About the Forum
Forum for the Philosophy of the Social Sciences was founded in 2009. It aims to promote the interdisciplinary discussion of the philosophy of the social sciences. Toward this end, it organizes 3-4 talks each term on some topic within the philosophy of the social sciences. The talks take place at the Faculty of the Social Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. They are typically conducted in Danish.
Fall 2014: Techno-Scientific Worlds in the Social Sciences
Throughout the past 30 years, science and technology studies (STS) have grown into a sizeable interdisciplinary research field, with connections spanning several disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities (history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, political science, geography etc.). Besides placing science and technology centrally in the study of social change, the field of STS has also spawned a number of creative methodological and theoretical innovations, such as actor-network theory (ANT). In this lecture series we seek to take stock of these innovations and their wider implications: what core theoretical and methodological resources does contemporary STS research offer to the other social and human sciences within and beyond the study of techno-scientific worlds? Where are the limitations? What implications follow, for instance, when STS- and ANT-inspired studies highlight the practical and material enactment, not of one shared reality, but of so-called multiple ontologies, of many different realities? Is multiple ontologies in such renditions a new version of well-known relativist stances – or, are we rather dealing with a radical rethinking of the very foundation of the social sciences, beyond social-constructivist and other idioms?
There will be talks by Annemarie Mol (Department of Antropologi, University of Amsterdam), Matei Candea (Social Anthropology Department, Cambridge University), and Brit Ross Winthereik (IT University of Copenhagen)
Spring 2014: Self-Observation in the Social Sciences
The lectures take a closer look at the use of self-observation in the social sciences. The social scientist may use self-observation in the sense of making observations of herself while using these observations as data. Or she may ask others to observe themselves and to register these observations so that she may use them. The use of self-observation raises a number of questions: What kinds of data may be obtained by using self-observation? What is the object of self-observation: Inner experiences, (inter-)subjectivity, culture or society? Are there research question that are best – or may only be – answered by using self-observation? Under what circumstances should self-observation be used? May self-observation be used as method on its own? What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of self-observation? To what extent may – and should – self-observation be used within the social sciences?
There will be talks by Dan Zahavi (Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen), Cecilie Rubow (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen), and Charlotte Baarts og Lina Katan (Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen).
Fall 2013: Big Data in the Social Sciences
As a result of the growth of digital traces that are routinely being registered in data bases by private and public organizations, big data has become the object of increased attention. This series of lectures takes a closer look at the consequences of the occurrence of big data for the social sciences: Is the digital availability of this unprecedented amount of data about human behavior going to lead to fundamental new insights into phenomena like social routines, relations, and networks? How are existing social scientific methods, like the survey and interview, challenged by these new digital data possibilities? What are the potential alliances and conflicts between private firms, public authorities and research institutions when “hunting for” big data? And what new research ethical questions about, e.g., surveillance and the right to privacy, does the social scientist need to address when working with data? The series of lectures provides an introduction to these sorts of problems that are likely to be in focus within the social sciences in many years to come.
There will be talks by Sune Lehmann (Department of Informatics and Mathematical Modeling, Technical University of Denmark), Anders Koed Madsen (Department of Education, Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University), Annamaria Carusi (Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen), and Rasmus Helles (Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen).
Spring 2013: Feminism, Theories of Knowledge, and the Social Sciences
The theme of this series of lectures is feminist theories of knowledge with a specific focus on their use within the social sciences. The following sort of question will be considered: What are the distinctive features of feminist theories of knowledge and how do they differ from other theories of knowledge? What is characteristic of feminist or feminist inspired approaches to social scientific theorizing and research? Do feminist theories of knowledge and approaches take as their main starting point women’s experiences and, if so, to what extent and how? To what extent do feminist theories of knowledge and approaches have a political or emancipator agenda? To what extent do these theories and approaches claim that objective knowledge, and objective social scientific knowledge, is possible?
There will be talks by the following researchers: Nina Lykke (Gender Studies, Linköping University), Robin May Schott (Holocaust and Genocide, DIIS), and Dorte Marie Søndergaard (Department of Education, AU).
Fall 2012: Democratizing the Social Sciences
To what extent, and in what ways, should the social sciences be democratized so that it is not only the social scientists who make all the decisions? This series of lectures examines this complex issue. The issue raises the following sorts of question:
First, what aspects of doing social science should – to some extent –be democratized? Is it the choice of research topics? The methods used? The kind of data collected? The interpretation of these data? The theory that these data are taken to support? Or the application of the findings? It is possible to hold that one or several of these aspects of the scientific process should be democratized.
Second, what is to be understood by democratization? For instance, does it suggest that democratically elected politicians should decide, or at least have a say on, what social scientists do research on or the kind of data to be collected? Or does it signify that the people under study should be involved in, and be allowed to have an impact on, various aspects of the scientific process? Or does it mean that the public (whatever that exactly means) should, to some degree, participate in certain aspects of scientific research?
Third, why hold that the social sciences should be democratized? Is it because this would result in better or higher-quality science? Or are there moral grounds for holding that they should be democratized? And if so, what are these? Or….?
Four researchers will each present their views on these issues: Heine Andersen (Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen), Lene Koch (Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen), and Joachim Halse (Danish Design School). In addition, there will be a Ph.D-course/workshop entitled Democratizing Science at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen.
Spring 2012: Experiments in the Social Sciences
This series of lectures examines the use of experiments within the social sciences: To what extent are experiments used within the social sciences? And to what extent should they be used? In what ways does their use within the social sciences differ from their use within the natural sciences? What form may the use of social scientific experiments assume? What are the advantages and disadvantages of their use within the social sciences? What may be learned from using social scientific experiments? What ethical considerations does the use of experiments within the social sciences give rise to?
