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Helen Longino

Helen Longino
Born 13 July 1944
Died avbo
Institutions Mills College, Rice University, University of Minnesota, Stanford University
Main interests
Feminist theory, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, social empiricism

Helen E. Longino (born 13 July 1944) is an American philosopher of science who has argued for the significance of values and social interactions to scientific inquiry.


A former member of philosophy and women's studies faculties at Mills College, Rice University, and the University of Minnesota, Longino is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Stanford University in California, USA. She earned her PhD from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland under the supervision of Peter Achinstein. She served as President, Philosophy of Science Association, January 2013-December 2014.

In her first book, Science as Social Knowledge (1990), Longino argued for the relevance of social values, or values which are part of the human context of science, to the justification of scientific knowledge as objective. She argues that observations and data of the sort taken by scientists are not by themselves evidence for or against any particular hypotheses. Rather, the relevance of any particular data for any given hypothesis is decided by human beliefs and assumptions about what kinds of data can support what kinds of hypotheses. Moreover, even when the relevance of evidence is decided, there remains a logical gap between evidence and full justification of interesting scientific theories (the traditional philosophical problem of underdetermination of theories). This gap, too, must be bridged by beliefs and assumptions about legitimate reasoning in order for evidence to help us decide which hypotheses to accept as true.

Fortunately, the use of diverse perspectives to criticize hypotheses can turn some of those hypotheses into scientific knowledge. Hypotheses become knowledge when they are subjected to scrutiny from diverse perspectives, especially by those with diverse beliefs and values. In contrast to those philosophers who would point to the two evidential gaps above to argue that science is not objective therefore, Longino argues that scrutiny by those with diverse values can instead support the objectivity of science. Accordingly, our values which do not immediately seem to have anything to do with science are crucial to the objectivity of pieces of scientific knowledge, and science can be objective precisely because it is not value-free.

Longino's more recent book The Fate of Knowledge (2002) explored the critique of science and philosophy of science from sociology of science.

Though her work on the nature of scientific knowledge is broadly feminist in the sense that it argues for the value of contributions by diverse people (and accordingly the value of the contributions of women) to science, some of Longino's other work has been more explicitly feminist and concerned with women. She has written about the role of women in science and is a central figure in feminist epistemology and social epistemology. Beyond the study of knowledge, her writing has included the analysis of the nature of pornography and the circumstances under which it is morally problematic.



  • Longino, Helen E. 1990. Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02051-5
  • Longino, Helen E. 2002. The Fate of Knowledge. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08876-4
  • Longino, Helen E. 2013. Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality, published by University of Chicago Press.

Chapters in books

  • Longino, Helen E. 1992. Essential Tensions—Phase Two: Feminist, Philosophical, and Social Studies of Science. in Ernan McMullin, editor. The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Longino, Helen. 1993. Subjects, Power and Knowledge: Description and Prescription. in Feminist Philosophies of Science in Feminist Epistemologies, Alcoff, Linda (Ed). New York: Routledge.
  • Longino, Helen E. 1994. The Fate of Knowledge in Social Theories of Science. in Frederic Schmitt, editor. Socializing Epistemology: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Longino, Helen E. 1996. Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Values in Science: Rethinking the Dichotomy. in Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Jack Nelson, editors. Feminism, Science, and the Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
  • Longino, Helen E. 1997. Explanation V. Interpretation in the Critique of Science. Science in Context 10.
  • Longino, Helen E. 2000. Toward an Epistemology for Biological Pluralism. in Richard Creath and Jane Maienschein, editors. Biology and Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Longino, Helen E. 2002. Behavior as Affliction: Common Frameworks of Behavior Genetics and Its Rivals. in Rachel Ankeny and Lisa Parker, editors. Mutating Concepts, Evolving Disciplines: Genetics, Medicine, and Society. Boston: Kluwer Academic.
  • Longino, Helen E.
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