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May 2012: Helen Longino

posted Apr 30, 2012, 4:40 PM by Peggy DesAutels   [ updated Apr 30, 2012, 4:53 PM ]
Helen Longino

Stanford University
Helen Longino's teaching and research interests are in philosophy of science, social epistemology, and feminist philosophy. She is the author of Science as Social Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 1990), The Fate of Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 2001) and many articles in the philosophy of science, feminist philosophy and epistemology. Her many co-edited volumes include Feminism and Science (Oxford University Press, 1996); Scientific Pluralism, Vol. XIX of the Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science (University of Minnesota Press, 2006) and Competition: A Feminist Taboo? (The Feminist Press, 1987).

In philosophy of science, Longio disambiguated the claim that science is value-free by distinguishing between constitutive and contextual values and argued that standard approaches to scientific methodology could not guarantee the freedom of science from contextual (social) values. The idea that science is objective could nevertheless be rescued by adopting a deeply social epistemology, that takes critical interaction as a central element of scientific methodology. A consequence of this view is that scientific communities must cultivate diversity in their membership and engage with researchers outside those communities. This obligation is not absolute, as all critical interactions must satisfy certain conditions in order to qualify as objective. This places the outsider and insider on equal footing, in principle if not in practice.

As a feminist philosopher, she analyzed the evidential structure of research on the biological bases of alleged gender differences, demonstrating that they could satisfy internal methodological requirements while nevertheless being structured by masculinist bias. Longino also undertook a criticism of the standardly cited cognitive virtues by contrasting them with values endorsed by feminist scientists and philosophers of science. Her forthcoming book,
Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexual Orientation, is due from University of Chicago Press in late 2012. This work examines the logical structures and interrelations of purportedly competing approaches in the study of behavior as well as their social and cultural reception and uptake. She plans to return to developing the ideas in her version of social epistemology now that this book and her term as department chair are (almost) completed.

Longino has had positions at University of California, San Diego, Mills College, Rice University, University of Minnesota, and is currently Clarence Irving Lewis Professor in Philosophy at Stanford University. She has lectured and/or taught in many European countries, as well as in Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, and New Zealand. She served as member of the APA CSW from 1984 to 1987, and as its chair from 1991-1994. She was active in the founding of the journal
Hypatia and served on its advisory board for many years. She has also served on various other committees of the APA and the PSA, and was recently elected to the Vice Presidency of the PSA. She will become President of that association in January 2013.