Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Source of Knowledge in Experience

Someone just asked me why this blog, with its dual interests in analytic feminist theory and philosophy of science (and, especially, in their intersection) is called "Knowledge and Experience."

Identifying the source of knowledge as being in personal, but als
o (and necessarily) shared experience is a presumption of both feminism and of science. Naturalism is therefore a fitting methodology for investigating social groups and gender relations, as it is for investigating natural phenomena. A recurring theme we have taken up in the blog is how experience grounds knowledge, how experience shapes what investigations are taken up and which theories are accepted, and how a failure to take experience into account is often to blame for misconceptions about how the natural and social worlds work.

Philosophers who theorize about inquiry and about social action, as we do, have an interest in doing philosophy in a way that touches, moves, nudges, directs the world outside of academic philosophy. We fall short when we are unable to communicate the importance of theory outside of our circle. In endorsing pragmatism (and dismissing a certain kind of metaphysical posturing), William James wrote that
the only things that shall be debatable among philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from experience. (Things of an unexperienceable nature may exist ad libitum, but they form no part of the material for philosophic debate.)

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