Stephen Francoeur
Libraries are not in the construction business -
Well worth the read! Pull quote: "I want to explain why relativism, in all of its forms, is harmful to librarianship. This type of thinking is self-refuting, it impedes learning, it disenfranchises those who most need our help, it obstructs social progress, and it erodes the value of libraries in society." - Stephen Francoeur
Thanks for sharing my long ass post. - Wilk
Lane, it was really great. I appreciate the effort that went into your post and am eager to read the followup. - Stephen Francoeur
I'll follow up when I get more beer. It takes a minimum of four Yuenglings for me to write anything. - Wilk
So that would be one beer per hour of writing, correct? - Stephen Francoeur
At a bare minimum - Wilk from iPod
Like, but I'll have to read it a couple more times...I'm clearly too old to regard constructivism, um, constructively: I remember how I reacted when a true believer in Wikipedia wrote that, if most people agree that 2+2=5, then 2+2=5. "Batshit" is one way to describe my reaction. (OK, so I'm the son of an engineer and brother of a chemist...) - walt crawford
Walt, i've heard the same strange arithmetic. It's scary how Orwellian constructivism is, isn't it? - Wilk from iPod
It is indeed, and "Orwellian" is a great label. - walt crawford
Lane, I respectfully disagree. - Meg VMeg
Constructivism seems Orwellian when you think you represent the view that should naturally/obviously be in power. - Meg VMeg
I don't believe it's about power; it's about reality. Constructivism denies that there are exterior facts. Those aren't a matter of "power" or "privilege." But I suspect we're not going to agree on this. - walt crawford
We are not. You are correct in that. Whoever is in power effectively defines reality. - Meg VMeg
I come to my philosophy from a background in science (degrees in physics and evolutionary biology). Over the years, the study of science became less interesting to me than the study of how science/knowledge is made (i.e. science and technology studies, which I pursued a doctoral program in before realizing how much I missed my work being hands-on and practical; hence, science librarianship). I love science very much. I don't think that knowledge creation can be objective, though (or I think that "objective" is a more nuanced term than it seems). And I don't think it's helpful to construe constructivism as ignorance, folly, or "a cancer". We disagree so entirely that I don't know where to begin with any point-by-point criticism of this post, and I do know that my energy can be well spent elsewhere, so I'll not say much more. To anyone who thinks that my views on this make me ignorant, foolish, or just generally a dangerous/bad librarian (which this post seems to imply): I've heard worse. I'm fine with it. - Meg VMeg
I don't agree that facts can be made up by voting. Often, the majority is wrong. Even if 99% of people thought 2+2=5, that is still wrong and is not true in fact. Such as when most people thought all the planets and the sun revolved around the earth. Just because lots of people thought that didn't make it true. The external evidence and the facts eventually won. - Joe
Oh, and Meg, I think you are an awesome librarian, that's a fact, Jack. - Joe
Meg: I come to my philosophy from a background in ethics. Specifically, I'm one of those bleeding heart liberals who believes in human rights, equality and freedom from oppression, all of which are explicitly denied by constructivism. For example, I know (not just believe) that it is morally wrong to sentence gays to death for being gay (as is the consensus view in Uganda). I find this practice so abhorrent that I am offended by constructivist suggestions that my moral compass is either imperialist or culturally relative on this issue. I don't deny that there are a lot of biases and social constructs out there. Many of our beliefs are in fact socially constructed. But, not everything is socially constructed. I'm with Latour (who founded STS) when he writes that the goal of social constructionism isn't to show that *everything* is socially constructed, but rather to unmask the cultural biases that mask objectivity, so that we can get closer to the truth. The latter task is commendable, the former is unconscionable. - Wilk
Liking for the awesome sauce that is librarian philosophers. I came to my MLS after masters and a bit of phd work in the Phil of Science, background in evolution and microbiology. I gotta say I'm mostly with Lane on this one...I appreciate coherence views of epistemology, but prefer mine grounded in nice comfy rationalistic facts. Like math, and physics, and human rights. :-) - Jason Griffey
1: Bruno Latour didn't found STS. He originated Actor-Network Theory (ANT). Maybe that is what you are thinking of? - Meg VMeg
2: People can and do violate human rights in the name of science, these things are not mutually exclusive - Meg VMeg
1. Sorry, I got ahead of myself. Latour didn't invent STS, he was just one of the most influential theorists in STS. (cf. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts, 1979) - Wilk
There are things that Are and we cannot change them. We might be able to change representations etc, but that is a different thing. Power will make use of whatever tools it can- relativism, absolutism, whatever. Power is the issue. I come at philosophy from a background in political science and religious studies. - Pete's Got To Go
2. People do violate human rights in the name of science all the time. That's obvious. But all a constructivist can do is "agree to disagree" on these matters because there is no fact of the matter about human rights. As a realist, I can say that these violations are flat-out wrong, and objectively so. - Wilk
My Realist International Politics Professor flat out denied the existence of human rights - Pete's Got To Go
Meg: I have no idea what kind of librarian you are--or *who* you are, for that matter. Not my business. I come from a split background: A degree in rhetoric with an informal manner in math. I don't deny biases and power issues. I do deny that knowledge is a social construct. And, unlike Lane, I have neither the expertise nor time to expand that any further. - walt crawford
Yep, I didn't mean to start a pedigree thread. I only brought up my background because otherwise people assume that I don't know anything about science. I am a "science AND construction" person, not a "science OR construction" person. Walt, would you agree that knowledge is socially constructed (via peer-review, for example)? - Meg VMeg
So, is the fact that the earth rotates around the sun a constructed truth? I don't think so. It is a fact no matter what people think or believe. - Joe from iPod
What Joe sez. Facts are not social constructs, and therefore knowledge is not inherently a social construct. Otherwise, this is just too deep a discussion for FF or my tired brain. You're unlikely to turn me into a constructivist; it's probably a waste of time to try. - walt crawford
Peer-review is a process by which research is vetted to ensure that it tracks the truth. For example, in the sciences, the reviewers examine methodology, instruments, check the math, determine reliability and validity, etc. The process is expressly designed to minimize social or cultural influences and all of this is aimed at tracking the truth, not coming to an agreement. Of course, if you define "construction" in the weak sense of "a process that people were involved in", then sure, peer-review is a social construction, but not in the same sense as the mainline constructionists. - Wilk
Joe, I could write an entire book in answer to that question, but luckily someone else already did a bang-up job of it: - Meg VMeg
"So, is the fact that the earth rotates around the sun a constructed truth? I don't think so. It is a fact no matter what people think or believe." <-- Technically, what is a fact is that the heliocentric model is currently the best explanation for the currently available data. (Also, we *could* declare that 2 + 2 = 5; we would just have to redefine the "plus" function.) - Mark Kille