fbpx STS Circle: Matthew Sample on "Imagining Responsibility, Imagining Responsibly" | Harvard Kennedy School
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Date and Location

September 14, 2020
12:15 PM - 1:30 PM EST



​If we cannot define science using only
conceptual analysis or empirical description, then sometimes we must
rely on imagination to provide suitable objects of inquiry. As extensive
work in STS shows, imaginaries frequently fill this role and provide a
cognitive space between real world practice and conceptual abstraction,
bridging social structure and creative human agency. I apply this
insight to academic inquiry that is centered on science, contrasting
recent philosophical theory by Heather Douglas with academic case
studies in technoscience. While the philosophical debate on “values in
science” presumes barriers that shield scientists from many moral
obligations, scholars of technoscience show how responsibility can be
diffused across a network of practice. In both instances, the
imaginaries under consideration may prevent scientists from being held
responsible. This consequential dynamic between mind and social order, I
argue, has urgent methodological implications; it demands an ethics of
imagination in which philosophers of science and other critics of
science hold themselves accountable for their choice of idealization.

Speakers and Presenters

​Matthew Sample


Additional Organizers

​Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences