OBJECTIVITY IN CONTEXTS

In September 2022 I start my 5-year Academy Research Fellow project Objectivity in Contexts, funded by the Academy of Finland. The aim of the project is to find out whether the notion and the normative ideal of objectivity can be salvaged. In the philosophy of science, the idea that objectivity is something we should strive for has faced harsh criticism. And the philosophers who nevertheless have attempted to defend it, have identified so many different meanings of objectivity that the notion seems not only contested, but also extremely complex conceptually. Many have suggested that we should simply abandon it. However, in practice it matters little whether philosophers stop using the notion or not, as it is used widely in public discourse. Objectivity is often cited as one of the main reasons why science has an epistemically authoritative position in contemporary societies. It would be useful if philosophers of science could provide a good understanding of what it means for something to be objective. In this project I strive to produce such an understanding.

THE RISK ACCOUNT OF SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVITY

In three recent articles I defend, develop, and use what I call the risk account of scientific objectivity. “Defending a Risk Account of Scientific Objectivity” was published in the BJPS issue 71:4 as the editor’s choice article. “Objectivity in contexts: withholding epistemic judgement as a strategy for mitigating collective bias” was published in the Synthese topical collection ‘Objectivity in Social Research’. “Participation and Objectivity” is forthcoming in Philosophy of Science (preprint available also here). With the risk account, I try to bring some unity to the discussion about scientific objectivity. I argue that many of the diverse meanings of objectivity recognised in the recent literature can be covered with a single account: When we call something objective, we say that we rely on it, and that others can safely do so too, because important epistemic risks arising from our imperfections as epistemic agents have been effectively mitigated or averted.

The risk account of scientific objectivity is the main result of my three-year postdoctoral project ‘A new problem of demarcation: Democratisation of science as a challenge to objectivity‘ (2016–2019) funded by the Academy of Finland.

SOCIAL AND COGNITIVE DIVERSITY IN SCIENCE

I currently work as a senior research fellow in the four-year project ‘Social and Cognitive Diversity in Science: An Epistemic Assessment‘ (2018–2022), led by Kristina Rolin and funded by the Academy of Finland. We aim to answer three main questions: What are the epistemic benefits of social and cognitive diversity in science? Under what circumstances does social diversity give rise to cognitive diversity, and social/cognitive diversity to epistemically valuable outcomes? And how should scientific communities and institutions manage epistemic costs and risks related to increased social and cognitive diversity? A joint paper by Rolin and me, “Scientific/Intellectual Movements Remedying Epistemic Injustice: The Case of Indigenous Studies” was published in the proceedings of PSA 2018 in Philosophy of Science.

GLOBAL EPISTEMOLOGIES AND PHILOSOPHIES OF SCIENCE

David Ludwig, Zinhle Mncube, Luana Poliseli, Luis Reyes-Galindo, and I have edited a book titled Global Epistemologies and Philosophies of Science. It will be published by Routledge in 2021. The book is an invitation to broaden agendas of academic philosophy by presenting epistemology and philosophy of science as globally engaged fields that address heterogeneous forms of knowledge production and their interactions with local livelihoods, practices, and worldviews. The first chapter, “Philosophy or Philosophies? Epistemology or Epistemologies?” by Ludwig and me, can be found here.

INTERDISCIPLINING THE UNIVERSITY – PROSPECTS FOR SUSTAINABLE KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION

I was a member of the research team in the four-year research project ‘Interdisciplining the university – Prospects for sustainable knowledge production‘, led by Mikko Salmela and funded by the Academy of Finland. This interdisciplinary project combined philosophy of science with STS in order to study tensions that arise from the recent shift from discipline-driven to more demand-driven university research characterized by a greater significance of inter- and transdisciplinarity. The project centered around a large, philosophically grounded case study at a technical university which was undergoing a radical structural change. The main results of the project are forthcoming.

DEMARCATION IN THE HUMANITIES

In 2015 I published a popular book titled Villi Suomen historia [The wild history of Finland]. In it I used pseudoscientific theories of the history of Finland as examples in order to illustrate philosophical discussions about demarcation between science and pseudoscience. The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and the Finnish Association for Scholarly Publishing chose Villi Suomen historia as the Science Book of the Year 2015.