Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture
This lecture will be held in the Birley Room, Hatfield College. Refreshments will be served from 5pm with the talk commencing at 5:30pm
Many people who have thought about scientific inquiry and about public debate have supposed that dissent is a valuable thing. In this lecture, I attempt to show that there are serious problems about dissent, problems that arise today with respect to some of the most urgent issues human beings face (for example, climate change and world hunger). I begin with the apparently plausible idea that some balance has to be struck between the fostering of dissent and the reliance on consensus. Once that idea is cautiously framed, and attention is given to the various groups within which consensus or dissent might occur, it becomes evident that the problem is multi-faceted. In part it arises from the friction between two important institutions (the system of public knowledge and the framework of economic and commercial activities). In part it also arises from the credit economy that helps to ensure valuable cognitive diversity within the sciences. I argue that the problem should be conceived in terms of this friction, and that the roles of the scientist and of the dissenter need to be more carefully scrutinized and defined. Further, popular slogans about democracy and about freedom of public debate need to be rethought. I conclude by suggesting that philosophy (and philosophy of science) today should renew the project of classical pragmatism.
Do these people happen to notice when things are crashing around their ears?
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