Rethinking Ontology in Science Studies: The Return of Dialectics

  • Author / Creator
    Hayden, Spencer
  • This thesis is framed in terms of a larger project — articulating a dialectical materialist conception of STS based, largely, on the work of Marx and Engels. Here, “materialist” is to be understood as a commitment to the proposition that being precedes thought in the order of ontological primacy; it is a dialectical approach to the traditional epistemological and ontological problematic presented as an inversion of the idealist dialectic of Hegel. Specific emphasis will be placed on the work of Engels (as he is responsible for most of the pair’s thoughts on scientific methodology) and his work The Dialectics of Nature. The overall goal is twofold. Firstly, it is to articulate and defend the general form of Engels’ materialist dialectics. And secondly, as a function of said rehabilitation, it is to make the case that the theory provides a firmer epistemological and ontological base for STS in contrast with the popular flat ontological “new materialist” approaches gaining traction in the literature, with specific emphasis on actor-network theory (ANT). This will be accomplished through an exploration of the literature on social constructivism in STS leading into the development of ANTs oppositional “constructivism”. To that end, I examine a case in disability studies to demonstrate the utility of understanding social construction in dialectical terms. Finally, an exploration of what I take to be some of the strengths of the dialectical materialist approach to STS more broadly will be explored in the final chapter in contrast to the general trend in new materialist scholarship to move away from subjectivity and anthropocentric notions of reality and scientific practice.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.