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More filters. Sort order. Kevin Kim rated it really liked it May 20, Bryce Renninger rated it liked it Jun 06, Rebecca Stuhr rated it really liked it Sep 29, Kendra rated it it was ok Sep 01, Daniel Langerman rated it really liked it May 27, Bill rated it really liked it Aug 08, Rj rated it it was ok Feb 16, Heather Diaz rated it liked it Aug 10, Philipp Schwind rated it it was ok Jun 24, Nicole rated it it was ok Oct 16, Penn Law added it Aug 01, John marked it as to-read Oct 31, Corbin marked it as to-read Mar 29, Blietzkriegbop added it May 12, Frank Spencer marked it as to-read Aug 05, Jen marked it as to-read Sep 20, Hannah marked it as to-read Feb 21, Pat added it Feb 23, Sophie marked it as to-read Mar 22, Kendall Bryant marked it as to-read May 16, Spencer marked it as to-read Feb 17, Leanna Pohevitz marked it as to-read Feb 24, Neil Middlemiss marked it as to-read Oct 10, Milan marked it as to-read Dec 14, Alexander marked it as to-read Jan 02, All of this prominence achieved by philosophy of science was doubtless connected, at least in part, to the distinctive goal philosophy of science had adopted.

Unlike other areas of philosophy, such as ethics or epistemology or metaphysics, philosophy of science sought to engage with and contribute to science, then and probably still considered the most impressive, most progressive, most demanding of human endeavors. Hence the fashionable name for the enterprise: logical empiricism.

That astronomers belong in general to the bourgeois class of society, he said, that they construct huge observatories containing telescopes in order to watch the stars—or, we might add, that the results of their star-gazing are used by the military, which therefore pays for the huge observatories—are of concern only to sociologists, not to philosophers. That, indeed, is the province of psychology. The distinction was not original to Reichenbach, however. Ronald Giere points out that versions of it had been common in German philosophy for more than 50 years Giere , The term rational reconstruction, Reichenbach pointed out, derived from Rudolf Carnap.

All of this was to aid in the rational reconstruction of science. Thus, theories were analyzed as axiom systems partially interpreted by an observational language itself interpreted on the basis of observation. True, philosophy of science by then exhibited breathtaking logical and epistemic virtuosity in the analyses it put forward. But it also lacked something absolutely central to its success: relevance to science.

By the late s and early s, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Norwood Russell Hanson, Stephen Toulmin, and many other distinguished philosophers and historians of science complained that philosophy of science simply failed to make contact with actual science. But logic was far from the whole story. As a result, theories cannot be directly tested by observation and experiment; they can only be indirectly tested by deducing from them consequences regarding observables and comparing those consequences with the results of observation and experiment.

One such aspect was the prediction of novelty. This was a major triumph for the wave theory of light. That kind of success, Lakatos emphasized, cannot be appreciated by looking at only one version of a theory, as the received view was wont to do—even the most developed, most perfected, rationally reconstructed version of the theory—and comparing it with some particular array of observational data. That kind of success, urged Lakatos—and McMullin and Kuhn and others—can only be appreciated by looking at the theory over time, by looking at exactly how the theory develops and changes over time.

In short, the unit of appraisal in science had to be not isolated theories but the temporally extended research programs that generated such theories. Indeed, the logical empiricist picture focused only on results, never on the activities of scientists. Scientists themselves were nowhere to be seen. And as time went on, the resources of cognitive science and social epistemology as well as the history and sociology of science were brought to bear on these projects. It is worth noting in more detail the distinctive social framework that Kuhn provided for these studies of the activities of scientists.

Kuhn added, however, that diversity within a community could also be a resource.

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In consequence, scientists fully committed to the same criteria for evaluating theories and making use of the same empirical data may nonetheless reach different conclusions when choosing between competing theories, especially at earlier stages of theory 28 Philosophy of Science after Feminism development, and this difference serves to minimize the risk of error for the community as a whole.

