Ignorance Production and Corporate Science
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This thesis is a philosophical exploration of “agnotology”, the study of ignorance or non-knowledge, and focuses on the production of ignorance for private interests. In particular, I argue that corporate science often deliberately produces ignorance in an effort to promote corporate interests. My thesis is structured into five chapters. In Chapter 1, I introduce agnotology and outline Robert N. Proctor’s three categories thereof: ignorance as native state, ignorance as selective choice, and ignorance as active construct. In Chapter 2, I present a review of the agnotological literature on the basis of which I argue for two expanded categories of ignorance: ignorance from ideology, and ignorance from interest. In Chapter 3, I address the question of the normative assumptions underlying agnotology. As well, given agnotology’s task of unpacking the values laden in science, agnotology’s normative conception of science may stand in tension with a conception of science as objective, neutral inquiry. In the end, I argue that agnotologists need not deny science’s objectivity when they view science as value-laden. In Chapter 4, I present a case study. Through an agnotological analysis, I argue that some HPV vaccine legislation was passed via agnogenesis. I also argue that the silencing of vaccine skeptics is a form of agnogenesis. This case, interpreted in the light of the novel agnotological framework developed in Chapters 2 and 3, supports my main thesis that corporate science serves primarily corporate interests via agnogenesis. And, finally, in Chapter 5, I present concluding remarks, draw out the limitations of the thesis, and offer suggestions for directions of future research.