What is natural about epistemology naturalized?
Naturalized epistemologies open up an impressive range of resources and possibilities to participants in successor epistemology projects. The new naturalisms promise to dissolve many of the prohibitions and exclusions that have held the principal Anglo-American epistemologies of the twentieth century at a distance from the very knowledge they claim to explicate. They shift epistemology away from idealized abstraction to establish connections with epistemic practice that could enable theories of knowledge to engage constructively and critically with everyday cognitive activities. Neither committed to analyzing what ideal knowers ought to do nor constrained to devoting their best efforts to silencing the sceptic, naturalists assume that knowledge is possible and seek to understand its real-world (natural) conditions. They abandon any quest for a priori, necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge in general, to examine how epistemic agents actually produce knowledge, variously, within the scope and limits of human cognitive powers as these powers are revealed in the same projects of inquiry. In this essay I ask how epistemologists working, specifically, from a feminist a might best draw on these resources.(1) According to Sabina Lovibond, feminists have good reasons to participate in a naturalistic revival. Feminist theory, she contends, is
indebted to the efforts of philosophy over
the last century and more to "naturalize"
epistemology.. to represent the activity we
call "enquiry" as part of the natural history
of human beings. For naturalist or materialist
analyses of the institutions of knowledge-production
-- schools, universities, the wider
"republic of letters" --have made it possible
to expose the unequal part played by different
social groups in determining standards of
judgement... They have revealed the ideological
character of value-systems which
have passed as objective or universally
Feminists are engaged, albeit from diverse theoretical positions, in demonstrating how epistemologies -- often tacitly --carry within them a potential either to sustain a social-political status quo or to promote emancipatory ends. Tracing the effects of theories of knowledge in the world where knowledge is sought and made, feminist and other critiques of epistemology have demonstrated that epistemic agendas and social-political commitments are inextricably intertwined and mutually constitutive.(3)
Naturalistic analyses of institutions and processes of knowledge-production contribute invaluably to projects of explicating the repressive and/or potentially transformative consequences of epistemic assumptions in their trickle-down effects in everyday knowledge making.(4) Although investigations of the emancipatory potential of theories of knowledge have not been much in fashion or favor in the heyday of twentieth-century preoccupations with determining necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge in general, it is worth recalling that, historically, such investigations commanded wider respect. For example, Plato's quest for principles of certain knowledge was animated by his need to ensure that the guardians in the Republic would exercise knowledgeable authority; and Bacon believed scientific inquiry would contribute to securing the best life for humanity.(5) Marxist commitments to developing emancipatory epistemologies that could shatter the naturalistic illusions of the capitalist social order are well known.(6) And the early positivists proclaimed the benefits of scientific knowledge for liberating humanity from thralldom to religious or metaphysical excesses by enhancing standards of "clarity and responsibility."(7) It is this kind of interest that the new naturalists might be able to reanimate.
In this essay, then, I endorse Lovibond's hopes for a naturalistic engagement with questions about knowledge when the aspirations of "the epistemological project" are under strain from post-modern, post-colonial, and post-patriarchal critiques. I offer some suggestions about how feminists can make the most of the rich possibilities that a well conceived (natural historical) naturalism has to offer. Yet I engage critically with naturalism's most successful North American version--the line that claims an originary debt to the work of W.V.O. Quine --regarding features that, on my reading, limit its promise. My contention will be that the transformative potential of this strand of naturalism is thwarted in three principal ways which are interconnected, mutually informative, and yet separable. First, naturalistic venerations of physical science as the only "institution of knowledge-production" that is worthy of analysis tend to generate an excessive and reductive scientism. Second, Quinean naturalists' consequent reliance on scientific psychology and cognitive science as uncontested sources of exemplary knowledge of human cognitive functioning begs the question about the epistemic status of psychology itself Third, naturalism works with contestable representations of "nature," both physical and human. I elaborate the first and second set of issues in the next section of this essay, and the third in section three. In section four I sketch out a version of naturalism that could enable feminists to reclaim the promise that I, with Lovibond, see in epistemology naturalized.
2. Natural Science, Human Subjects
It is impossible in one essay to address the whole vast naturalistic project, whose literature is proliferating more rapidly than even the most assiduous scholar could read it.(8) Hence I am restricting my analysis to the line of inquiry that derives from Quine's now-landmark claim that "epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject."(9) I pick up the Quinean thread where Hilary Kornblith picks it up in his 1991 essay "The Naturalistic Project in Epistemology: A Progress Report," to identify its two principal questions as "What is the world that we may know it? And what are we that we may know the world?"(10) Answers to these questions are to be sought at the places where the best current theories of the nature of the world and the best current psychological theories dovetail. For knowledge about the world, state-of-the-art science may include chemistry, biology, physics, and other laboratory sciences. For the knowledge about "us" that it gleans from scientific psychology, it relies upon a rejuvenated doctrine of "natural kinds" and assumes that these "kinds" are not denatured when they are studied in a laboratory setting and so still count as "natural."(11) It studies "how we are adapted to the structure of the world around us"(12) so that it makes sense for us to rely on the information we acquire through our perceptual apparatus and on the conclusions of our inductive inferences. Science need not exclude mental states and processes from its ontology, but it tends to assume that they are physically constituted. In psychological as in physical inquiry, it grants pride of place to prediction, (causal) explanation, and technological application as knowledge-attesting activities.(13)
Guided by their commitment to deriving normative recommendations from the demonstrated scope and limits of human cognition, naturalists study psychological experiments that show how people justify their beliefs, generalize to new conclusions, correct perceptual errors, conserve information in memory, assimilate testimony, and accommodate or resist novelty, to cite just a few examples.(14) Taking the findings of such research seriously enables epistemologists to tailor their normative demands to what people can achieve epistemically, to how they tend to process evidence and respond to incongruities. Thus, for example, exhortations about how knowers should go about justifying their probablisitic conclusions that extend beyond available evidence may be tempered by readings of Kahneman and Tversky's experiments that show, repeatedly, how "people regularly violate [a] basic tenet of probabilistic reasoning."(15) The aim is not for naturalists to learn to tolerate this violation, thus turning the "is" into an "ought." It is, rather, to enable them to offer manageable guidelines within which to urge improvement, or to be well placed to assess the extent of epistemic culpability, say when a subject fails "to recover or activate something from long-term memory."(16) This, then, is the physical human subject who becomes the new epistemic subject: the human being as processor of knowledge as information, whose experiential input is quite inadequate to account for the "torrential output" that emerges in its knowledge of "the three-dimensional external world and its history."(17) Because people can survive only to the extent that they can process the information available from their environments, understanding their information processing capacities should yield an epistemology more adequate to human purposes than one that directs its recommendations toward an ideal of epistemic perfection that no human knower could achieve. And naturalism's commitment to studying how real people perform in experimental situations prompts Alvin Goldman to commend it for maintaining contact with "epistemic folkways."(18)
