Responsible innovation and the philosophy of technology

Several posts here have focused on the philosophy of technology (link, link, link, link). A simple definition of the philosophy of technology might go along these lines: Technology may be defined broadly as the sum of a set of tools, machines, and practical skills available at a given time in a given culture through which human needs and …

Influences and arguments

Lately I've been writing about the influences that can be discerned in the theories of John Rawls.  Rawls was a "social contract theorist"; to what extent were his theories shaped and framed by his reading of the great contract theorists such as Locke, Rousseau, or Kant?  He was also influenced by the history of economic …

Scott’s social imagination

Image: Le Corbusier, Paris planWhat is most remarkable about Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed is the texture and grain of the argument that Scott makes. This is a high-resolution argument that leaves little to doubt. The guiding thesis is original and striking enough -- that a …

Creativity, convention, and tradition

images: Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906); Courbet, Burial at Ornans (1849) Conventions define how to do things correctly -- trim the hedges, choose an outfit for an evening at the opera or the racetrack, how much to tip the server. They also define or constrain productions in the arts -- writing a short story …

Social change in rural China

Contemporary China is a vivid demonstration of the fact that sociology is not a "finished" science. The processes of change that are underway in both rural and urban settings are novel and contingent. Existing sociological theory does not provide a basis for conceptualizing these processes according to a few simple templates -- modernization, urbanization, structural …

Innovative social science research

What are some ways in which the community of social science researchers can arrive at useful innovations in theory and method in order to do a better job of understanding society? This is a central topic in the conversation I had with David Featherman this week at the University of Michigan. David is professor of …

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