Page:Lawhead columbia 0054D 12326.pdf/13

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division of scientific labor is a natural, reasonable, and deeply effective response to a messily complex world. The “gobbledygook” that Maxwell decries is (as Butterworth notes) a kind of sophisticated short-hand meant for communication between experts themselves, not between experts and the public; the problem there, then, is less with the science itself and more with the communication of science. The problem, to put the point another way, is that it is difficult for working scientists themselves to take a high-level view of the project as a whole, and to see the scientific forest for the experimental trees. This, perhaps, is where a philosopher might help.

Butterworth closes his article with a few distinctly philosophical-sounding assertions.

Science is a form of systematised pragmatism: it finds out what works, and in the process we increase our understanding of the universe in which we live. I have no objection to philosophers watching, and trying to understand and improve the processes. It might even work. But they really ought to (and often do) have an understanding of what they are watching. … This is worth discussing, and I sincerely hope philosophers of science can do better than Maxwell in contributing to a debate of huge significance for the future of our species.

I agree whole-heartedly with this sentiment. Philosophers of science do indeed need to do better with regard to climate science—it is a real, pressing issue: perhaps the most pressing contemporary scientific issue facing us. To a very great extent, this means doing something: the degree to which philosophers have engaged with climate science at all is minimal even compared to the general paucity of philosophical contact with applied contemporary social issues. While some people in philosophy departments have begun to take notice of this (more on this later), it is high time that more followed suit, and that this became a topic of wide-spread discussion among philosophers. It is in this spirit that this project is conceived; my hope here is not to solve the climate change problem (that is not my job), nor is it simply to provide the kind of abstract theoretical criticism that Butterworth rightly calls down Maxwell (as a representative of philosophy of science generally) for being obsessed with. Rather, it is to sketch the lay of the