Philosophy of science, in short, became socially informed on two levels of social analysis. What, then, resulted from the mid-century critiques of philosophy of science? The unit of analysis for philosophy of science remained a historical, social science in a vacuum. True, there were a few scattered anticipations of a contextualized philosophy of science.

But once a theory has been chosen, the wider social context for Kuhn becomes quite irrelevant. The theory will then be able to direct future research single-handedly without the help of the social surround. And 3. See McMullin and ; see also Hesse And Newton-Smith and Shapere For the rest, the question was never raised.

Forman , And this massive military funding had profound effects on the science of the time and, in fact, on much of the science to come. In addition, there were the newly formed university-industry ties that enabled university laboratories to have greater access to defense contracts, more of which were going to the corporate sector. Second, there were the more substantive effects. According to some e. According to others e. And according to still others e. It is strange, then, that philosophy of science at mid-century conscientiously ignored the wider social context of science, since that context at just that time exerted especially strong effects on science and since the science that resulted exerted especially strong effects back—mostly via weapons-related products missiles, atomic weapons and weaponsrelated fears air raid drills in schools, the construction of bomb shelters but also via civilian goods such as televisions and computers.

It is stranger still that philosophy of science did this after having done just the opposite earlier in the century. When we look back at the history of philosophy of science in the twentieth century, however, such a turnabout is exactly what recent historical scholarship suggests.

Others in the Vienna Circle were also asked for comments and contributions and gave them. Marx Wartofsky points out that many saw the Vienna Circle in this way, not only Neurath, Carnap, and Hahn but also, for example, Olga Hahn-Neurath and Philipp Frank; Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein; critical philosophical colleagues such as Karl Popper; American students such as Ernest Nagel and Albert Blumberg; and even political enemies such as the right-wing Austro-German nationalists, the reactionary Catholic-clerical establishment in Vienna and in the university, and the proto-Nazis and anti-Semites, all of whom saw the Vienna Circle and its ideas as a social and political threat and not only as an intellectual one.

Not everyone saw the Vienna Circle in this way, however. Schlick, for example, strongly disagreed with this characterization. The Legacy of Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science 33 Circle not only to aid in the development of science but also to aid in the communication of its results to the public at large. It was expected, as well, to aid in the coordinated use of those results as tools for the deliberate shaping and planning of modern life.

Beyond this, however, the members of the Vienna Circle did not always see the role of philosophy of science in precisely the same way. For most of the Vienna Circle, what philosophy of science could or should contribute was purely theoretical, purely conceptual. Most of us, myself included, were socialists. But we liked to keep our philosophical work separated from our political aims. In our view, logic, including applied logic, and the theory of knowledge, the analysis of language, and the methodology of science, are, like science itself, neutral with respect to practical aims, whether they are moral aims for the individual, or political aims for a society.

Carnap , 23 How philosophy as well as science, understood in this purely neutral way, could be expected, nonetheless, to improve human life was never explained. After all, if philosophy and science were neutral with respect to practical aims, then, of course, pernicious practical aims could make use of these neutral resources to wreak havoc on human life just as easily as good practical aims could do just the opposite.

Others in the Vienna Circle had a very different perspective. The reasons are not far to seek. For Neurath, all knowledge of the world was, and always would be, full of uncertainty. The phenomena that we encounter are so much interconnected that they cannot be described by a one-dimensional chain of statements.

The correctness of each statement is related to that of all the others. It is absolutely impossible to formulate a single statement about the world without making tacit use at the same time of countless others. But even if that were not the case—even if there were an independent and secure empirical foundation for science—the hypotheses constructed on that foundation, Neurath maintained, would still be doubtful. Moreover, there is an unlimited number of ways to unify whatever systems of hypotheses are accepted in the various sciences.

And hence, in all these ways, scientists may, and in fact must, bring to bear other kinds of considerations, including social and political considerations, to settle on answers in a fully objective science. While such external considerations are normally unconscious, the subject matter of historical, sociological, psychological, and even evolutionary biological investigations, there is no reason against their being fully conscious and deliberate. This choice is itself a matter of action and resolution, 7.

