Knowledge by Agreement: The Programme of Communitarian Epistemology

Knowledge by Agreement: The Programme of Communitarian Epistemology

Knowledge by Agreement: The Programme of Communitarian Epistemology

Knowledge by Agreement: The Programme of Communitarian Epistemology

Synopsis

Knowledge by Agreement argues for two controversial ideas: that knowledge is a social status (like money or marriage) and that knowledge is primarily the possession of groups rather than individuals. Martin Kusch defends the radical implications of his views: that knowledge is political, and that it varies with communities. Martin Kusch's bold approach to epistemology is a challenge to philosophy and will arouse interest in the wider academic world.

Excerpt

Contemporary philosophers can be classified in terms of the other—non-philosophical—fields of inquiry that most impact on their respective philosophical work. For present-day epistemologists and philosophers of science the most influential fields are cognitive science, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and physics. I belong to the small minority that believes that some of the most important challenges to philosophy today come from the sociology of knowledge. In this programmatic essay I sketch how epistemology must change if it wishes to do justice to what is valuable and lasting in the sociologists' insistence that knowledge is a social institution. This essay is not, however, an introduction to the sociology of knowledge. I seek to bring out the fundamentally social nature of knowledge through a discussion of philosophical theories. My aim is to arrive at, or recapture, some of the sociologists' insights by discussing philosophical texts and arguments.

I am grateful to the University of Cambridge for a sabbatical term in the autumn of 1999, and to the British Academy for a Matching Term Award in the spring of 2000. Most of the book was written during this period of eight months. I spent the autumn of 1999 at my old alma mater, the University of Edinburgh. Special thanks are due, as always, to Carole Tansley for her friendship and for her help with a thousand practicalities. Celia and David Bloor entrusted their exquisitely furnished New Town flat into my clumsy hands. (No wonder that David's influence can be felt throughout the pages that follow: most of these pages were written in his study.) For this many thanks.

As far as commentators are concerned, I am most grateful to David Bloor (again), David Chart, Harry Collins, Michael Esfeld, Sarah Gore Cortes, Jeremy Gray, Matthew Ratcliffe, Simon Schaffer, and two anonymous referees for Oxford University Press. All of them read the whole manuscript and made numerous critical and constructive comments. Anjan

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