Naturalists show, then, that epistemic injunctions are worthless if they require people to perform cognitive tasks that their intellectual or perceptual capacities do not permit. (Hence it would be ludicrous to require people to learn to distinguish between ultra-violet intensities with the unaided eye.) As Goldman puts the point, given that "epistemology is in the business of saying what psychological states a cognizer should be in in various circumstances, or what states it would be rational or intelligent for him [or her?] to be in, we need as good a specification as possible of the range of cognitive states open to him."(19) Yet naturalists are not thus advocating a static, purely descriptive -- hence non-normative -- epistemology. They are insisting that normativity is as much a practical as a purely logical concern, that epistemic imperatives acquire their force from a demonstrable congruence between their urgings and the possibilities that human cognitive equipment affords. Naturalism will transform epistemology's justificatory strategies just as radically as it will restructure its evidence-gathering procedures.(20)
I discuss Quine-derived naturalism here not just because of its professional success in English-language philosophy, but because, in following this line, feminist epistemologists have produced some of their most innovative work. Lynn Nelson has developed subtle readings of Quine as a proto-feminist, as the articulator of a version of empiricism that can be critically elaborated to serve feminist ends; and Jane Duran sees in naturalism a valuable resource for developing a feminist epistemology.(21) Essays by Susan Babbitt, Elizabeth Potter, and Kathryn Addelson in the 1993 collection Feminist Epistemologies(22) all (albeit variously) claim a debt to naturalistic epistemology. Yet none of these philosophers adopts naturalism's aims and ideals uncontested and whole; to varying degrees, they work, at once, in and out of naturalized epistemology, drawing on its resources even as they criticize its reductive and exclusionary features. Their principal challenges to naturalistic orthodoxy are directed at its scientistic excesses, which I discuss here, and its epistemic individualism, which figures centrally in the next section of this essay.(23)
The Quinean naturalists have an impressive record of scientific and technological successes to cite as evidence when they represent natural science as the best knowledge of how the physical world works that human beings have produced and when they read this record of success to show that scientific method is pretty much in order as it stands. Kornblith -- I think rightly -- asserts that philosophy "does not have the credentials ... to dictate how science itself should be carried out."(24) But neither does science have the credentials to dictate how philosophy -- and hence epistemology -- should be carried out. I am suggesting that naturalism escalates into an uncritical scientism when it ignores this cautionary point.(25) Arthur Danto's definition underscores my claim. Naturalism, he says, is "a species of philosophical monism according to which whatever exists or happens is natural in the sense of being susceptible to explanation through methods which, although paradigmatically exemplified in the natural sciences, are continuous from domain to domain of objects and events...." For naturalists, there neither exist nor could exist "any entities or events which lie, in principle, beyond the scope of scientific explanation."(26) It is the "monism" that gives pause, with its echoes of the old, reductive "unity of science" credo. Thus, although naturalism's focus on human cognitive activity indeed counts as a radical departure from older commitments to a decontextualized a prioricity, its affirmations of the scientificity of all knowledge yield a new a priori which exerts an equivalently restrictive, reductive pressure.
There is, moreover, a troubling circularity in the assumption, central to Quinean naturalism, that scientific psychology can yield definitive explanations of natural human knowledge-making.(27) At issue in this inquiry are, precisely, the scope and limits of scientific explanation: its capacity to yield these very conclusions. Nor has the debate between cognitive science and folk psychology been won, despite the rhetorical strategy cognitive scientists deploy in labelling the opposition with so trivializing a name that it cannot expect a serious hearing. While the scientific and epistemic status of scientific psychology remains within the debate, it cannot, without begging the question, be enlisted whole to establish conclusions that serve, rather, to contest its own epistemic warrant.
Feminist and other post-colonial hopes for Quinean naturalism and its progeny are tempered, then, by their claims to re-colonize the territory, to have at their command all of the best, and indeed the only, reliable means of regulating and judging beliefs and knowledge-claims. They are tempered further by naturalistic denigrations of the "native" practices of the colony with such derogatory labels as "folkways" and "folk psychology," the latter, as Jerome Bruner observes, "coined in derision by the new cognitive scientists for its hospitality toward such intentional states as beliefs, desires, and meanings..."(28) Even psychology's impressive successes in showing how people go about knowing do not show that epistemology and psychology converge to the extent that epistemology reduces to psychology. There are too many left-overs.
The temporal and local contingency of its own hegemony makes it still more difficult for science to justify arrogating to itself dominion over the whole natural history of human beings. Joseph Rouse, for example, notes that although philosophy has "made common cause with the sciences" within the English-speaking world, "relations between philosophy and the sciences have been rather different in much of Continental Europe... [where] the concern has been to situate the sciences with respect to other social interests and practices."(29) And ongoing post-wittgensteinian challenges in Anglo-American philosophy to the global pretensions of "scientific" social science attest further to the local contingency of the status of natural science as the paradigmatic institution of knowledge production.(30) In short, Quinean naturalism keeps too many positivist-empiricist presuppositions intact, especially the presuppositions that scientific knowledge alone merits epistemological attention and that it alone can provide truly explanatory accounts.
Designating physical and psychological science as the places where natural knowledge-making occurs ignores, and hence effectively de-naturalizes (both normatively and descriptively), the practices and wisdoms of extra-scientific, non-mainstream, marginalized people, practices whose effectiveness is often empirically demonstrable. Naturopathic medicine, women's traditional healing practices, Native medicine, the myriad knowledgeable dimensions of allgemeine Alltaglichkeit, the much-maligned "folk psychology," and the narrative knowledge and meaning-making practices that shape and inform human lives, unfettered by the stringent dictates of scientific-instrumental rationality are all excluded from critical evaluation. Withholding the (honorific) label "knowledge," a priori, from the workable deliverances of such practices reaffirms the hegemony of a narrowly conceived science as the arbiter of what counts as knowledge and of its practitioners as paradigmatically worthy knowers. Such exclusions relieve scientific knowers from any need to reconsider the theoretical underpinnings of their projects or to engage seriously with knowledge-producing institutions beyond a narrowly demarcated subset, thus truncating the promise that many feminists, and other Others, have held out for a naturalistic revival. Because its construction of "the natural" denigrates the credibility of knowledge that is made in places other than the laboratory and is equally integral to responsible epistemic conduct, Quinean naturalism neither exposes what Lovibond calls "the unequal part played by different social groups in determining standards of judgement" nor does it engage with reason "in all its historical and cultural particularity."