See Cartwright, Cat, Fleck, and Uebel for others. In some ways this meant narrowing the array of questions and methods to be embraced by philosophy of science, but in other ways it meant broadening it to include socially and politically relevant topics such as the place of values in science, the sociology of science, and the logical and epistemological analysis of ideologies and ideological claims.

And, of course, Neurath advocated and did himself engage in direct political action as well. Certainly it is threatened with hard struggles and hostility. Nevertheless there are many who do not despair but, in view of the present sociological situation, look forward with hope to the course of events to come. However, their achievements too will take a place among the historic developments. Carnap, Hahn, and Neurath [] , — And life did receive it. What had happened? A variety of explanations have been offered see, for various accounts, Giere ; McCumber ; Howard ; and Reisch Howard , 72 Doubtless there were other factors at play as well.

What these various accounts do not explain, however, is why philosophy of science continued to ignore the wider social context of science right through to the end of the century. Or, at least in the case of Reichenbach, anticipated. Giere points out , that Reichenbach began exploring the possibility of emigrating to the United States even before he began teaching at the University of Berlin in , and that in , when Reichenbach was dismissed with the imposition of the Nazi racial laws, he shifted his research focus and even the language of his writing accordingly.

Why were philosophers of science lagging so far behind? Do we have any good reasons to do so? The aim of science, we philosophers say, is truth—or empirical adequacy, or empirical success, or explanatory success, or something of the sort— and science progresses by accumulating such truths or successes. Being sensitive to the wider social context of science does not, or at least need not, advance this aim or contribute to this progress. And more generally, sensitivity to the wider social context of science, to its funding as well as its social effects, for example, should not be part of our philosophical concerns about science.

The problem with this second reason for ignoring the wider social context of science lies with its conception of the aim of science. Determining what the aim of science is requires a great deal of information, information that tends to be absent from philosophical discussions see Kourany for a fuller treatment. Indeed, determining what the aim of science is requires empirical information, because the task it sets is to best interpret science, an actually existing activity, not an activity whose nature it is up to us to dream up.

And determining what the aim of science is requires normative information, because the task it sets is to best interpret science, to interpret it so that it makes the most sense, is the most reasonable or rational—what science in this case, the aim of science ought to be. Start with the empirical.

In order to determine how best to interpret the aim of science, we need empirical data regarding what scientists as against philosophers say the aim of science is, or at least what scientists say the aim of their science is—scientists past and present—or, better still, what scientists say their aim as scientists is. Many political scientists, by contrast, say that the aim of political science, or at least their aim as political scientists, is to obtain policy-relevant information for heads of state and such organizations as Greenpeace and Amnesty International and the CIO.

More important for our purposes, however, is what scientists have actually aimed at in their research. Relevant here is 40 Philosophy of Science after Feminism what scientists have said they were aiming at, but also who was funding their research and why they were funding it, who was evaluating that research e. In order to determine how best to interpret the aim of science, then, we need to take into account empirical data such as these. But we also need to take into account normative considerations.

But they also include other kinds of normative considerations. After all, society ultimately pays for science, and society is deeply affected by science. Hence the needs of society, including the justice-related needs of society, and the ways science might satisfy those needs are also relevant when determining what the aim of science ought to be. Relevant here, for example, are the political aims of sociologists who research environmental racism, or the commercial and political aims behind the absence of research on the effects of pesticides and fertilizers on migrant farm workers, or the moral aims of the animal-rights activists who have obstructed the use of longaccepted biological research methods, or the moral and religious aims of the antiabortionists who have blocked fetal and embryo research.

Only if we philosophers of science take into account both kinds of considerations, both empirical and normative considerations, can we hope to gain an adequate understanding of the aim or aims of science and, thereby, the methods and modes of assessment that are appropriate to science, the genuine progress it has achieved and has hope of achieving, and other central issues in the philosophy of science.

But, of course, taking into account those empirical and normative considerations— regarding the funding of science and the social needs science should serve and the rest—is to situate science within its wider social context when philosophizing about science. This inspires a third reason we give for not situating science within its wider social context. Our aim as philosophers of science, we say, is to understand science as a knowledge-producing activity, even if science is other things as well.

