Evaluating Science on Epistemic and Moral Grounds (Formerly, Putting Anthropomorphism in Context)

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Karen Arnold
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In recent years several philosophers of biology have proposed a pluralistic approach to science. In The Disorder of Things, John Dupré argues for a version of pluralism. Pluralists of all breeds must deal with a familiar class of worries that are routinely expressed at the suggestion of any move away from monism. One such worry is that pluralism is a relativistic position in which "anything goes" in science. In this paper I examine Dupré's proposals for saving his pluralism from the much-feared overly permissive relativism. I use a case study to exhibit the types of standards, both epistemic and moral, Dupré suggests we use to judge a scientific idea. This case study illustrates Dupré's proposals in the context of the debate surrounding the use of anthropomorphic language in sociobiological accounts of rape. This paper has three goals. First, it aims to explain and illustrate Dupré's method for distinguishing good science from bad science. Second, it attempts to show that anthropomorphism's problems extend beyond concerns about its epistemic credentials. Third, it defends Dupré's mode of evaluation against some pressing objections.

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