Cogent Science in Context: The Science Wars, Argumentation Theory, and Habermas
William Rehg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. He is the translator of Jürgen Habermas's
A proposal for an interdisciplinary, context-sensitive framework for assessing the strength of scientific arguments that melds Jürgen Habermas's discourse theory and sociological contextualism.
Recent years have seen a series of intense, increasingly acrimonious debates over the status and legitimacy of the natural sciences. These “science wars” take place in the public arena—with current battles over evolution and global warming—and in academia, where assumptions about scientific objectivity have been called into question. Given these hostilities, what makes a scientific claim merit our consideration? In Cogent Science in Context, William Rehg examines what makes scientific arguments cogent—that is, strong and convincing—and how we should assess that cogency. Drawing on the tools of argumentation theory, Rehg proposes a multidimensional, context-sensitive framework both for understanding the cogency of scientific arguments and for conducting cooperative interdisciplinary assessments of the cogency of actual scientific arguments. Rehg closely examines Jürgen Habermas's argumentation theory and its implications for understanding cogency, applying it to a case from high-energy physics. A series of problems, however, beset Habermas's approach. In response, Rehg outlines his own “critical contextualist” approach, which uses argumentation-theory categories in a new and more context-sensitive way inspired by ethnography of science.
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