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Summarizing this century's major debates over realism and the rationality of scientific knowledge, Joseph Rouse believes that these disputes oversimplify the political and cultural significance of the sciences. He provides an alternative understanding of science that focuses on practices rather than knowledge.
Rouse first outlines the shared assumptions by ostensibly opposed interpretive stances toward science: scientific realism, social constructivism, empiricism, and postempiricist historical rationalism. He then advances cultural studies as an alternative approach, one that understands the sciences as ongoing patterns of situated activity whose material setting is part of practice. Cultural studies of science, the
author suggests, take seriously their own participation in and engagement with the culture of science, rejecting the purported detachment of earlier philosophical or sociological standpoints. Rather, such studies offer specific, critical discussions of how and why science matters, and to whom, and how opportunites for meaningful understanding and action are transformed by scientific practices.
Joseph Rouse is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University and the author of Knowledge and Power: Toward a Political Philosophy of Science, from Cornell.