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On the epistemic and normative benefits
of methodological pluralism
Federica Russo
Philosophy & ILLC, University of Amsterdam
Science and Technology Studies, University College London
http://russofederica.wordpress.com | @federicarusso
Overview  Techno-scientific practices and the question of method
 Methods in selected episodes of techno-science
 Biomarkers research
 Computational history of ideas
 How to be methodological pluralist
 Building on Hacking’s and Ruphy’s account
 Counteracting methodological imperialism
2
Techno-scientific practices
3
Which unit of analysis?
 Shifting focus:
 from ‘theory’, ‘explanation’, …
 To ‘practices’ of/for …
 How to operate such shift? A question of philosophical methodology
4
The practice turns
5
STS
• Laboratory Studies
• Science-as-practice
• Contemporary practices
matter (hence the need
of anthropology)
Phil Sci
• New Experimentalism
• Experiments and their
materiality matter
• Not all or only about
theory
Phil Tech
• Relevance of the design
process
• Not just about the
nature of technical
objects
• Also about the practice
of engineering
How to study practice,
in practice
 An activity-based analysis:
 Activity: What is being done in the practice in question?
 Aims: What is the inherent purpose of this activity, and what external function does it serve?
 Systematic context: Does the activity constitute a part of a broader system of practices?
 Agent(s): Who is doing the activity?
 The second person: To/with whom?
 Capabilities: What must the agent be capable of, in order to carry out this activity?
 Resources: Which tools are necessary for this activity to be successful?
 Freedom: What kind of choices does the agent make?
 Metaphysical principles: What must we presume the world to be like, in order for this activity
to be coherent?
 Evaluation: Who is judging the results, and by what criteria (in addition to coherence)?
6
Chang, 2014.
“Epistemic Activities and Systems
of Practice: Units of Analysis in
Philosophy of Science After the
Practice Turn.”
In Science After the Practice Turn
in the Philosophy, History, and the
Social Studies of Science
Conceptual
|
Normative|
Historical
Sociopolitical
Selected episodes
7
Exposure research
Multipe methods at work
8
• Statistical analyses
• Analyses of bio-specimens
• Development of theories
• Experiments
• Simulations
• Meta-analyses
• …
9
Computational history of ideas
Multiple methods at work
10
• Close reading and annotation
• Text parsing and text mining
• Development of ontologies
and software
• Conceptual theorising about
‘ideas’, ‘concepts’, ‘theories’
• …
11
Methodological pluralism
12
A descriptive claim
There exist a plurality of methods
In the sciences
Across disciplines
In a same field
In a single research project/domain
…
13
A normative claim
It is good to have a plurality of methods and we
should defend and preserve such diversity
For epistemic reasons
See Crombie-Hacking and Ruphy
For normative reasons
See debate on ‘methodological imperialism’
14
Crombie - Hacking’s styles of reasoning
(i) Method of postulation (e.g. Greek mathematics),
(ii) Experiments,
(iii) Hypothetical construction of analogical models,
(iv) Comparison and taxonomic reasoning,
(v) Statistics and probability,
(vi) Historical derivation of genetic development.
To these six traditions, Hacking adds another one:
(vii) Lab practices to isolate and purify phenomena
By which Hacking means something more specific than method (ii)
15
Understanding the styles
 Don’t try to give precise definitions of each style
 they do not correspond to ‘crystalized’ methods
 Methods
 change across time and disciplines
 are often used in combination
 undergo ups and downs in their success or use
16
Four theses about the styles
(i) We have to focus on what these styles allows us to achieve, for
instance introducing new objects of study, new laws, new explanations,
etc;
(ii) Depending on the style used, we will consider some, but not just
any, propositions as being true or false;
(iii) Styles ‘stabilize’ in different ways, we cannot expect them all to
follow the same path or timeline;
(iv) Styles are grounded in our cognitive capacities.
17
Ruphy’s foliated pluralism
 Foliated pluralism builds on Styles of Reasoning
 Specific theses:
(i) Transdisciplinarity: a style of reasoning does not belong to one discipline
or domain only.
(ii) Nonexclusiveness and Synchronicity: several styles of reasoning can be
combined at any given moment or in any given study.
(iii) Cumulativeness: the use of multiple styles of reasoning leads to enlarging
the basket of styles, rather than superseding anyone of them.
18
Enriching the ontological space of
scientific objects
 Using styles in combination vs triangulation
 Different styles give us different kinds of information about a
same scientific object
 Ontological enrichment is open-ended
19
Examples:
mixed methods and evidential pluralism
 MMR: the combination of qualitative and quantitative
methods
 No hierarchy, various ways of combining methods
See also QCA
 What each method give us information about?
 Evidential pluralism
 An epistemological and methodological thesis about how to establish
causal claims
 ‘Reinforced concrete’ metaphor
20
The perils of methodological
imperialism
Why is methodological pluralism important?
