Developing an Interdisciplinary Philosophy and Ethics of Science and Engineering for International Collaboration on Complex Social Problems
09 / 2008 - 09 / 2011
With its many benefits of improved health and increased affluence, modern technological culture also generates complex social problems. Foremost among these are challenges of globalization, environmental sustainability and the quality of life in technological cultures. In facing these problems, society can benefit from the knowledge produced by the humanities, because they are fundamentally issues of human values?of living rightly and well on a finite planet. But the problems do not obey disciplinary borders and by nature require interdisciplinary collaboration. Humanities scholars, and philosophers in particular, need to question their received disciplinary training and learn how to communicate, research, and teach across and beyond the ivory towers of the academy. In this task, humanities scholars face epistemological, methodological, institutional, and pedagogical challenges. This grant proposal brings together an international group of three institutions in philosophy and humanities for a series of three workshops on the challenges of interdisciplinarity in dealing with complex social problems in which science and technology have a major role. Philosophers, and humanities scholars more generally, cannot contribute significantly to the solution of complex social problems of this kind unless they collaborate with scholars in other fields, such as science and technology studies (STS), policy studies and science and engineering. Philosophers bring special strengths in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, amongst others, but these need to be combined with the strengths of other disciplines to face the practical and normative challenges of complex social problems. Drawing from our mutual strengths in philosophy and ethics of science and engineering, and bringing in colleagues from other relevant fields, such as STS, policy studies, and science and engineering, we plan a series of joint activities that aim to explore the challenges of interdisciplinarity in studying and developing solutions for complex social problems involving science and technology. We plan to develop a number of solutions to these challenges and to study how we can implement such soltions in teaching and how we can communicate them effectively to other audiences. Our focus will be on three complex social issues: environmental change, the problems of globalization, and the quality of life in a technological culture. To address these issues, we plan to have a series of three joint workshops. Deliverables from the workshop series will be threefold. First, we will contribute to a handbook on interdisciplinary research and publish a special volume of a scientific journal. Second, we will develop a common website on ?Social and Philosophical Studies of Technology and Science.? Third, we will develop curricular tools for improving the teaching of problem-based, interdisciplinary courses.