Tom Sorell proposes a corrective that is consonant with the reservations I have been voicing about the exclusiveness of Quinean commitments to a particular kind of scientific discipline, informed by a monistically conceived set of theoretical assumptions out of which "science" itself also emerges as a natural kind. Theorists of knowledge, he suggests, could actively acknowledge the mutual influence of epistemology and psychology, so that epistemology would be transformed, even radically, by joining forces with scientific psychology, for it would abandon its commitment to a prioricity. Yet its practitioners would acknowledge the limits of psychological explanation, and would therefore refrain from pushing the reductive claim.(31) The appeal of this deflationary position would be that experimental psychology, judiciously interpreted, would restrain philosophy's speculative excesses, yet philosophy would maintain vigilance for scientistic excesses, and naturalism would not need to denature itself in the process.
Many of the experiments to which the Quine-line naturalists appeal have what I am calling a "denaturing" effect in consequence of their implicit adherence to a latter-day methodological solipsism, translated into self-contained, isolated moments of the one-on-one, observer-observed laboratory experiments. Such experiments preserve a commitment to the purity of a statistical formalism that glosses over differences and specificities within the very natural kinds that are its subjects of study. Here the presumed homogeneity of human beings as members of a natural kind, manifested in Quine's observation that "the uniformity of people's quality spaces virtually assures that similar presentations will elicit similar verdicts,"(32) erases any possibility of factoring "historical and cultural particularity" into investigations of reason's natural operations. Hence what are at first glance the most promising aspects of the naturalistic program in the end invite an interpretive wariness, a hermeneutic of suspicion, even as they bring reason down from its sublime purity to engage in producing a "natural history of human beings."
3.What Is Natural?
In a 1994 essay, Sabina Lovibond reaffirms her enthusiasm for naturalism, declaring it "indispensable" to twentieth-century epistemology, which
works with a conception of reason that has
been "irrevocably desublimated" ... revealed
... in all its historical and cultural particularity.
Human reason is now understood not as
the sign of our participation in something
that goes beyond our merely natural existence...
but as one expression of our identity
as a natural species whose members are exposed
to an enormous variety of environmental
and social conditions.(33)
Yet I am suggesting that even when reason and knowledge-production come under discussion as expressions of our identity as a natural species, there are choices at work determining what counts as "our" natural identity and which of its expressions merit analysis. The very idea of producing a "natural history" of human knowledge-seeking is hampered by our remarkable ignorance, still, of what "we" naturally are: of where nature begins and where cultural or other "artificial" accretions end.
Constrained, perhaps, by these imponderables, epistemology, like philosophy in general, has been in the business of naturalizing as it goes. Theories of knowledge, like metaphysical and moral theories, have claimed to derive from and pertain to what human nature is and can permit. Yet their effects have often been to naturalize the very attributes and actions that they purport to discover and thence to recommend. Thus women's rational inferiority has been naturalized in representations of female nature as more emotional than rational or less rational than male nature; and hierarchical social arrangements have been naturalized in similar assumptions about some people's -- Blacks', women's, slaves' -- incapacity for rational self-governance. (Aristotle, whom one could name as the first naturalist, was notorious in these respects.
Quine-derived naturalized epistemology claims to have a rather different agenda. No longer will it tacitly naturalize as a by-product of its theoretical hypotheses; rather, it will base its conclusions on the nature of human cognitive capacities as these are empirically revealed in the findings of scientific psychology. Yet feminist and non-white, non-affluent philosophers who endorse the hopes that I, with Lovibond, have been voicing will observe that the laboratory, which naturalists who follow the Quine-line choose as the place where knowledge is naturally made, has been designed and usually occupied by affluent white men, with women and other Others rarely gaining ready access. The laboratory's accredited occupants have produced much of the knowledge that naturalizes women's irrationality along with the cognitive inferiority and diminished epistemic authority of other non-standard knowers.
Even as some critics worry, then, that naturalism eschews normativity, the rhetoric of "the natural" claims a proximity to "the real" that exercises a normative persuasion of a different ilk, dismissing the practices of its interrogators as unnatural, supernatural, "unreal" -as its patronizing references to "the folk" amply show.(34) In their packaging within the language of naturalism, these projects locate themselves within a discursive, rhetorical space that commands immediate late-twentieth-century (post-modern) attention. Within this space, "returns to nature" claim to strip away the cultural, theoretical, and political accretions that have impeded philosophical progress, to return to "the things themselves," with the aid of the most sophisticated methods of inquiry that humankind has ever known: the exact and esoteric techniques of physical science and scientific psychology. Hence "the naturalistic turn" acquires the aura of a turning away from rarefied abstractions and toward demonstrations, at last, of how things really are; and the language of "naturalism" implies that no stipulating has occurred, that philosophers are merely observing what naturally reveals itself. In fact, however, rather than returning to nature, as the rhetoric of its presentation implies, naturalism participates in constructing both its subject and its object. And although any self-declared naturalism has to begin by choosing what it will count as natural -- for "nature" is not simply self-announcing -- stipulations in philosophy are rarely innocent or neutral. The presuppositions and principles of the stipulative choices on which everything that follows depends have to be examined for the inclusions and exclusions they effect. These, in Quine-derived naturalized episteimology, have social-political consequences that invite critical reevaluation; for the "naturalistic" terminology produces many of the problems I shall address, even as it generates the enthusiasms that Lovibond rightly articulates.
Designating its object of study as "a natural phenomenon... a physical human subject," whose performance in experimental situations shows that its informational output vastly exceeds its available input, attests to naturalism's ingrained presuppositions about the kinds of knowledge that count as revealing what this "natural phenomenon" can do. The designation generates a further set of assumptions about who or what this creature is. But how, one wonders, can naturalists justify delimiting conceptions of knowledge and subjectivity as they do? Why would anyone think that this kind of knowledge shows what human cognizers are, erasing so many equally plausible options?
