have constituted a research project. Strong objectivity provides a method for correcting this kind of situation. However, standpoint approaches have their own limitations which are quite different from the misreadings of them upon which most critics have tended to focus. Unfortunately, historically limited epistemologies and philosophies of science are all we get to choose from at this moment in history.
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