Jeff Kochan

Published On


Page Range

pp. 17-52

Print Length

35 pages

Chapter One - The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, Phenomenology, and the Problem of the External World

  • Jeff Kochan (author)
Chapter One begins with a nod to the so-called ‘science wars,’ a heated intellectual dispute which erupted in the 1990s. One battle in this multifaceted dispute was over the purported idealism of SSK practitioners. This charge of idealism was motivated by SSK’s alleged philosophical scepticism about the existence of the external world. However, as Kochan demonstrates, SSK practitioners have almost never denied the existence of the external world. On the contrary, they have often educed arguments against external-world scepticism, and they have usually insisted that a belief in the existence of the external world is central to SSK’s method of social-scientific explanation. Nevertheless, Kochan argues that SSK practitioners’ attempts to deflect external world scepticism are less successful than they could be, and hence that their method continues to be vulnerable to sceptical attack. At root, external-world scepticism presupposes the fundamentality of the modern subject-object distinction. Although SSK practitioners have sought, in various ways, to shake off the more troublesome aspects of this distinction, he argues that they nevertheless have remained committed to it at a basic, tacit level. This commitment is evinced in their acceptance of external-world scepticism as a legitimate problem of knowledge. Kochan helps SSK out of this bind by combining it with Heidegger’s phenomenology of the subject as ‘being-in-the-world.’ He suggests that by adopting Heidegger’s alternative account of subjectivity, SSK practitioners will no longer be vulnerable to the threat of external-world scepticism, since they will no longer be wedded to the model of subjectivity which fuels that threat.


Jeff Kochan