Human beings are more -- and other -- than information processors and problemsolvers; nor can all of their natural epistemic practices be adequately understood as multiples and/or elaborations of these activities. Arguments to the effect that human survival attests to the reliability of "our" perceptual-inferential processes can count at best as the first word, certainly not the last.(35) As long as survival, both qualitative and quantitative, varies so widely across the human species and as long as possibilities of claiming epistemic authority on the basis of information processed and inductions successfully performed are so unevenly distributed, there is more to be told about who "we" are. Hence I am suggesting that naturalism cannot deliver on its promise to relinquish a prioricity in favor of a return to natural cognitive activity if it grants uncontested pride of place, in its study of natural knowledge, to behaviors studied in the laboratory. For, although human beings could not survive were they unable to process information competently, were this all that they could do, the quality of their survival would at best be dubious.
When naturalism represents human subjects as essentially solitary, even if reliable, processors of information, the contestability of its constructs is especially apparent. For in individual isolation human survival would not be possible. The abstract individual who figures, implicitly, as the knower is one such construct, a faceless, dispassionate, infinitely replicable "individual" who knows only when he is successful in suppressing interdependence, affect, and meaning, and indeed all aspects of his individuality.(36) It is neither ideology nor fancy that prompts natural historians (in Lovibond's sense) to emphasize the fundamental interdependence of human existence, but reasonably invariant features of the biology of human procreation and maturation. Hence individualism sits uneasily with naturalism. Now, naturalists might maintain that human maturation follows a natural trajectory away from interdependence, toward autonomy, self-sufficiency, and a fully realized individualism of the sort that feminist and other post-modern thinkers have discerned in the man of reason whose works western philosophy has principally studied.(37) But such a vision is plausible only if one overlooks the cognitive interdependence that is an inescapable feature of being born a human infant and living in a culture or social group without which an individual, strictly defined, would be unable even as a adult to know enough to survive. A project of studying natural knowledge-making has, from the outset, to guard against foreclosing on equally natural sources and resources that could enhance its explanatory potential. There are ways of naturalizing with effects less unnatural than those that Quine-derived naturalism yields.
Prompting feminist critiques of naturalism's individualist assumptions is a conviction that adequate successor epistemologies must be able, non-imperialistically, to address issues of individual and local specificity, socially-culturally produced and situated, a possibility that abstract individualism disallows.(38) Nor do such specificities amount merely to interchangeable identities into which anyone could fit at will. The problem with individualism for emancipatory projects is that it cannot account for how "individual" options, whether cognitive or other, are systemically thwarted or enhanced in their constitution within diverse, power-infused social-material situations. Moreover, an individualist ontology implicitly underwrites a methodological solipsism for which knowers are, can, and should be wholly self-reliant in their information gathering and corroborating activities.(39) Hence individualists can simply assume that all evidence is equally available to any self-sufficient observer and that any observer who fails to take it into account is epistemically culpable. This too-simple example shows how individualism fosters epistemic assumptions whose (probably unintended) effects come out as sexist, racist, or otherwise obstructive of the very self-realization that individualists advocate. Indeed, the "individual" of individualism is a mythic construct, a product of the very discourse that relies upon and seeks to defend it.(40)
There is, moreover, a curious tension in (Quinean) naturalists' identifying individuals as biological creatures whose innate "spacing of qualities," or innate linguistic readiness, demonstrates the universality of rational processes;(41) for the "individuals" that populate these theories are rarely embodied, except accidentally and inconveniently. That same biology is subsequently read out of the picture in justificatory strategies designed to legitimate universal, global conclusions that obliterate differences consequent upon embodiment in variously gendered, aged, colored, or abled bodies. Paradoxically, then, individualism in its empiricist/scientific psychology forms fails, indeed refuses, to individuate. Rather, it reduces and assimilates differences, both "natural" and social-political, under its universality and objectivity requirements; and in so doing it denatures the very natural kinds to which its best intuitions appeal.
Outlining a "naturalist view of persons" quite different from Quine-line naturalism's solitary information-processor, Annette Baier observes:
A naturalist ... takes it as obvious that a person
is, as Montaigne put it, "marvellously
corporeal" ... and that a person's ability to
think is affected by genetic inheritance from
parents and is vitally dependent upon the
sort of care received in childhood, for example
in being introduced into a language community.(42)
Baier shows throughout her work how the same tradition that gives rise to (Quinean) naturalism reads past human interdependence to establish its conclusions.(43) Her naturalistic view, which "emphasize[s] the interdependence of persons,"(44) shows that individualism is an incongruous ontology for naturalists, unless they mean to work with so abstracted a view of persons as to render dubious its claims to be natural.
An ontology like Baier's need not eschew possibilities of drawing upon the best psychology can offer, for there are distinguished voices in professional psychology that accord well with hers. To cite just two, Couze Venn protests against conceiving of psychology as the science of the individual: the science whose subject is "the `rational man' with no past;" "the `individual subject' minus everything that pins down its identity and its lived experience of social relations."(45) And Jerome Bruner puts the point more forcefully: "It is man's participation in culture and the realization of his mental powers through culture that make it impossible to construct a human psychology on the basis of the individual alone."(46)
Addressing the individualist implications of many cognitive science programs and of Chomskyian theses about the universality of innate language-readiness, Bruner cites primate studies to show that it is "sensitivity to the requirements of living in groups I:hat provides the criterion for evolutionary selection in high primates."(47) His purpose is neither to discredit Chomskyian linguistics nor to minimize its value as a resource for understanding the deep structures that enable human language development. Yet he adduces compelling evidence to show that the "triggering" of an innate mechanism manifests a complexity of an order quite different from the process Chomsky and his followers represent, for it depends
not only upon ... appropriate exemplars in the
linguistic environment of the child but also
upon the child's "context sensitivity" that
can come only from... participation in language
as an instrument of communication...
triggered by the acts and expressions of others
and by certain basic social contexts in
which human beings interact.(48)
Studying how sociality makes individuality possible opens up ways of addressing the unevenness of survival with which a natural history must engage. For it is in radically diverse social-material circumstances that such inequities are produced and manifested.