21
A battlefield
 A constant attempt to impose one method over another, and
across disciplines
 Some episodes of methodological imperialism may start as
healthy cases of interdisciplinary exchanges
 See e.g. economics, neuroscience
 See also use of RCTs in social science domain or education
22
Imperialistic attitudes of
potential outcome models
 Imperialism over a single study
 The study of Bukodi and Goldthorpe on social class returns due to higher
education
 The use of observational, retrospective data to study causes of effects
 The criticism Clarke, Legewie and Solga
 They should have used potential outcome models to study effects of causes
 Imperialism on a whole field
 Hernán and the plenary of World Congress of Epidemiology
 ‘causal questions are well-defined when interventions are well-defined’
 The reply of Vandenbroucke and Broadbent
 These are severe and dangerous restrictions on methodology and evidence
23
Epistemic diversity
Why is methodological pluralism good?
24
From methodology to epistemology to
normative issues
 Methodological pluralism is not just about ‘more methods’
 It is also about ‘more voices’
 Methodological pluralism is in line with feminist epistemologies and the
need to enlarge the scope of admissible and legitimate voices and
standpoints
 Epistemic diversity is a needed for methodological, epistemological, and
normative reasons
25
To sum up and conclude
26
 Questions about methods are at the core of Philosophy of Science
 How to ask questions about methods may make a difference
 Try with a practice-based approach!
 Shifting focus to the practices of science makes it very visible that
multiple methods are used
 Across fields
 Within a single field
 In a single study
 Methodological pluralism is a descriptive thesis and a normative
one
 We need to strive for methodological diversity to enrich the ontological
space of objects and to increase epistemic diversity
27
On the epistemic and normative benefits
of methodological pluralism
Federica Russo
Philosophy & ILLC, University of Amsterdam
Science and Technology Studies, University College London
http://russofederica.wordpress.com | @federicarusso
Wanna know more? Check out 👉
Thanks for your attention

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On the epistemic and normative benefits of methodological pluralism

  • 1. On the epistemic and normative benefits of methodological pluralism Federica Russo Philosophy & ILLC, University of Amsterdam Science and Technology Studies, University College London http://russofederica.wordpress.com | @federicarusso
  • 2. Overview  Techno-scientific practices and the question of method  Methods in selected episodes of techno-science  Biomarkers research  Computational history of ideas  How to be methodological pluralist  Building on Hacking’s and Ruphy’s account  Counteracting methodological imperialism 2
  • 4. Which unit of analysis?  Shifting focus:  from ‘theory’, ‘explanation’, …  To ‘practices’ of/for …  How to operate such shift? A question of philosophical methodology 4
  • 5. The practice turns 5 STS • Laboratory Studies • Science-as-practice • Contemporary practices matter (hence the need of anthropology) Phil Sci • New Experimentalism • Experiments and their materiality matter • Not all or only about theory Phil Tech • Relevance of the design process • Not just about the nature of technical objects • Also about the practice of engineering
  • 6. How to study practice, in practice  An activity-based analysis:  Activity: What is being done in the practice in question?  Aims: What is the inherent purpose of this activity, and what external function does it serve?  Systematic context: Does the activity constitute a part of a broader system of practices?  Agent(s): Who is doing the activity?  The second person: To/with whom?  Capabilities: What must the agent be capable of, in order to carry out this activity?  Resources: Which tools are necessary for this activity to be successful?  Freedom: What kind of choices does the agent make?  Metaphysical principles: What must we presume the world to be like, in order for this activity to be coherent?  Evaluation: Who is judging the results, and by what criteria (in addition to coherence)? 6 Chang, 2014. “Epistemic Activities and Systems of Practice: Units of Analysis in Philosophy of Science After the Practice Turn.” In Science After the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and the Social Studies of Science Conceptual | Normative| Historical Sociopolitical
  • 9. • Statistical analyses • Analyses of bio-specimens • Development of theories • Experiments • Simulations • Meta-analyses • … 9
  • 10. Computational history of ideas Multiple methods at work 10
  • 11. • Close reading and annotation • Text parsing and text mining • Development of ontologies and software • Conceptual theorising about ‘ideas’, ‘concepts’, ‘theories’ • … 11
  • 13. A descriptive claim There exist a plurality of methods In the sciences Across disciplines In a same field In a single research project/domain … 13
  • 14. A normative claim It is good to have a plurality of methods and we should defend and preserve such diversity For epistemic reasons See Crombie-Hacking and Ruphy For normative reasons See debate on ‘methodological imperialism’ 14
  • 15. Crombie - Hacking’s styles of reasoning (i) Method of postulation (e.g. Greek mathematics), (ii) Experiments, (iii) Hypothetical construction of analogical models, (iv) Comparison and taxonomic reasoning, (v) Statistics and probability, (vi) Historical derivation of genetic development. To these six traditions, Hacking adds another one: (vii) Lab practices to isolate and purify phenomena By which Hacking means something more specific than method (ii) 15
  • 16. Understanding the styles  Don’t try to give precise definitions of each style  they do not correspond to ‘crystalized’ methods  Methods  change across time and disciplines  are often used in combination  undergo ups and downs in their success or use 16
  • 17. Four theses about the styles (i) We have to focus on what these styles allows us to achieve, for instance introducing new objects of study, new laws, new explanations, etc; (ii) Depending on the style used, we will consider some, but not just any, propositions as being true or false; (iii) Styles ‘stabilize’ in different ways, we cannot expect them all to follow the same path or timeline; (iv) Styles are grounded in our cognitive capacities. 17
