Calvin O. Schrag has this helpful critique of what he calls the "foundationalist paradigm": It "profeers a theoretical construct of mind that is designed to determine in advance the criteria for what counts as knowledge, both knowledge of oneself and knowledge of the world. It is as though one were required to know how to swim before one swims, or to know grammatical rules of language before one knows how to speak, or to master the criteria for proper etiquette before knowing how to function in society. But to say that one knows before one knows - or indeed to say that one not only knows but knows that one knows, activating the logos of episteme - would seem to catapult the very project of epistemology into a species of philosophical circularity if not indeed philosophical incoherence."
The modern "invention of mind as a transparent mental mirror" and the accompanying invention of "a theoretico-epistemological paradigm that legislates criteria in advance, contributed little to an understanding of the human self in its manifold concretion as speaking and narrating subject." Instead, the modern conceptualization constructed "an abstracted, insular knowing subject, severed from the context and contingencies out of which knowledge of self and knowledge of the world arise. The subject as abstracted epistemological pivot, as atemporal zero-point origin of cognition, is wrested from the lived-experiences of a speaking and narrating self that always already understands itself in its speech and in its narration."
Schrag offers this important qualification: "This does not as such invalidate claims for decontextualized and objectified information about elemental units by linguistic analysis or about methodologically controlled data in the several human sciences, but it does liberate us from the myriad temptations of a reductionism that envisions a knowledge of self and world independent of context."
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, December 04, 2005 at 09:22 AM
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