Shifting Ground: Knowledge and Reality, Transgression and Trustworthiness

Shifting Ground: Knowledge and Reality, Transgression and Trustworthiness

Shifting Ground: Knowledge and Reality, Transgression and Trustworthiness

Shifting Ground: Knowledge and Reality, Transgression and Trustworthiness

Excerpt

Or, rather, multiple introductions. In addition to needing to be introduced to several diverse groups of readers, the essays in this collection need to be introduced to each other. They were each written in response to a specific request, framed around a specific set of questions, and for a more or less specific audience. They appear here essentially unrevised, in part to reflect the fact that my most productive philosophical thinking is provoked by conversations about topics as diverse as controversies between Native Minnesotans and University plant genomics researchers about wild rice, and the experiences of variously transsexual and transgendered people in navigating through social spaces that render them unintelligible. I suspect that this sort of attachment to questions and problems that are not, as initially encountered, distinctively philosophical is more than an idiosyncrasy. Rather, it suggests one sort of answer to the question of what a philosopher moved by Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations might go on to do.

In addition to attending to problems that are not specifically—and, in Wittgenstein’s view, problematically—philosophical, the essays reflect several other features of my Wittgensteinian approach: I do not aim at a theory of anything, but rather at ways of seeing sets of practices as connected to each other and my accounts of them as connected to the work of others. Thus, I suggest that we need, not concepts or even conceptualizations, so much as ways of attentively and critically looking and listening—of theorizing, recognizing that theorizing is itself a set of shared practices, materially situated and subject to critique. Similarly, I do not attempt to provide foundational justifications, aimed at convincing any rational reader. Rather, I take my readers to be “fellow travelers”: not adherents to some party line or other, but literally, on a journey away from some things and toward others, sharing—depending on the particular contexts and conversations each essay seeks to intervene in—enough of what we take those things to be. And while I intend to be persuasive, I think less of logical coercion than of an invitation—to dinner, for example, including the likelihood of finding yourself seated next to someone you thought you couldn’t or wouldn’t talk with, who perhaps seems initially utterly unintelligible.

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