Learning from Ignorance: Agnotology's Challenge to Philosophy of Science

Doctoral Dissertation


The recent commercialization and privatization of scientific research has reconfigured the organization of science worldwide, fostering new scientific practices and new political tools to manage scientific research. Focusing on the mechanisms of ignorance production, the recent literature in agnotology has been a fruitful approach for understanding the social and epistemological consequences of commercialized science today. In particular, agnotology has made evident the need for a well-articulated normative approach capable of identifying and evaluating the epistemic concerns raised by the private funding and performance of science. Although philosophers of science have dealt with some of the social aspects of scientific knowledge production, they have yet to articulate an appropriate social epistemology that addresses these pressing issues. In my dissertation I take up this task.

The aim of this dissertation is two-fold. First, through the examination of four crucial cases of agnogenesis — i.e., the tobacco industry’s support of cancer research, the ongoing debate over global warming, the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over clinical trials, and economists’ assessment of the financial crisis of 2008 — and of the epistemic and social problems that they entail, I aim to show that agnotology poses a serious challenge to philosophy of science. Second, I aim to provide a preliminary sketch of a normative approach in philosophy of science to address this challenge. To do so, I use the science and values framework and in particular the contributions of feminists philosophers of science who have dealt with similar challenges. Following the insights from feminist philosophy of science, I argue for a naturalized social epistemology that allows for the empirical assessment of value commitments and that is explicit as well as critical about the social and political values it endorses. This preliminary sketch opens the door for a broader philosophical project, the project of a politically informed philosophy of science.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04142014-174648

Author Manuela Fernandez Pinto
Advisor Janet Kourany
Contributor Janet Kourany, Committee Chair
Contributor Chris Hamlin, Committee Member
Contributor Don Howard, Committee Member
Contributor Phil Mirowski, Committee Member
Contributor Anjan Chakravartty, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2014-04-09

Submission Date 2014-04-14
  • United States of America

  • ignorance-constructive practices

  • agnotology

  • social epistemology of science

  • commercialized science

  • feminist philosophy of science

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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