From a review of Sandra Harding’s Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities

Drawing upon contemporary literature in the history and philosophy of science, Harding argues that the alleged ‘objectivity’ of the sciences has for too long disguised its parochialism and ‘Eurocentrism’ and allowed it to provide intellectual legitimacy to projects of Western cultural and intellectual imperialism. To this end, she focuses on the exclusion of ‘peoples at the peripheries of modernity’, namely women and the peoples of non-Western cultures, exposing the marginalization of their values and perceptions, and calls for ‘realistic reassessments of both Western and non-Western knowledge systems and the social worlds’ they are embedded within (pp.5-6). The result is an ambitious and persuasive call for philosophers of science to take seriously, and engage with, social justice projects and political policymaking. This need not entail an abandonment of traditional philosophical concerns with, say, the role of values in science or the foundations of scientific knowledge, since, as Harding emphasizes, these all pertain to the authority of the sciences: her ‘postcolonial’ focus simply takes these familiar topics of philosophy of sciences and extends them into the social and political sphere.

In other words, Harding is consistent in repeating some of her longest held claims. But here’s the issue and one that Harding is always scrupulous in avoiding. On the one hand, I think it’s unwise for scientists to make claims for being value-neutral and operate with a pretense that the bad-old days (eugenics, etc.) are over, even though they are not. And I am also aware how “science” itself is a word that should be killed off over time, given the way in which various people in the humanities beat up on “science”–as if it were a univocal assemblage. On the other hand, I also worry about the increased “scientism” of politics and thus don’t want scientists focusing on politics–we have seen where that goes.