Bruner, in effect, reclaims a revivified "folk psychology" from cognitive scientific dismissals, establishing a place for it within an elaborated "cultural psychology." He does this not out of nostalgia for a more romantic conception of human nature, but because he believes cultural psychology can avoid some of the most egregious denaturings on which a naturalism that attributes explanatory power only to cognitive science depends. Nor does Bruner make monistic, reductive claims for interpretive-cultural analyses that explicate and situate information processing. His is, rather, a plea for analysing context and content together, recognizing that scientific psychology produces remarkably informative content, yet that its offerings neither arise without context nor speak for themselves. The cultural psychology he advocates is
an interpretive psychology, in much the
sense that history and anthropology and linguistics
are interpretive disciplines. But that
does not mean that it need be unprincipled
or without methods, even hard-nosed ones. It
seeks out the rules that human beings bring
to bear in creating meanings in cultural contexts.(49)
Meaning-making practices, the narratives in which information is embedded, the stories in which people locate and explicate their experiences, are integral to any adequately naturalized account of cognition. Those stories will be peopled by human actors as fully as by medium-sized information-generating objects and perceptual-memory stimulants. And, for Bruner, it is only within communicable narratives exposed to critical and self-critical discussion that people can negotiate the circumstances that make laboratory experiments worth doing and that accord their results a cultural-social significance.
Psychologists such as Bruner and Venn explicitly resist framing the options available to professional psychologists as a forced choice between (hard, scientific) experimentation and (soft, folksy) narrative; nor do they advocate supplanting the former with the latter. The debate is rather between those who believe that what happens in a laboratory is self-justifying, that its genesis within scientific psychology provides its warrant, and those who, to borrow a phrase from Steve Fuller, see in naturalism "a call to self-reflection, or reflexivity"(50) on the part of knowledge producers, who refuse to exempt any location or institution of knowledge-production from the need to account for itself. The reflexivity requirement does not amount to a naive refusal to acknowledge the power of experimentation in going beyond a merely conservative naturalism and in revealing where the naturalist's "ought" really does imply "can" (one of naturalism's most significant contributions to "desublimating" reason). But in its best late-twentieth-century forms the reflexivity requirement enlists genealogical techniques to address critically the manifestations of power that shape both experimental and narrative knowledge-making. It insists that the significance of experimental findings beyond the narrow confines of the laboratory is rarely self-announcing; that even within the laboratory findings can be as much a product of the contrived situation out of which they emerge, as indicative of how things "naturally" are; and that even the most "sincere" narratives are contestable, open to critical scrutiny.(51) It is to untangle issues such as these that interpretation enters the inquiry.
In a cultural climate where reason is "irrevocably desublimated," it is puzzling that "the naturalistic turn" and "the interpretive turn'(52) should amount to turnings away from one another, usually in antagonism. Collaboratively, combining their resources, they could issue in impressively re-skilled, re-sensitized ways of understanding and evaluating knowledge production. Cultural narrative and interpretation invite scorn from many science-oriented naturalists, for they admit of no definitive causal or predictive explanations and hence, the charge is, they yield merely subjective conclusions. Yet interpretation is as "natural" and as evidence-reliant as the other activities that naturalists study; and it is just as essential to survival. The fact that people are radically, ineluctably "located," that they cannot achieve perfect understanding, makes of every inquiry, whether scientific or secular, a reading "from somewhere" whose circumstances of origin and production are constitutive of its presuppositions and conclusions. The interpretations that "naturalize" laboratory life have to be as closely interrogated as the circumstances that restrict the populations within laboratories to a chosen few. Interpretation thus construed is a powerful critical tool, an instrument for change, which uncovers and reveals the contingency of motivations, power structures, and extra-scientific assumptions that are often so embedded in experimental design and in narrative structures as to seem merely a matter of course.(53)
To return to the area of inquiry of most interest to Quinean naturalists, establishing a commonality of purposes between naturalized epistemology and feminist/post-colonial analyses of "desublimated" reason in action requires strategies for working past psychology's complicity in the tacitly productive, politically implicated naturalizing that erases human differences even as it casts the object of inquiry in its own image. Critical interpretation uncovers this complicity and opens spaces for countering it. Examples are too numerous to detail here, but the very title of Naomi Weisstein's now-classic article "Psychology Constructs the Female" heralds her demonstration that natural (female) human kinds" are as arte-factual as they are factual.(54) In developmental psychology, Carol Gilligan's work engages critically with Lawrence Kohlberg's precisely at the place where the latter's effect is to naturalize female moral immaturity because of women's tendency to score lower than men on the Kohlberg test.(55) And critical readings show that the connections Philippe Rushton draws between genital and brain size work effectively to produce "natural" differences in Black, Oriental and white intelligence, at least as persuasively as they record them.(56) In these diverse studies, "nature" emerges as, partially at least, a product of experimental design, suggesting that, when it notices them, psychology tends to construct -- not find -- the female, the Black, or the other Other, as a natural kind. More commonly, it does not notice them, for the "individual" subjects in most academic psychology are gender-, class-, race-, and ethnicity-neutral, surely an odd way of viewing a species so (naturally) diverse as the human species.
Psychology is not the only scientific discipline that studies the physical human subject as a natural species. Biology has at least as strong a claim to this description, and hence to inclusion among inquiries that contribute to the production of a natural history of human beings. Yet feminist critiques have shown that biology is no more innocent than psychology of the charge that it constructs and thus denatures subjects who are the objects of its inquiry.(57) Biologist Karen Messing's studies of women's occupational health provide instructive examples. Her work reveals a persistent (establishment) preference for "controlled studies...in situations which bear little resemblance to real life;"(58) for studies of nonhuman cells or cells in culture, rather than of live human subjects; and for laboratory rather than field (i.e., workplace) studies. Messing and her associates have discerned patterns familiar to feminist and other postcolonial science critics: women's dizziness, nausea, and headaches after prolonged exposure to toxic solvents or pesticides represented as "mass psychogenic illness;" restrictive, "universal" definitions of occupational impacts on health that read past effects specific to female workers, such as menstrual abnormalities and pregnancy-associated problems; statistical procedures that conceal class- or sex-biased assumptions "which increase the suffering of workers;" sampling procedures that eliminate women "to make samples uniform;"(59) and techniques and presuppositions that sustain representations of women as "physically, mentally and emotionally `the weaker sex'"(60) Messing shows how company interests in denigrating worker credibility have generated an "image of workers as lazy malingerers coddled by their colluding physicians [that is] cited to block compensation to injured workers who stay out `too long'."(61) Add a refusal to accept self-reported experiences of workplace events as evidence, and the capacity of (Quine's) innate "standard of similarity" to underwrite the explanatory force of natural kinds is revealed as highly dubious.(62) "Objective" science often masks pertinent variations within natural kinds, fails to address human suffering, and ignores the systemic effects of the social-institutional power structures that provide its own warrant.
