Monday, June 4, 2012

Knowledge in Its Varieties

It seems to me that philosophical discourse about knowledge, at least in the so-called analytic tradition, has become dominated by the philosohpy of science, as though science where the only kind of knowledge. And Colin McGinn has even called for philosophy to rebrand itself as a kind of science, ontic science. While Julian Friedland has proudly proclaimed that Philosophy is Not a Science, he has done so mostly to assert that, at its best, philosophy "can yield knowledge at times more reliable and enduring than science, strictly speaking." That is to say, science remains the standard by which he judges.

This is nuts, though I don't quite know what to do about it.

I suspect that Latour's focus on modes of existence will be most helpful in that it focuses our attention, not on epistemology, but on metaphysics. For I think that's where the work has to be done. The science-centric world assumes one Realm of Being, far which there are various ways of knowing, some better than others, with science being The Best and superstition and religion beint The Worst. What I'm hoping from Latour is that he, in effect, argues for multipe Realms of Being such that there can be specific methods of knowledge appropriate to each. The focus has to shift toward the world to be known, and away from the method of knowing.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, as a reminder, Philip Kitchner has written The Trouble with Scientism: Why history and the humanities are also a form of knowledge, (in The New Republic) by an exchange with Jerry Coyne at Coyne's blog. It's fairly standard stuff, but worth a quick read. It doesn't indicate how to get there, but it's good enough to indicate that there IS someplace else.

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