Susan Haack on Scientism

I’m grateful to the fine folks at the Bubble Chamber for the pointer to this video of Susan Haack’s seminar “Six Signs of Scientism” at the University of Western Ontario:

The audio quality is not good, but her arguments appear to be largely the same as those she makes in this paper (thanks to “Adult Child” for that pointer).
Professor Hack has plenty of interesting and thought-provoking things to say. These include a nice discussion of demarcation and a quick history of the word “scientism” which was not originally pejorative. Like most people today, though, Haack does use the word pejoratively and her definition of scientism is a good one:

“a kind of over-enthusiastic and uncritically deferential attitude towards science”

However, it’s a little different from the one I tend to:

“the idea that scientific progress requires the existence of current scientific institutions”

Then there’s the definition offered up at Wikipedia:

“the idea that natural science is the most authoritative worldview or aspect of human education, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life”

Maybe the differences are ultimately more linguistic than semantic, but if one feels the need to be pejorative, it’s probably a good idea to know what one is trying to be pejorative about. Would it be the presumed superiority of enquiry over other occupations; the presumed superiority of one method of enquiry over others; the presumption that enquiry is only valid if conducted by individuals with particular qualifications; or the presumption that those qualified to conduct valid enquiry should be treated as inherently more valuable than those who are not?

What do you think?

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