These examples from psychology and biology, areas that have especially interested (Quinean) naturalists, count as minimal illustrations of the denaturing that naturalism accomplishes. Feminists have examined and detailed other denaturings too numerous to list,(63) presenting incontestable reminders that the procedural rationality that naturalism analyzes is -- to recall Lovibond -- just one "expression of our identity." Helen Verran's detailed documentation of the logic in Australian Aboriginal mappings of the world that contests the hegemony of western presuppositions about the natural order of things is but one example from a long line of anthropological research that exposes western knowledge as just one expression of the "cultural particularity" of natural reason.(64) Amy Mullin's study of feminist art and aesthetics as culturally unsettling, yet indisputably cognitive, engagements with the world underscores my claim that other kinds of knowledge-making are just as natural, hence that science has to make good its claim to count as the natural site.(65) Theorists need interpretive-genealogical, natural-historical analyses if they are to achieve a just evaluation of the place -- and the naturalness -- of naturalism.
In summary, then, in its scientistic manifestations, naturalism denatures itself in locating itself within a laboratory, assuming that knowledge-making activities there are paradigmatic of natural knowledge-making; in working with an abstract individualism that blocks its engagement with human differences, both diachronic and synchronic; in restricting itself to one kind of knowledge, thus distancing itself from the meaning-making and interpretive activities that are just as natural as information-processing; and in separating "the natural" from Nature, both in the subject and in the object of knowledge. In the next section I propose a different regional mapping, where Quineline naturalism will occupy a, but not the central place; and where it is as important for a naturalist to understand that place and its surroundings as to develop a picture of what goes on within it.
4. Nature Reclaimed: Ecology and Epistemology
In the revisioned naturalism I am advocating, the guiding model of epistemic normativity is an ecological model of reciprocally sustaining and critically interrogating practices of engaged inquiry. On this model, relationships within and among institutions of knowledge production -- their effects within social-political structures and the effects of social-political structures within them, their inter-workings, their negotiated, dialogical character, and their social-environmental implications -- have to be analyzed as meticulously as their separate self-consistency and internal coherence. Unlike the individual subject whose epistemic processes are flattened in a mechanical, input-output modelling, the ecological subject is -- like Baier's -- "marvellously corporeal" and fundamentally interdependent, active, resistant and reactive, accountable; created out of sociality and itself creative of the forms of sociality in which it participates. Sociality is the (mutable) frame within which seemingly isolated experiences and experimental performances contribute to the ongoing realization (or deterioration) of subjectivities.(66)
An ecological model for explicating knowledge and subjectivity builds on the mutual relations of organisms with one another. Moreover, their environment is conceived not merely as the physical environment, nor just the present one, but as the complex network of relations within which an organism strives to realize its potential, be those relations social, historical, material, geographical, cultural, racial, institutional, or other. An organism at any moment in its natural history exhibits its state of accommodation both of, and to, such relations; yet not passively, for ecology emphasizes the participation of organisms, whose choices are relationally structured, and who themselves shape social-environmental relations. The agency of ecological subjects figures centrally in evaluations of their epistemic activities, as do the developmental processes that foster or circumscribe agency. Ecological analyses examine the implications, for organisms, of living in certain environments and work to develop strategies for producing environments that are exploitative neither of the habitat nor other inhabitants.
An ecologically modelled epistemology will evaluate the potential of cognitive practices for creating environments where people can live well. It works with a conception of materially situated subjectivity, for which embodied locatedness and interdependence are integral to the very possibility of knowledge and action.(67) Picking up a Piagetian line that is fruitfully pursued in Bruner's work, an ecological naturalism learns equally from developmental studies of human cognition and from its adult manifestations. The persistent individualism even of such projects as Goldman's, with its later evolution into a social theory, is sustained by its concentration on experiments whose subjects are adult, hence seemingly well individuated, human beings.(68) (They are also presumptively male, and members of the dominant, "normal," social group.) Critical developmental analyses sensitive to how individuality is variously and unevenly fostered and/or thwarted in diverse social arrangements promise results more cognizant of the interplay between independence and interdependence in the production of cognitive agency. Refusing to treat knowledge as information gained in isolation and articulated in monologic statements, an ecological model takes its point of departure from the (natural) dependence of knowledge production upon human interaction, as much in adult lives as in infancy and childhood.(69)
This model is by no means anti-scientific, for it must draw on the best available scientific and social scientific evidence to determine how survival can be ensured and enhanced, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively; not by requiring epistemology to "fall into place as a chapter" of ecological science, but by learning, analogically, from the science of ecology. It establishes its (contestable) conception of "best available" evidence in self-critical reflexivity, through which locally, environmentally informed studies of disciplines, their subject matters, and their interdisciplinary relations with one another and within "the world" generate an ongoing skeptical suspicion of presumptions to theoretical hegemony. Although this version of naturalism counts state-of-the-art natural and psychological science among its principal resources, it rejects their claims to joint occupancy of the position of master metanarrative. It is less sanguine than many Quinean naturalists about the before-the-fact reliability of "our" capacities to generalize the relevant features of natural kinds against the background of the environments in which they operate."(70) For it is wary of the power-infused tendencies of racial/gender/class stereotypes and of essentialized conceptions of "science" and "nature" to take on self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating qualities.
Ecology (literally) succeeds only if it is well informed by state-of-the-art natural science; yet it fails if it assumes that state-of-the-art science merits uncontested licence to intervene in nature wherever it pleases. Ecology (metaphorically) draws disciplinary conclusions together, maps their interrelations, their impoverishing and mutually sustaining effects within established and putative locations of knowledge-production, and in the social-political natural world where the effects of institutional knowledge are enacted -- for better or worse. The ecological human subject is made by and makes its relations in reciprocity with other subjects and with its (multiple, diverse) environments. Yet this model is not self-evidently benign in the sense of generating a natural, unimpeded unfolding of fully realizable epistemic potential. For ecosystems are as often competitive and as unsentimentally destructive of their less viable members as they are cooperative and mutually sustaining. So if work within the model is to avoid replicating the exclusions endemic to traditional epistemologies, its adherents will have to derive moral-political-epistemological guidelines for regulating and adjudicating competing claims for cognitive and epistemic authority.
