Nature and Society

Authored by: Byron Kaldis

Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory

Print publication date:  March  2011
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415548250
eBook ISBN: 9780203875575
Adobe ISBN: 9781135997946

10.4324/9780203875575.ch26

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Abstract

Recent developments in the biological sciences and the neurosciences (see Gunnell's chapter in this volume) have been perceived as either drastically altering the disciplinary landscape within which the social sciences are located or as altogether threatening the very epistemic standing of the social sciences. In some cases such developments have been explicitly posited as attempts to usurp the role of the social sciences as distinct discourses dealing with human beings and their social and political action. It is noteworthy, from a sociological point of view, that such attempts have not only been obviously controversial ever since their inception but also, interestingly, they have met with opposition coming from where one would least expect: their most vehement opponents have come more from the ranks of fellow life scientists and rather less from practitioners of the social sciences (though we should mention feminist critics, and in particular feminist biologists, being also the most vociferous; cf. Fausto-Sterling 1997). Another point regarding the epistemological aspect of the dispute and the relative status of disciplinary dichotomies must be underlined at the outset: it has to do with scientific language. A central part of the terminology, having at first been inherited by biology from social sciences and bearing anthropomorphic marks, is then lent back to the human domain as part of the social-scientific explanations that the life sciences offer.

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