Rethinking the relation between science and politics in the context of Covid-19 pandemic

2019-2020 Summer
Faculty Department of Project Supervisor: 
Foundations Development Program
Number of Students: 

This research program offers an analysis and evaluation of the nature of the relation between science and politics. As science and technology becomes more and more involved in both our public and private life, it becomes more and more necessary to reconsider how their powers will affect our lives and how can these affects would be governed for the common interests of the people considering science is merely an instrument which can be used for the benefit or the harm of the people. We know that science and technology eases our life by enhancing our intellectual capacities (with artificial intelligence) and our physical capacities (with robotization), or protects us from possible dangers which threaten our very biological existence on this planet such as climate change or pandemics; however our question is, does it also possess threats to our wellbeing in case it is left ungoverned? The main purpose of the program is to discuss the possible dangers of science constituting an autonomous power of its own.
We are proposing a two-staged program for this aim. In the first stage, which will cover the first 2 weeks of the program, we are going to study the theoretical framework of the matter in the context of the Baconian conception of knowledge. According to Francis Bacon, who is one of the precursors to inquire into both the nature of scientific knowledge and how this body of knowledge should relate to our political actions, scientific activity is the genuine method to attain scientific knowledge which is the genuine type of knowledge. Bacon’s conception of knowledge, his ideas concerning science, experimentation, induction, methodology and Man’s dominion over Nature have become idiosyncrasies of what has been known as modern philosophy. This novel conception of knowledge has brought out an important shift from the traditional conception of knowledge developed by ancient and medieval philosophers on one hand and led to new epistemological problems in modern philosophy on the other. We are going to discuss the political implications of this shift with reference to the Aristotelean conceptions of technê and phronesis on one hand and Horkheimer’s conceptions of ‘Objective Reason’ and ‘Subjective Reason’ on the other.
For the next 2 weeks period, we are going to try to assess and evaluate how these discussions may shed light to a world where science and technology has covered all aspects of life. This discussion will involve the mode of thinking and acting which science and technology harbor, the instrumental character of this mode of thinking and acting, the unlimited powers of science and technology, the political dangers of such an unlimited and instrumental mode of thinking in the political space. With respect to our discussions concerning the characteristic nature of scientific activity and its relation to our political activity, we are going to examine and report what kind of decision, regulation and audit mechanisms should be devised in order for science and technology to be used for the wellbeing and common interests of the people. The study will be conducted in the cases of the global crisis of Covid-19.
We are anticipating publishing an academic paper and making conference presentations as the outputs of the project.
The proposed PURE project aims to bring together students from various backgrounds who are interested in:
•    Studying history, philosophy and/or sociology of science along with political theory and philosophy
•    Thinking on issues such as scientific method, scientific truth, scientific practice and technocracy
•    Researching and discussing on the Covid-19 case; examining the role assumed by scientific institutions and technical intergovernmental organizations in this case; how these organizations influenced the political space (e.g. political actors, public spaces, private spaces, public opinions); what possible dangers for the people does this influence bear; what measures should be taken to protect the people from such dangers while canalizing the power these organizations possess to the wellbeing of the people.

Related Areas of Project: 
Political Science

About Project Supervisors

Ilgın Aksoy
Department of Philosophy,
Middle East Technical University
Kerem Bora
Foundations Development Directorate,
Sabancı University