The Sphere of Critical Thinking in a Post-Epistemic World

Steve Fuller


Just as political theorists have long argued that democracy is viable only in communities of certain sizes and shapes, perhaps epistemologists should also entertain the idea that knowledge is possible only within certain social parameters-ones which today's world may have exceeded. This is what I mean by the "postepistemic" society. I understand an "epistemic society" in Popperian terms as an environment that fosters the spirit of conjectures and refutations. After castigating analytic philosophers for their failure to see this point, I show how Rousseau and Feyerabend occupy analogous positions as critics of, respectively, the nation-state and Big Science. Rather than endorsing the disestablishment of the state, however, I offer a proposal for reinjecting the critical attitude into Big Science. It involves heightening the sporting character of scientific disputes, perhaps even to the point of enabling the public to bet on their outcomes.


social epistemology, cognitive norm, criticism, Rousseau, Feyerabend, naturalized epistemology, democracy, science, social psychology, expertise, politics, accountability

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ISSN: 0824-2577