practical epistemology

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 21 Oct 1994 13:33:55 JST

In our thread on Taussig John Stevens writes:

"In my own work and the work of a few acquaintances, there
seems to be trend of turning away from the evil Cyclopean West
to discussing particular interactions. What I seem to find is
that the constructions andf representations I'm seeing spring
from a more complicated process of under- standing and
conceptualizing that is not only firmly based in the context of
the moment ("the moment of inscription" as Gabrielle Spiegel
calls it), but in the events and influences leading up to that
moment and the expectations and goals of observer and
observed and all others around them."

To me, this trend is an altogether happy one. In my own work
(in both advertising and anthropology) I've consistently found
that digging into particulars is more productive than bellowing
across categorical boundaries. Which leads to the following
thought--it seems to me that we have reached agreement on
Taussig and are ready to move on. There seem to be several
contributors to the list who are interested in epistemological
issues in doing social science, and Steven's remark seems to me
a useful place to begin. My own particular interest lies in what I
conceive (depending on my mood) as "less-than-perfect
methodology," "practical epistemology" or (when I'm feeling
pomo) "epistemological praxis." Then problem, as I see it, is
nicely captured in Wittgenstein, in the shift from the "perfect-
pictures of the world-as-facts" goal of the _Tractatus_ to the
"language games" and "forms of life" of the _Philosophical
Investigations_. The latter being specific to particular persons
and situations, the kind of analysis Steven's suggests is, I
believe, the way to go.

Would anyone care to pursue this line?

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)