Four researchers will each present their views on these issues: Jan Faye (Section of Philosophy, Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen), Jean-Robert Tyran (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen), Mads Meier Jæger (Department of Education, Aarhus University), and Morten Axel Pedersen (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen).
Fall 2011: Research Ethics
This series of lectures takes a closer look at two issues within research ethics. The first is the social scientist’s duty to follow the norms of good science. The second is the social scientist’s duty to be ethically considerate towards the people whose lives and doings she studies.
The social scientist has a duty to ensure that she lives up to the norms of good science when she formulates, carries out, and disseminates the results of, her research project. This point raises questions such as: What are the norms of good social scientific practice? Can these norms come into conflict with each other? Is the researcher always in a position to live up to these norms? And to what extent may the context in which the social scientist works be said to encourage her to abide by, or evade, the norms?
The social scientist’s duty to be ethically considerate towards the individuals, she studies, applies when she decides on her research question and method; when she carries out her research in the field, and when she interprets and disseminates her findings. Accordingly, it is important to take a stance on the following sort of questions: To what extent should ethical considerations influence the choice of the research question and method? Is it always ethically acceptable to do research on individuals? What other – if any – considerations and interests may outweigh the duty to be ethically considerate towards the individuals under study? And to what extent should the social scientist, in the presentation of her findings, take into account their possible consequences for the individuals she has studied?
The speakers are: Claus Emmeche (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen), Steffen Jöhncke (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen), Svend Kreiner (Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen), and Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen (National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark).
Spring 2011: Theories of Practice
Theories of practice have as their focus, or take as their starting point, the study of practices. They reflect the view that the study of practices holds the key to a proper understanding of social life or aspects thereof. This minimal characterization captures what all theories of practice have in common. There are no additional characteristics that all theories of practice share. In this sense, there is not a single but many theories of practice. Still, there are features that some or many theories of practice have in common. By appeal to these, it is possible to single out different, and often overlapping, groupings within the field of practice approaches. The present series of lectures focus on the various groupings within the field of theories of practice. The following sort of questions will be examined: What exactly is a practice? Who are possible participants in a practice? What roles do the participants in a practice have? How do power relations express themselves within practices? On what grounds may it be held that the study of social life should revolve around practices? What particular insights are gained from a focus on practices? What are the limitations of this approach? And what are the methodological consequences of adopting a practice approach? Five researchers will present their answers to these questions: Henrik Vigh (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen), Antje Gimmler (Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University), Lars Fuglsang (Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies, Roskilde University), Bente Halkier (Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies, Roskilde University), and Hans Fink (Department of Philosophy, University of Aarhus).
Fall 2010: The Social Sciences and Interdisciplinarity
This series of lectures looks at interdisciplinarity from a philosophical perspective. More specifically, its focus is the reflections on the nature of science that arise as a result of social scientists’ encounter with other discplines. Accordingly, the discussion of the following sort of questions is encouraged: What is distinctive of the contribution made by social scientists in interdisplinary settings? What characterizes a social scientific approach in interdisciplinary contexts? What limitations associated with a social scientific approach come into view in these contexts? What may social scientists learn from working with scientists from other disciplines? And more generally: What is distinctive of the (social) science that is the outcome of interdisciplinary collaboration? Does interdisciplinary collaboration give rise to better (social) science? Does it lead to new conceptions of the nature of science? What reasons may be advanced in support of interdisciplinary collaboration? Three researchers will each present their views on these issues. They are: Niels Viggo Hansen (Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen), Andreas Roepstorff (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Aarhus) and Poul Bitsch Olsen (The Business Department, Roskilde University).
Spring 2010: The Role of the Social Scientist in Society
What is the role of the social scientist in society? Different – and not necessarily incompatible – answers may be advanced in response to this question. Here are some examples:
The social scientist offers descriptions of alternatives to the dominating form of life in society. The descriptions invite reflection on the fact that there are other – and perhaps better – ways to live.
The social scientist provides causal generalizations or laws about the social realm. On that basis, society may choose to intervene in social life: It may facilitate or impede the occurrrence of a given effect by facilitating or impeding the occurrence of its cause.
The social scientist puts forward analyses as to whether certain internventions in social life have had the desired result. The analyses make it clear whether adjustments of the interventions are required.
The social scientist presents critical accounts of society in the form of demasking analyses of oppressive mechanisms in society. The criticism paves the way for societal action that aims to change the problematic conditions.
The series of lectures on the role of the social scientist in society encourage the discussion of what the role of the social scientist is and should be. Four researchers will each present their view on the matter with a special focus on what role the social scientist should assume. The speakers are: Susan Whyte (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen), Ole Wæver (Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen), Niels Kærgård (International Economics and Policy Division, University of Copenhagen), and Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen (Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School).
Fall 2009: Theoretical Developments within the Social Sciences
The topic Theoretical Developments within the Social Sciences encourages the consideration of questions like the following: What are the dominant theoretical movements within the social sciences right now? What basic claims or assumptions are made by these movements? (For instance, do they focus on individuals, social institutions and structures, or both? Is their ambition to advance causal explanations? Do they hold that the data collected by social scientists fail to reflect reality? And so on.) Do the currently most influential theoretical movements make some of the same basic claims or assumptions? What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the dominant theoretical movements in the social sciences today? Finally, how well do the basic claims or assumptions made by these movements survive critical scrutiny?
Four researchers will each present their perspective on these issues this fall. The speakers are: Finn Collin (Section of Philosophy, Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen), Kirsten Hastrup (Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen), Margareta Bertilsson (Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen), and Lene Hansen (Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen).