Embedding philosophers in the practices of science: bringing humanities to the sciences

Abstract

The National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States, like many other funding agencies all over the globe, has made large investments in interdisciplinary research in the sciences and engineering, arguing that interdisciplinary research is an essential resource for addressing emerging problems, resulting in important social benefits. Using NSF as a case study for problem that might be relevant in other contexts as well, I argue that the NSF itself poses a significant barrier to such research in not sufficiently appreciating the value of the humanities as significant interdisciplinary partners. This essay focuses on the practices of philosophy as a highly valuable but currently under-appreciated partner in achieving the goals of interdisciplinary research. This essay advances a proposal for developing deeper and wider interdisciplinary research in the sciences through coupled ethical-epistemological research. I argue that this more robust model of interdisciplinary practice will lead to better science by providing resources for understanding the types of value decisions that are entrenched in research models and methods, offering resources for identifying the ethical implications of research decisions, and providing a lens for identifying the questions that are ignored, under-examined, and rendered invisible through scientific habit or lack of interest. In this way, we will have better science both in the traditional sense of advancing knowledge by building on and adding to our current knowledge as well as in the broader sense of science for the good of, namely, scientific research that better benefits society.

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Correspondence to Nancy Tuana.

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Tuana, N. Embedding philosophers in the practices of science: bringing humanities to the sciences. Synthese 190, 1955–1973 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-012-0171-2

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Keywords

  • Philosophy
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Coupled ethical-epistemic analyses
  • Climate science
  • NSF
  • Broader-impacts criterion