By Barbara Herrnstein Smith

ISBN-10: 0674064925

ISBN-13: 9780674064928

Fact, cause, and objectivity--can we continue to exist with out them? What occurs to legislations, technological know-how, and the pursuit of social justice whilst such rules and beliefs are rejected? those questions are on the middle of the controversies among traditionalists and "postmodernists" that Barbara Herrnstein Smith examines in her wide-ranging booklet, which additionally deals an unique viewpoint at the perennial--perhaps eternal--clash of trust and skepticism, on our want for highbrow balance and our event of its inevitable disruption. concentrating on the at the same time difficult impasses to which those controversies frequently lead and at the charges--"absurdity," "irrationalism," "complicity," "blindness," "stubbornness"--that quite often accompany them, Smith stresses our tendency to offer self-flattering purposes for our personal ideals and to or demonize the causes of these who disagree with us. Her account of the ensuing cognitive and rhetorical dynamics of highbrow clash attracts on fresh study and concept in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, developmental psychology, and the historical past and sociology of technological know-how, in addition to on modern philosophy and language concept. Smith's analyses take her into vital ongoing debates over the potential of an goal grounding of criminal and political judgments, the ongoing price of Enlightenment rationalism, major demanding situations to dominant principles of clinical fact, and correct responses to denials of the factuality of the Holocaust. As she explores those and different controversies, Smith develops clean how you can comprehend their causes and energies, and extra confident how one can see the operations of highbrow clash extra ordinarily.

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Extra info for Belief and Resistance: Dynamics of Contemporary Intellectual Controversy

Sample text

They are also signs, I think, of the more fundamental instabilities and incoherences of the classic accounts of truth, knowledge, and language that generate such distinctions: the idea, for example, that certain discourses-notably those of history and, as we would say now, science-offer (at least ideally) direct, objective, and thus properly credible representations of an autonomous reality, or the corollary idea that such discourses are (at least ideally) quite distinct from such manifestly rhetorical and presumptively non-credible discourses as poetry and fiction.

Second, past and recent history indicates that the political/pragmatic effectiveness of specifically transcendental appeals can hardly be counted on. Third, nothing in a non-objectivist's intellectual commitments obliges her to contemplate such conditions of peril or injustice passively. To be sure, what she will do about them-in default of issuing resounding condemnations on putatively objective groundscannot be described in general terms. er immediate community or relatively remote), the opportunities for effective response presented by her own circumstances and resources (whether, for example, she already has normative authority in the relevant community or must first acquire it), and so forth.

The preceding description of how and why beliefs about belief seem to be changing does not speak of enlightenment or progress. It evokes reasons (plural and heterogeneous), but not Reason, and, emphasizing specific disciplines and intellectual domains and the ongoing projects of selected academic (and other) populations, it does not speak of science or human knowledge in the abstract.

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Belief and Resistance: Dynamics of Contemporary Intellectual Controversy by Barbara Herrnstein Smith


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