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Scientism and its Discontents

by Susan Haack

Susan Haack’s Scientism and its Discontents is based on her September 2016 Agnes Cuming Lectures at University College, Dublin.

In Defending Science—Within Reason (2003), Haack argued that neither the cynicism then in vogue among post-modernist, post-colonialist “science critics,” nor the uncritical deference characteristic of scientism, is defensible. The achievements of the sciences deserve our respect, even our admiration; but, like all human enterprises, the sciences are fallible, imperfect, stumbling, and susceptible to corruption.

These days, anti-scientific cynicism seems to be waning; but scientism, the opposite extreme, is flourishing—in public-policy debates, in the legal system, in education, and in philosophy. In Scientism and its Discontents Haack shows that this new scientism is no less confused, and no less damaging to our intellectual culture, than the older cynicism.

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