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Our interests, after all, are epistemological, not social or political. We are epistemologists of science, nothing else. In short, we philosophers of science simply do not need to be sensitive to the wider social context of science when philosophizing about science, since that wider social context is irrelevant to our concerns.

The problem with this third reason for ignoring the social context of science is that it is self-defeating. Assume for the moment that our aims regarding science are solely epistemological. Were these changes epistemically progressive, yielding better knowledge because they effectively responded to the needs and desires of AIDS patients, or were they epistemically regressive, yielding worse knowledge because they gave up on claims to universal validity in favor of a validity that was more local and circumscribed?

This urgent, theoretically important, real-world epistemological question is the kind of question to which we philosophers of science are equipped to provide answers, but it is also the kind of question 9. This assumption will be challenged in the chapters to follow. Abstract logico-mathematical analysis in such areas as philosophy of physics, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of biology will not disappear from philosophy of science, nor will it be discounted or downgraded in importance.


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Such a philosophy of science will strive to cover the issues of greatest social concern. Turn now to what is. Some years back in July , two conservative U. Marshall Institute in Washington, D. The next month in August , U. Congressman Henry Waxman, a liberal Democrat, released a report detailing another series of examples of political manipulation, distortion, or suppression of science. House of Representatives , suggested that the science that informs U.

What all these publications had in common was a view of science as a disinterested force that can guide policy making by providing appropriate facts, but only so long as science is kept separate from politics. Not everyone in the controversy shared this view, however. He also promised that the Bush administration would discontinue the practice.

As a result, the whole question regarding the politicization of science was unproductive. We thereby neglect the more critical question of how science should be politicized. To this revised question, however, many had already provided answers. But others envisioned a more directly democratic form of politicization.

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And the application of these rules should be a matter of public accountability as well. Such participatory mechanisms, he added, are already in place in Europe. For Sarewitz , however, the critical question we needed to deal with was not how should science be politicized but, rather, how should politics be descientized. The reason was that nature is so complex that a variety of different disciplines is needed to investigate most aspects of it.

Think of global climate change, for example—which can be variously understood as a problem of climate impacts, weather impacts, biodiversity, land use, energy production and consumption, agricultural productivity, public health, economic development patterns, material wealth, demographic patterns, and so forth. The rub is that, as pointed out previously, the different disciplines bring with them different, even incompatible, methods, standards of proof, interests, and values, as well as different, even incompatible, bodies of knowledge.

This did not mean that science should disappear from the scene. Meanwhile, the controversy continued.


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  8. In addition, books and articles and news stories and conference sessions continued to focus on the politicization of science, and many said that the future of U. But U. This silence would have been understandable if the controversy had been merely political, merely a partisan battle between the liberal Union of Concerned Scientists and the conservative Bush administration and its supporters, for example, or between the conservative scientist-authors of Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking and the liberal Clinton administration.

    And, of course, there is some reason to think that the controversy was merely political. But was the politicization controversy merely political? Surely there are more plausible— and more charitable—ways to think about the controversy. One such way is to think of the politicization controversy as simply another skirmish in the larger Science Wars. After all, the politicization of science controversy, as even the above quick glimpse suggests, covers a spectrum of positions—from politics should be kept out of the science that informs public policy, to politics can properly shape such science, to politics inevitably shapes such science, to such science should be kept out of the politics that informs public policy, at least until that politics can be worked out.


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    A contextualized philosophy of science would have enabled us to do our fair share toward resolving this controversy, and surely we should have done no less. This suggests just one of the good things in store if we do make efforts to contextualize philosophy of science.

    Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. Feminist philosophers of science, in collaboration with feminist historians and sociologists of science and feminist scientists themselves, have been pursuing a comprehensive analysis of science in society for years. They have thus given us a model for how to do it—a model that now awaits our attention.

    This page intentionally left blank 3 What Feminist Science Studies Can Offer If philosophers of science could ignore the wider social context of science for much of the twentieth century, feminist philosophers of science could not. That wider social context, after all, was the site of inequality for women—inequality in jobs, inequality in wages, inequality in expectations and treatment both in the home and outside it—and science, feminists were discovering, was helping to perpetuate that inequality.