The most delicate tasks in making such a model epistemologically workable are, first, that of achieving an appropriate balance between literal and metaphorical readings of the governing concept -- ecology -- so as to benefit from ecological science without running aground on details of analogy/ disanalogy with specific ecological events; and second, that of developing an adequate moral epistemology within which to address conflicts between mutually inconsistent survival and flourishing claims. I cannot engage in either task adequately in the space available here, but some preliminary observations will clarify the issues.
Ecology talk has an immediate late-twentieth-century appeal in an era where "right-thinking people" are horrified by the destruction of natural and social environments and repelled by the imperialism, both local and global, that accompanies and/or promotes it. The protective, nurturant aspects of ecology seem to promise a better future. Yet that very appeal is often counteracted by ecology's cloying aura, its coziness, its flavor of too-goodness, its sometime rhetoric of unremitting sentimentality, of a naive, depoliticized, even narcissistic closeness to nature, and of forced identifications of women and nature.(71) Thus its potential has to be elaborated with care. Nonetheless, I am claiming that an ecologically modelled naturalism can offer a better mapping of the epistemic terrain than the scientism into which other versions of naturalism risk solidifying: nor can I think of a model better suited to address the complex interrelations that characterize the late-twentieth-century world. I am not, however, just recommending a different, aesthetically more pleasing vocabulary: a way of talking about "the same things," with a grammar and semantics that are perfectly in order as they stand. Ecological thinking will not yield what Robyn Ferrell has aptly called a "poet's utopia," such as Richard Rorty's free-play of the ironic, liberal imagination promises.(72) Ecosystems -- both metaphorical and literal -- are as cruel as they are kind; as unpredictable and overwhelming as they are orderly and nurturant. Epistemologically, their transformative, emancipatory potential can be realized only by active participants within them who are prepared to take on the burdens as well as the blessings of place, materiality, and history; and to work within the locational possibilities, both found and made, of their being in the world.
The ecological subject, who is but a distant relative of the abstract liberal individual, denies that a view from nowhere is desirable or possible. She is self-critically cognizant of being part of the world, both social and natural, in which her knowings, feelings and actings always produce effects, be they positive, negative, or indifferent. For this subject, human and social-natural interdependence are given, to be cultivated, elaborated, evaluated; their joys to be celebrated, their sorrows and errors to be acknowledged. They are neither to be repudiated nor transcended in illusory gestures of an impossible self-sufficiency, nor elaborated into a romanticized immersion of self in nature or in Others. Acknowledging the partiality of their knowings and self-knowings, and their potential effects (however small, however local), ecological subjects are well placed to "own" their activities and to be responsible for them.(73)
The normative possibilities of this model ire instrumental, deriving as they do from a hypothetical imperative to the effect that epistemic activity be appraised -- in its form and content -- according to its success in promoting ecologically sustaining communities, committed to fostering ecological viability within the "natural" world.(74) Appraisals of ecological goals and of epistemologies that can promote them and are modelled upon them will proceed in concert, dialectically, integrating epistemology with moral-political-historical-anthropological debate.(75) Yet even crossing these boundaries does not turn epistemology into a chapter of ecological science; and single observational S-knows-that-p claims may be neutral in this regard, with no immediate ecological import either way.
Consider Ursula Franklin's "impact studies."(76) During their summer jobs, however menial, however "non-scientific," engineering students were to record the impact of their work on the immediate environment, an exercise designed to teach them that whatever they did, from house painting, to child minding, to table serving, would produce effects they would not have thought to notice. At issue were not simple empirical claims of the S-knows-that-p variety: Sara knows that paint is messy, that children need good food, that coffee needs to be served hot. Hence the point is not that such claims take on direct ecological significance. But only by discerning their impact, which extends well beyond one's first imaginings, can evaluations within a larger ecological network be conducted. Franklin's purpose was to show that there is no knowledge, and no knowledge-informed practice, that is without consequences, and hence none that should escape critical scrutiny.
Bioregional narratives, introduced into environmental ethics by Jim Cheney, afford a point of entry into ecological thinking. They capture the import of Franklin's studies, catch something of the cultural-narrative recommendations that Bruner advances, and resonate with a critique of "monoculture" that is pivotal to the ecofeminist work of Vandana Shiva. In developing an ethics of accountability, Cheney suggests, "narrative is the key.. but it is narrative grounded in geography rather than in a linear, essentialized narrative self."(77) A bioregional narrative maps local ecological relations to set out the conditions for mutually sustaining lives within a specific locality -- be it an institution, a geographical region, an urban environment, a community, society, state, or the interrelations among them, separately traced and characterized. Appropriately elaborated, it can become a chapter in the "natural history of human beings" that Lovibond advocates. Its strength is in the detail of its contextual sensitivity: its capacity to offer genealogical (i.e., power-focused) analyses of local knowledge-making and knowledge-circulating conditions. Its weakness is in its propensity to remain only locally pertinent; to represent a regional ecosystem as closed, harmonized, static. Hence it cannot be justified merely internally, but will have to address its interconnections with the power-saturated systems of the wider world.
Shiva produces one such narrative in her analysis of the impact on rural Indian agriculture of western-style "development." Monocultural agriculture operates from the principle that land is most productive when it is cultivated to produce only one large crop. According to the rhetoric of development, Shiva observes, "natural forests remain unproductive till they are developed into monoculture plantations of commercial species."(78) Yet a genealogical charting of the interconnections of ideology, people, political power structures, and land management reveals that monoculture operates reductively, coercively, as a leveller that depletes the land's resources and its inhabitants' self-rehance at one stroke. Possibilities of local and diverse production are erased as populations producing a single crop are forced to rely on other monocultural populations, often located at a distance, for all other nutritional needs. Shiva details the achievements of women's cultures in India in contesting the dominance of monocultural practices by reclaiming the potential of agricultural diversity to foster self-sustaining communities.
