a better standpoint epistemology

A core idea in science is skepticism. We should to test and investigate any claim, including those that we believe in. Standpoint epistemology seems to point in the opposite direction. The core of standpoint epistemology is that one’s relative position in society enables insights that others may not have. This theory was never offered as an attempt to overturn all forms of skepticism, but to point to the fact that people in marginal positions might have valuable insights.

But that leaves open a huge question. How should standpoint epistemology be reconciled with the Popperian view of science? One could make a strong claim that they are inconsistent. Here, I’ll make a more modest, and I think more defensible, claim. There are some easy ways that standpoint epistemology can co-exist with systematic skepticism.

Prior statement of predictions: Before engaging in research, one should develop some sense of what is expected and what might falsify the idea. More importantly, state predictions which are important, interesting or unexpected. And there is no reason that such statements can’t be rooted in personal experience or reflect a specific position in the social order.

Third party verification: When possible,  provide evidence in ways that people from other social positions could examine. Thus, a social position may allow you to generate data, or frame data, it doesn’t mean the data should be inaccessible to anyone else.

Replication: Have people in similar social positions collect or generate data. Reliable data generation is a good thing.

Translation of critics: Standpoint epistemology doesn’t mean that people in other positions are incapable of getting the point. Rather, their terms and frames are different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t translate claims into the discourse associated with different positions.

In other words,  there is no reason to think standpoint epistemology means rejection of conventional approaches to data. Rather, it can be about where the data comes from and the range of languages and frames that can be deployed by a community of scholars. If that can include critics, charitable readings of critics and alternative models, then there is no reason standpoint epistemology can’t be part of the normal daily practice of science.


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Written by fabiorojas

February 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. Feminist STS covers a lot of this ground. See, e.g., Sandra Harding on strong objectivity:, particularly section 5, “Standards for Maximizing Objectivity”.

    Liked by 3 people


    February 28, 2019 at 3:20 am

  2. Thanks for the note!

    Liked by 1 person


    February 28, 2019 at 3:23 am

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