    Never mind the appalling lack of opportunities for women or downright exclusion of women as practitioners in the histories of all the sciences. The jarring fact was that it was all continuing even at the end of the twentieth century. Rather than helping the cause of equality—by replacing prevailing ignorance and prejudice and misinformation about women with more adequate perspectives—science was doing just the opposite. But how? The task demanded interdisciplinary collaboration and received it.

    And feminist philosophers of science, along with feminist scientists and historians, investigated the actions that needed to be taken in response. What resulted was not only a rich array of resources for dealing with sexism and androcentrism in science—and, by extension, racism and heterosexism and classism and the like—but also an important set of beginnings for generating a contextualized and even, as we shall see, a politicized philosophy of science. If only such standards were rigorously followed, it was suggested, the problems of sexism and androcentrism in science would be, at the very least, much reduced.

    The whole issue of premenstrual syndrome PMS was a case in point. PMS had even been linked to deviant behavior and diminished moral and legal responsibility. The conclusion drawn from all this, of course, was that women, due to their reproductive biology, were less capable than men of holding positions of power and responsibility in society Rittenhouse ; Easteal ; Chrisler and Caplan Nor was there agreement regarding how severe these symptoms had to be in order to count as PMS.

    As a result, a woman suffering from a few low days and a woman suffering from suicidal depression might both be diagnosed as having PMS. And there was no agreement, as well, regarding the necessary timing of the symptoms. Thus, some studies of PMS looked only at the day or two preceding menstruation, while others looked at the week preceding, and still others looked at the two weeks preceding i.

    And there were other problems. For example, most researchers were unable to ascertain which phase of the menstrual cycle their subjects were actually in at the time when symptoms were being monitored, since, among other reasons, menstrual cycles are not all of the same length. The frequent absence of male or anovulatory, amenorrheic, premenarcheal, or postmenopausal female control groups was also a problem, since without such controls, it was impossible to determine if reported symptoms were a function of the menstrual cycle rather than other factors.

    Equally serious methodological problems beset the sexist and androcentric research described in chapter 1. As a result, heart disease in women who, as it turns out, differ from men in symptoms, patterns of disease development, and reactions to treatment was often not detected and not properly managed when it was detected. Such problems could be—and ultimately were—handled simply by following accepted methodological procedures, such as designing clinical studies with groups of subjects that were more nearly representative of the patient population at large see, e.

    Similarly, at least many of the problems relating to PMS could have been handled simply by following such accepted methodological procedures as designing appropriate controls and measurement procedures e.

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    One survey Chrisler and Caplan suggests that this is still not being done. For many feminist scientists of the past, then, rigorously applying accepted standards of good science was the way to eliminate at least much 1. The most commonly used method to determine cycle phase—the calendar method— was also the least reliable.

    The most precise method, on the other hand—hormonal assay—was also the least commonly used due to its expense because behavioral-science researchers lack training in biochemistry, they have to hire others to do the assays Chrisler and Caplan For some of the feminist scientists, however, those accepted standards needed quite a bit of refurbishing in order to meet the goal.

    To whom or what does the concept empirically refer? Does it seem to refer to both sexes but empirically refer to one sex only? Still, the guidelines made no pretense to being comprehensive. Meanwhile, practitioners within the various disciplinary groups were offering their own more trenchant critiques and nonsexist alternatives.

    If it was to avoid the problem of bias, however, what psychology needed to do instead, urged Sherif, was to take account of such factors as the background, personal history, and gender of subjects and experimenters. It also needed to pursue research outside the laboratory or in naturalistic settings. The reason was that novelty, unlike the traditional consistency with established knowledge, would help to free science from a sexist and androcentric past.

    And the ideal of value-free science, in turn, supported just the right conclusion. Indeed, they biased science and thereby jeopardized science as a source of objective knowledge. And this was What Feminist Science Studies Can Offer 55 precisely what feminist scientists pressing for more rigorous application of acceptable methodologies as well as methodological reforms were doing. Of course, by the end of the twentieth century, the ideal of value-free science had fallen into disrepute.

    Mainstream historical scholarship had suggested that the work of even the greatest scientists—even scientists like Boyle and Darwin and Freud and even, perhaps, the great Newton and Einstein themselves—had been shaped by social values see, e. If our conception of science, including our conception of objective science, was to be true to actual science, it could hardly ignore such science as this. Mainstream sociological research, in addition, had suggested that such value-informed science was all but inevitable. The ideal of value-free science, in short, seemed unlikely to be a viable ideal, useful for actual science.

    The ideal of value-free science, in short, according to this line of reasoning, might actually have been incoherent. None of this necessarily tarnished the reputation of the ideal of value-free science among feminists, however.

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    To begin with, none of it was especially new to feminists. Feminist scientists and historians and philosophers had already exposed sexism and androcentrism in even the greatest science see, e. If the greatest science was sexist, that did not mean that sexism in science was therefore acceptable.

    It simply meant that even the greatest science was not acceptable—not objective enough, simply not good enough. If sexist societies produced sexist science, science hardly distinguishable from mere prejudice, that did not mean that the ideal of value-free science was not useful for such societies but rather that it was extremely useful—and desperately needed—for precisely such societies.

    But the reputation of the ideal of value-free science was tarnished for feminists in a different way. That much was well documented by feminist historians of science such as Londa Schiebinger But it also seemed to be as shaped by feminist values as sexist science had been shaped by sexist values—for example, in the questions asked think of Eichler or the factors taken to be relevant when designing experiments think of Sherif or the factors taken to be relevant when constructing or evaluating hypotheses think of Keller and Bleier and Rosser.

    Feminist scientists struggled to respond. Some said that the function of feminist values in their research was purely motivational and not really a part of that research Fausto-Sterling sometimes seemed to move in this direction; see, e. Others said that the function of feminist values in their research was not as a replacement for sexist values but as a new kind of methodological control to prevent the entry of sexist values into that research.

    This was not the only reason feminists became disenchanted with the ideal of value-free science, of course. For example, some feminists argued that objectivity understood as value freedom was a masculinist conception, one that eschewed emotional attachment to the objects of knowledge and also discouraged women as knowers.

    Whenever one performs an experiment, one sets up all the controls one can think of in order to make as certain as possible that the result obtained does not come from any other source. One asks oneself what assumptions one is making. Have I assumed the temperature to be constant? In this way feminist critique should be part of normative science. Like any control, it seeks to provide critical rigor, and to ignore this critique is to ignore a possible source of error.

    Unfortunately, feminist scientists had few suggestions as to what that new understanding might be. Promising candidates are available, of course, but as a group these candidates do not provide consistent advice to scientists or policy makers for ridding science of sexism and androcentrism as well as racism, etc.

    So a careful examination and comparison of their credentials is long overdue. Keep in mind the need for which this consideration is being carried out. The ideal of value-free science promised to play for feminist scientists both an epistemic role and a political role—promised to provide both a way to achieve objective knowledge and by ridding science of sexism, androcentrism, and other inegalitarian values a way to achieve social reform. And, of course, the two roles were connected, for 4.

    Any acceptable replacement for the ideal of value-free science will have to play these two roles as well. And for Longino, that will be a social understanding. According to this ideal, all social values should be welcomed into science—indeed, encouraged—and all social values, and the science they engender, should be subjected to criticism.

    So there is a kind of neutrality here, akin to the ideal of value-free science. What credentials assure us that it will? In her book The Fate of Knowledge , Longino does much to exhibit these credentials. Most important, however, Longino implies that her ideal embodies just what we have been looking for to replace the ideal of value-free science, just what we mean by terms such as knowledge and rationality. Granted, this last accolade somewhat strains credulity. After all, all of us, before Longino wrote, thought we had some handle on the meanings of these terms, but doubtless most of us had no handle on what Longino describes, tempered equality and public venues and uptake and the rest, not even a preanalytic, prearticulated version of what she describes.

