Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 08:53 pm
Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism
by: Paul Boghossian
ISBN: 0-19-923041-2
Publisher: Oxford University Press (2006)

OVERVIEW:

Fear of Knowledge is a polemic against extreme relativism and constructivism as far as epistemology is concerned. While the book is subtle and original that philosophers will find depth in the reading, it is written so that it is accessible enough that the non-philosopher can understand the work as well. The idea that knowledge is socially constructed has spread through many fields-except philosophy-and Boghossian both offers a sympathetic look into what that means, and then offers devastating criticisms against the idea.

PRO'S


  • The book is short and to the point. Boghossian wastes few words while examining the topics and offering sound criticism.
  • The arguments for and against the ideas presented are laid out very well
  • Can be read in an afternoon, but provides fodder for future thought. Considering that epistemology can be horrendously boring, its brevity and conciseness are the books virtues
  • Boghossian draws very good examples from the epistemic relativists and the social constructivists to give his opposition a very good case that he ultimately rejects

CONS

  • Offers no real alternatives to either epistemic relativism or social constructivism, as it ultimately only works as a polemic against both topics
  • Very abstract and can be hard to grasp the concepts as is often the nature of epistemic writing
  • Many people would wonder what the point of the book is, and what the fuss is all about without any background in recent epistemological writings.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The way the arguments for and against the ideas presented are laid out. As a result, the arguments are very easy to see and follow, which is necessary considering how abstract the concepts are.

NOTABLE QUOTES:

"A constructivism about truth is incoherent. A constructivism about justification is scarcely any better. And there seem to be decisive objections to the idea that we cannot explain belief through epistemic reasons alone." (129)

"We failed to find any good arguments for constructivist views. In the case of a relativism about justification, what appears initially to be a seductive argument fails to hold up under scrutiny." (129)

"In the United States, constructivist views of knowledge are closely linked to such progressive movements as post-colonialism and multiculturalism because they supply the philosophical resources with which to protect oppressed cultures from the charge of holding false or unjustified views." (130)

"My Rating(1-10): 6.8 - I hated this book the first time that I read it for my epistemology class for which it was required reading. Considering it was my introduction to epistemology outside of the Meno by Plato, I could not figure out what the point of the book was. After becoming more familiar with recent epistemological works the book grew on me a little. If you are interested in epistemology then this should be required reading, but if not, do not bother. There are better things to read if you could care less about the subject.
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 07:22 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;53823 wrote:
If you are interested in epistemology then this should be required reading, but if not, do not bother. There are better things to read if you could care less about the subject.


And if you are uninterested in epistemology, you should not read it at all.
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jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Nov, 2009 08:35 pm
@Theaetetus,
It is not exactly correct to say that "The idea that knowledge is socially constructed has spread through many fields-except philosophy" since this ignores, for example, the life-world philosophy of Alfred Schultz, among others.
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 12:46 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;104767 wrote:
It is not exactly correct to say that "The idea that knowledge is socially constructed has spread through many fields-except philosophy" since this ignores, for example, the life-world philosophy of Alfred Schultz, among others.


I actually pulled that off of the cover of the book. I thought it was an odd statement that probably would have been better left out.
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 01:00 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;104767 wrote:
It is not exactly correct to say that "The idea that knowledge is socially constructed has spread through many fields-except philosophy" since this ignores, for example, the life-world philosophy of Alfred Schultz, among others.


I would imagine he means philosophy in the English-speaking countries, or those influenced by them; i.e. analytic philosophy. I suppose, too, that there is supposed to be some irony lurking in that statement.
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