  • 18. Ruphy’s foliated pluralism  Foliated pluralism builds on Styles of Reasoning  Specific theses: (i) Transdisciplinarity: a style of reasoning does not belong to one discipline or domain only. (ii) Nonexclusiveness and Synchronicity: several styles of reasoning can be combined at any given moment or in any given study. (iii) Cumulativeness: the use of multiple styles of reasoning leads to enlarging the basket of styles, rather than superseding anyone of them. 18
  • 19. Enriching the ontological space of scientific objects  Using styles in combination vs triangulation  Different styles give us different kinds of information about a same scientific object  Ontological enrichment is open-ended 19
  • 20. Examples: mixed methods and evidential pluralism  MMR: the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods  No hierarchy, various ways of combining methods See also QCA  What each method give us information about?  Evidential pluralism  An epistemological and methodological thesis about how to establish causal claims  ‘Reinforced concrete’ metaphor 20
  • 21. The perils of methodological imperialism Why is methodological pluralism important? 21
  • 22. A battlefield  A constant attempt to impose one method over another, and across disciplines  Some episodes of methodological imperialism may start as healthy cases of interdisciplinary exchanges  See e.g. economics, neuroscience  See also use of RCTs in social science domain or education 22
  • 23. Imperialistic attitudes of potential outcome models  Imperialism over a single study  The study of Bukodi and Goldthorpe on social class returns due to higher education  The use of observational, retrospective data to study causes of effects  The criticism Clarke, Legewie and Solga  They should have used potential outcome models to study effects of causes  Imperialism on a whole field  Hernán and the plenary of World Congress of Epidemiology  ‘causal questions are well-defined when interventions are well-defined’  The reply of Vandenbroucke and Broadbent  These are severe and dangerous restrictions on methodology and evidence 23
  • 24. Epistemic diversity Why is methodological pluralism good? 24
  • 25. From methodology to epistemology to normative issues  Methodological pluralism is not just about ‘more methods’  It is also about ‘more voices’  Methodological pluralism is in line with feminist epistemologies and the need to enlarge the scope of admissible and legitimate voices and standpoints  Epistemic diversity is a needed for methodological, epistemological, and normative reasons 25
  • 26. To sum up and conclude 26
  • 27.  Questions about methods are at the core of Philosophy of Science  How to ask questions about methods may make a difference  Try with a practice-based approach!  Shifting focus to the practices of science makes it very visible that multiple methods are used  Across fields  Within a single field  In a single study  Methodological pluralism is a descriptive thesis and a normative one  We need to strive for methodological diversity to enrich the ontological space of objects and to increase epistemic diversity 27
  • 28. On the epistemic and normative benefits of methodological pluralism Federica Russo Philosophy & ILLC, University of Amsterdam Science and Technology Studies, University College London http://russofederica.wordpress.com | @federicarusso Wanna know more? Check out 👉 Thanks for your attention

Editor's Notes

  1. Techno-scientific practices are very diverse in terms of conceptual assumptions and methodological approaches across the sciences, and even within a given field or empirical study. A de facto existence of a plurality of methods raises immediately the question of the status of any plularistic approach. In this talk, I first provide an overview of the multiple ways in which we encounter a pluraity and diversity of methods across a number of techno-scientiic domains. I then defend a qualified form of methodological pluralism, one that builds on the work on Hacking’s ‘styles of reasoning’ and on Ruphy’s ’foliated pluralism’. I argue that we ought to support a pluralistic stance concerning methods for both epistemic and normative reasons. In particular, I will expose the benefits of a pluralistic approach against the perils of ‘imperialistic’ attitudes, namey the tendencies and attempts to impose the supremacy and use of one method only. I illustrate my claims with examles from the biomedical and social sciences.
  2. What is exposure research How it goes beyond traditional epidemiology Technology plays a major role in this fundamental change
  3. Emphasise that this is important because biomarkers are not there for us to find, as cherries on a tree or strawberries in a bush Remember passage in Hacking Repr & Inter, where he also says that it would be miracoulous if sci phenomena were out there to be picked as cherries on a tree
  4. What it is – digital humanities > history of ideas + computational methods Research currently done in-house!
  5. Techno-scientific practices are very diverse in terms of conceptual assumptions and methodological approaches across the sciences, and even within a given field or empirical study. A de facto existence of a plurality of methods raises immediately the question of the status of any plularistic approach. In this talk, I first provide an overview of the multiple ways in which we encounter a pluraity and diversity of methods across a number of techno-scientiic domains. I then defend a qualified form of methodological pluralism, one that builds on the work on Hacking’s ‘styles of reasoning’ and on Ruphy’s ’foliated pluralism’. I argue that we ought to support a pluralistic stance concerning methods for both epistemic and normative reasons. In particular, I will expose the benefits of a pluralistic approach against the perils of ‘imperialistic’ attitudes, namey the tendencies and attempts to impose the supremacy and use of one method only. I illustrate my claims with examles from the biomedical and social sciences.