Helen E. Longino & Guidelines for the Philosophy of Science on Sex
Let me briefly relay some of the guidelines Longino lays out in this blog post as I think they are useful to have on this platform for people to find and use.
In Taking Gender Seriously in Philosophy of Science by Helen E. Longino discusses some of the standards that should envelop the literature on feminism and science. Longino proposes six standards or “virtues” which she does not consider, by no means, as absolute but rather as helpful guidelines in conducting responsible science. They are (1) Empirical Adequacy, (2) Novelty, (3) Ontological heterogeneity, (4) Complexity of Relationship, (5) Applicability to Current Human Needs, and (6) Diffusion of Power.
- Concerns itself with the adequacy (or inadequacy, rather) that a lot of the research surrounding biological sex differences has. Feminist scientists such as Ruth Bleier, Anne Fausto Sterling (previously discussed), Richard Lewontin, Ruth Doell have throughout their careers shown that studies can either via “faulty research design or improper statistical methodology” result in bad conclusions that should not be made accessible to the general public. It is sadly the case that these studies often do get out and are fairly popular, as anything related to human nature tends to be.
- The novelty of a theory does not guarantee its underlying value.
- The understanding that there are individual differences between members of a sample size that are relevant and should not be dismissed easily. In her own words, “Difference is a resource, not failure” (337).
- It is the case that there are many factors that affect the dynamic relationships that studies have. This complexity should be acknowledged and factored in when discussing biological differences between sexes.
- We should be performing science that is directly related to current human affairs — and not rejecting the ones that concern women as unimportant.
- This condition aims to equalize the focus from an emphasis on “arcane expertise” and “expensive equipment” to fields that do not require that type of restrictive participation (337).
Longino does not consider the above as an exhaustive list but rather as something of a guideline. In giving these guidelines Longino creates space for feminist critique in science and a field of study that should be considered seriously.
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,