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EGENIS seminar: "Stylistic Pluralism and Its Discontents", Dr Matteo Vagelli (Ca' Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University)

Egenis seminar series

Post-positivist philosophy of science, as it developed in the second half of the twentieth century, is characterized by a “pluralist turn”, partially building on previous “historical” and “practice” turns. Contrary to the prevalently monist approach espoused by mainstream philosophy of science during the first half of the twentieth century, the pluralist turn is normally taken to emphasize the disunity of the sciences, in terms of both methods and results. However, pluralism has developed in different directions, giving place to different ontological, epistemological, and methodological positions that are at times in tension with one another.

Event details

One of the “pluralisms” that proliferated in Anglophone philosophy of science during the second half of the twentieth century involves conceiving of the history of science as a history of “scientific styles”. Conflicting interpretations of “styles” in science mainly concern whether the term implies abandonment of the realism, objectivity, and progressiveness commonly understood to distinguish science from the arts.

Taking stock of these debates, in my presentation I aim to discuss the notion of “stylistic pluralism” in relation to some of the forms of ontological, epistemological and methodological pluralism mentioned above. In the first part of my talk, I will build on Ian Hacking’s theory of “styles of scientific reasoning” (Hacking 1982, 1992, 2012) and analyze some of its shortcomings. As a second step, I aim to improve Hacking’s notion of styles by integrating insights from Hasok Chang’s notion of “systems of practice”, considered in the more general framework of his “active normative epistemic pluralism.” (Chang 2012) The notion of “stylistic pluralism”, thus reworked, should allow us to recognize the advances associated with the pluralist turn without falling into the relativism and constructivism it is often taken to imply.

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