Annemarie Mol: “Relative realities, theoretical sensitivities”

Science studies brought the sciences down to earth. Instead of accepting the existence of ‘universals’, it explored how facts relate to local practices and what it takes to transport them. This is to not say that ‘it all depends from which side you look at it’. For reality-in-practice is not the focus point of many perspectives, but rather variously enacted, variously done. An anatomists enacts a body as a three dimensional substance; a physiologists as a set of processes. When a patient has pain upon walking, a surgeon may (anatomically) operate on her arteries while a physiotherapists will rather (physiologically) encourage her to train her walking. In this context, to say that bodies are multiple is not just a theoretical move, but also an interference with a (medical) world where some versions of reality (more static, easier to measure) tend to win out over others (more fluid, more relevant to daily life). It allows for ontological politics. With which repertoires do we order the world?

Additional questions present themselves. How, in combination with realities, are goods and bads being done? How are processes being ordered – e.g. in the linear mode of decisions and choices that depend on control; or in the iteratively tinkering mode that befits care? And what about spatialities: how do varied local sites and situations relate?

In my talk I will not answer these questions extensively, but lay them out in some detail to argue that philosophy of (or in) the social sciences should not aim to lay foundations. Rather than offering handholds, we better foster inquisitiveness, engage in explorations and cultivate everyone’s sensitivities.

Bemærk: Foredraget vil blive holdt på engelsk.

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