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Live at Leeds: Maximum HPS October 8, 2011

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to everyone from Leeds — and Manchester! — for coming out, and for the fine hospitality.  Good night, and see you next time!

Apologies for the lack of substantive posts lately.  My new introduction to the history of science course is starting on Monday, and I’m now in the final stages of overhauling my book manuscript.  Priorities, you know.  Also, I’m heading up to the University of Leeds on Wednesday to kick off the seminar season with a talk entitled “Perspectives on the Possibility for a Science of Policy after World War II”, 3:15pm in the Department of Philosophy, Baines Wing G36 (alas, I don’t think I could fill the Refectory!).  Do come around if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

My book (present title: Rational Action: The Sciences of Policy in Britain and America, 1940-1960) is on a topic that has received a decent amount of attention.  But, to my mind, this attention seems mainly hung up on the idea that the history being told must hinge on some variation on the standard “what happens when you try to apply science to policy?” question.  This was a point I originally made in a BJHS article back in 2007.  My talk will boil down the central point of my book, which is that we need to distinguish different scientific activities from each other, and start to understand how they were built around different tasks, different methods, different notions of what gave knowledge integrity as “science”, how that integrity related to practical decision-making, and what implications that had (or, more often, did not have) for polity in general.  Most significantly, these differing ideas complemented not only each other but traditional decision-making methods, probably more often than they were in competition.

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