Social Epistemology of Stem Cell Research: Philosophy and Experiment

  • Melinda Bonnie Fagan
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 263)


When it comes to social aspects of our knowledge-generating practices, history and philosophy of science seem starkly opposed. I argue that this opposition stems from an assumption of normative/descriptive dualism. This dualism polarizes the study of scientific inquiry into two mutually exclusive, yet co-dependent, projects: description of our actual scientific practices and their results, or abstract examination of epistemic ideals detached from our practices. If we must choose between describing the historical unfolding of our scientific practices, or elaborating abstract epistemic ideals, an integrated history and philosophy of social epistemology of scientific inquiry is precluded. I show that this dualism can be overcome, by explicating a conception of the epistemic ideal of scientific objectivity from the social aspects of our scientific practices. This ideal of objectivity is both normative and engaged with the historical unfolding of experimental inquiry. It is thus a first step toward an integrated social epistemology of scientific inquiry, to be elaborated by further historical and philosophical study.


Scientific Knowledge Scientific Practice Stem Cell Research Scientific Objectivity Shared Goal 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

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