So, the dissertation has been making massive progress recently. I'm feeling very good about the current draft. It needs some revisions; more cites, a few little fixes, but everything feels like it hangs together nicely in a lovely grand pattern of argument. I'm feeling so good about it I not only anticipate defending it within a few months, but am contemplating publication prospects.
I do feel, however, that there is one place where the draft is extremely thin, and that is in the realm of political/ethical consequences of the views advocated. I don't want to make that a major theme of the work at all, and it's probably good to have it be pretty minor for dissertation purposes, but I also think that if I do try to get it published, including slightly more than a passing mention of politics could help sex it up a bit.
So, anyway, some of my biggest philosophical heroes, the boys of the Vienna Circle, idealized and very nearly fetishized objectivity. They called themselves "logical" postivists because they were obsessed with the new logic, and its potential to help produce truly universal intellectual standards. They were also obsessed with science (many were scientists) because the dramatic results obtained by scientific methods suggested to them that science had good intellectual standards.
They were also a bunch of commies. Well, not all of them, but certainly two of the three leaders, Carnap and Neurath, were very far left. These two facts may seem to be unrelated, but to them, they were not. First, the Logical Positivists saw truly universal standards as inherently democratic and egalitarian; as defining good inquiry in a way which made it possible for anybody to employ them. Second, in the context of the time, the social sciences were dominated by Marxist notions. Marx may not have been a very good scientist, but he stressed heavily the notion that social science should be scientific, in his rhetoric if not in his practice. Comte, of course, the source of the name "Positivism", equally emphasized the use of science in looking at society. Since the social sciences were generally left-wing, providing standards which the social sciences could attempt to live up to created the potential that the left-wing results of the social science investigations could be defended as objective, thus hopefully increasing their authority.
In more recent times, there has been a sharp divorce between the radical left and the idealizers of science. Science and its ideals of objectivity are often portrayed by the radical leftists as tools of oppression, entrenching the values of the privileged Western elite. The positivists themselves are often accused of having done this (almost always by people who are completely unaware of the actual positivist attitudes toward privilege; they could argue that the positivists tried and failed to be radical, but most of the critics don't actually know positivism well enough to be remotely aware the positivists tried).
In this dispute, I'm almost entirely on the side of the old fashioned positivists. My dissertation defends the ideas of a unified science and methodological absolutism about truth (though stressing that both are worthy for purely pragmatic reasons, not because of any connection to the fundamental nature of reality). I would like to include a bit about how the politically motivated criticisms of such ideals are especially misguided, but I'm not quite sure how to do it yet. Anybody have any good recommendations for work on the political consequences of ideals of scientific objectivity? I guess recent stuff I have looked at closely which was on my side included Louise Antony's "Quine as Feminist", and I've read some of Richard Miller's stuff for the anti-objectivity side.