Longino begins with a detailed discussion of a wide range of contemporary thinkers who write on scientific knowledge, clarifying the philosophical points at issue. She then critically analyzes the dichotomous understanding of the rational and the social that characterizes both sides of the science studies stalemate and the social account that she sees as necessary for an epistemology of science that includes the full spectrum of cognitive processes. Throughout, her account is responsive both to the normative uses of the term knowledge and to the social conditions in which scientific knowledge is produced.
Building on ideas first advanced in her influential book Science as Social Knowledge, Longino brings her account into dialogue with current work in social epistemology and science studies and shows how her critical social approach can help solve a variety of stubborn problems. While the book focuses on epistemological concerns related to the sociality of inquiry, Longino also takes up its implications for scientific pluralism. The social approach, she concludes, best allows us to retain a meaningful concept of knowledge in the face of theoretical plurality and uncertainty.
Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a mythic figure in science. Hailed as the father of modern anatomy and neurobiology, he was largely responsible for the modern conception of the brain. His groundbreaking works were New Ideas on the Structure of the Nervous System and Histology of the Nervous System in Man and Vertebrates. In addition to leaving a legacy of unparalleled scientific research, Cajal sought to educate the novice scientist about how science was done and how he thought it should be done. This recently rediscovered classic, first published in 1897, is an anecdotal guide for the perplexed new investigator as well as a refreshing resource for the old pro.
Cajal was a pragmatist, aware of the pitfalls of being too idealistic—and he had a sense of humor, particularly evident in his diagnoses of various stereotypes of eccentric scientists. The book covers everything from valuable personality traits for an investigator to social factors conducive to scientific work.
Providing precepts intended to stimulate and discipline thought, the authors explore issues related to framing research questions, measuring the accuracy of data and uncertainty of empirical inferences, discovering causal effects, and generally improving qualitative research. Among the specific topics they address are interpretation and inference, comparative case studies, constructing causal theories, dependent and explanatory variables, the limits of random selection, selection bias, and errors in measurement. Mathematical notation is occasionally used to clarify concepts, but no prior knowledge of mathematics or statistics is assumed. The unified logic of inference that this book explicates will be enormously useful to qualitative researchers of all traditions and substantive fields.