    On, then, to the imaginary tale, de rigueur in traditional epistemology. It excludes all those, albeit sometimes talented, persons who fall into various unfavored classes the nonprivileged, the underprivileged. So PETERS, knowing where its bread is buttered and also sharing in the perspectives of the butterers, pursues a particular kind of cognitive enterprise, one that serves its particular needs and interests.

    We can imagine that PETERS regularly holds conferences and publishes journals in which all its members are encouraged to participate and in which all are treated equally. We can imagine that in these venues, prolonged and frequently heated critical exchanges take place, exchanges that pay scrupulous attention to shared standards. We can imagine that follow-up exchanges regularly take place as well. And would that knowledge—if it is knowledge—be free of privilegecentric and privilegist prejudices and thereby a suitable springboard from which to bring about social reform in society S rather than a reinforcement of those same prejudices?

    It would seem that we must answer no. Start the examination again. And would that knowledge—if it is knowledge—be free of privilegecentric and privilegist prejudices and thereby a suitable springboard from which to bring about social reform in society S? Women even succeeded over time in building support for some of these alternatives, even succeeded in crystallizing new feminist research programs around some of them to compete with the older programs, even succeeded in replacing some of the older programs.

    The underprivileged ones in PETERS, though trained in its privilegecentric and privilegist research traditions, then, might come to have the wherewithal to replace them. But then again, they might not. Several academic contributors voiced the opinion that a fear of attacks by students, colleagues and social media activists had hobbled academic research in certain sensitive areas, particularly those that deal with issues of race, gender and colonialism.

    Threats from outside university tend to be more from the right. The threats that come from within university tend to be more from the left. What seems beyond doubt is that there is a growing debate about whether academic freedom is quite as free as we like to imagine.

    For some observers, such as Nesrine Malik, free speech defenders are concealing their real interests behind misleading language. McMahan is what philosophers call a consequentialist, which means that, morally speaking, one judges conduct by its consequences. A mild-mannered vegan, McMahan is not given to shoot-from-the-hip reactions. His preference is to mull over issues, do the research, and then give a measured, rational response. But he clearly feels angered by what he sees as two major misconceptions. The first is that he and his journal co-founders have not faced any real danger, and the second is that they are rightwingers.

    By far the most celebrated figure behind the Journal of Controversial Ideas is Peter Singer , professor of bioethics at Princeton. He is renowned for his work on animal liberation, and is seen by many as the godfather of animal rights as well as the intellectual force behind the growth of veganism. A plain-speaking Australian, Singer has experienced many death threats as a result of his philosophical writings on euthanasia, abortion and newborn infanticide. He was also once physically attacked on stage while trying to give a lecture in Germany. There is of course a distinction to be made between death threats issued by, say, the late Ayatollah Khomeini and those written in green ink by lone fantasists.

    I ask Singer on the phone if he has ever felt under genuine threat.

    Anita Allen

    When I arrived at Princeton I had a meeting with the security people here, at their request, not at mine, in which they told me to take various precautions. So, yes. Yet both Singer and McMahan at are pains to point out that they are senior tenured academics and therefore their careers are largely safe from the kinds of censoring pressures they say are exerted on less established colleagues.

    The idea for the journal came from the third and most junior member of the founding triumvirate, Francesca Minerva, after she received numerous death threats. Minerva is a bioethicist at the University of Ghent. In she co-authored a paper on the moral viability of newborn infanticide. She argued, as have several others, that there is no moral difference between a late abortion and ending the life of an extremely premature baby, and that therefore, at least in principle, both should be allowed.

    In no time, Minerva was inundated with death threats. I call her to find out what happened. But first she wants to emphasise the importance of the public dissemination of intellectual discourse. In her case, some of the public seem to have shirked that responsibility. Watch your back. I live in Melbourne too.

    She was escorted home by a security team and the university instructed her not to return to her office. She stayed at home for several weeks until she decided that if they wanted to find her, they were going to find her. They said I should be killed. If anything, she thinks the more pernicious effect of the intimidation has been on her academic career.