Now critics might object that Shiva's is just that romanticized yearning, against which I have cautioned, for practices that are no longer viable in late twentieth-century mass societies. Although I disagree, my purpose is not to argue the point but to propose an analogy with the ecological model of knowledge I have been gesturing towards. My contention is that the dominant epistemological model, drawn from the successes of physical and psychological science, produces an epistemological monoculture in Anglo-American philosophy -- and in judgments about knowledge in everyday life -- whose consequences are to suppress and denigrate ways of knowing that depart from the stringent dictates of scientific knowledge-making. By contrast, contextual, multifacted analyses of knowledge production and circulation within social (i.e., regional) contexts, tracing the interests and power structures that they enlist and address, should be able to produce ecological mappings within which to articulate nuanced appraisals of the myriad human and (other) environmental implications of all knowledge-gathering. Bioregional narratives would map these enhancing and impeding activities, critically, to derive normative conclusions that can translate from one region to another, in discussion and negotiation, not without remainder, but as instructively in their disanalogies as in the analogies they successfully establish. Michel Foucault's analyses of "local knowledges" fit this description in some respects.(79) Patricia Williams's separate yet interconnected mappings of the effects of systemic racism produce another narrative of this sort: specific to the (regional) experiences of a professional Black woman in the United States, yet translatable by analogy to racism and democratic accountability in ever-widening circles of relevance.(80) Bruno Latour also speaks in favor of just such narratives (borrowing an ecological metaphor from Michel Serres): "the only way to respect the heterogeneity and the locality is . . . to do a lot of philosophy. But philosophy is not unifying factors . . . [it] is a protection against the hegemony of the present sciences."(81) In bioregional narratives, epistemic issues intersect with issues of responsibility and agency, with the uneven distribution of cognitive resources in late twentieth century societies, and with the moral-political effects of institutional knowledge-production. A bioregional narrative refuses the reductivism of global, totalizing theory while producing moral-epistemic analyses of specific, local epistemic resources.
The aim of this naturalism will be, amid the instabilities of the post-modern world, to articulate guidelines for adjudicating responsibility claims. Its analyses will focus as closely on how people know one another -- both in everyday and in social scientific contexts -- as on how they know "facts" about the natural world.(82) It will examine social structures of expertise and authority, and intersubjective negotiations that assume -- and often presume -- to know other persons. Such interactions make knowledge possible; yet they are primary sites of empowerment and disempowerment in patriarchal, racist, and other hierirchically ordered societies. And the knowledge they assume as their starting point is often obscured by stereotyped social identities posing as accurate knowledge of human natural kinds.
With its recognition of the inherent sociality of human life, and thus of knowledge construction, as well as its recognition of the constitutive effects of material, social, cognitive and political circumstances in realizations of subjectivity, an ecological model opens up rhetorical/discursive spaces from which theorists can engage with social and global issues as fully as with questions about the "nature" of knowledge. With its emphasis on the implicit and explicit workings of power within institutions of knowledge-production, the model contests assumptions of pure rationality and the natural" emergence of truth to work toward understanding the "artefactual" dimensions of reason, knowledge, subjectivity and nature. Conceived as interactive, finely differentiated, interpretive analyses in which no one can take on all of the pertinent issues, these projects could issue in collaborative enterprises where philosophers would work together, and in concert with other inquirers, for more equitably achieved human survival.
The question remains, can naturalism proceed normatively, and not merely descriptively, as some critics allege? I have two responses. First, even if it does come out, for now, as primarily descriptive, it will not be purely descriptive, if my arguments have any cogency. For descriptions are always value-laden. They are products of location and choice; they begin (and end) within theoretical presuppositions and background assumptions that are always contestable, even though they may afford nodal points at which action is possible. It is not as though good descriptions are easily achieved, nor are they final. Articulating good, plausible descriptions and circulating them well are among the most difficult tasks, and once inserted into the public domain they become catalysts of ongoing deliberation. If it should turn out that epistemology has systematically misdescribed all but a select part of cognitive activity, then better descriptions are crucial to ongoing survival. A second, related response, centers on an ambiguity in the sense of "description" that evidently prompts worries about naturalism's "mere descriptiveness;" worries that naturalists violate prohibitions against deriving is from ought. Such pitfalls need to be distinguished from the working hypotheticals that naturalists establish, appealing to consequential patterns in the natural (and human-natural) world: "If you want to succeed in doing X, then you [had] best do Y."(83) For Bruner, narrative descriptions are always normative; it is impossible to "argue any of these interpretations without taking a moral stance and a rhetorical posture."(84) An ecology-modelled epistemology brings such a moral stance directly into its epistemic deliberations, insisting on the obligation to answer for oneself, to maintain skepticism about overweening authority, and to work toward better ways of establishing community.
Part of the answer to my question "what is natural about epistemology naturalized?" can be found, then, in ecological thinking. Naturalistic projects can contribute to emancipatory epistemological agendas to the extent that they are prepared to examine the constructed dimensions both of nature and of scientific knowledge, and to assess the ecological effects of those constructs. Hence they need to engage questions of historical, cultural, gendered epistemic specificity as constitutive features of "science as an institution or process in the world."(85) Naturalized epistemology is natural in its positioning as one episode -- albeit a major one -- in a natural history of human beings. Its provenance and effects are as significant as its remarkable predictive and explanatory powers, powers whose pretensions to global dominance need to be curbed in the interests of respectful coexistence.(86)
Received July 17,1995
(1.) Representative examples of feminist work in epistemology are Linda Alcoff & Elizabeth Potter, eds., Feminist Epistemologies (New York: Routledge, 1993); Louise Antony & Charlotte Witt, eds.,a Mind of One's Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993); and Kathleen Lennon & Margaret Whitford, eds., Knowing the Difference: Feminist Perspectives in Epistemology (London: Routledge, 1994). (2.) Sabina Lovibond, "Feminism and Postmodernism." In the New Left Review, No. 178. November/december 1989,(5-28), pp. 12-13. (3.) A now-classic elaboration of such alignments is Alison Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allenheld, 1983). (4.) The work of Michel Foucault is especially pertinent in this regard. See especially his Powerlknowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings, 1972-1977 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980). Edited by Colin Gordon. Translated by Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, & Kate Soper. (5.) Mary Tiles & Jim Tiles argue that it is only at certain periods, hence only as a matter of historical contingency, that theoretical separations have been maintained between knowledge and social-political-moral concerns. See their An Introduction to Historical Epistemology: The Authority of Knowledge (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1993). (6.) For a reading of the feminist potential of Marxist theory, see Nancy Hartsock, "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism." In Sandra Harding & Merrill Hintikka, eds., Discovering Reality (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983). (7.) Rudolph Carnap, "Autobiography," in P. Schilpp, The Philosophy of Rudolph Carnap (Lasalle, IL: Open Court, 1963), p. 21; quoted in Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation With Science (London: Routtedge, 1991), p. 8. Sorell discusses how this interest in.the beneficial character of science evolved into a less desirable "scientism." (8.) See for example the extensive bibliographies in the Second Edition of Hilary Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994); and in Werner Callebaut, Taking the Naturalistic Turn, or How Real Philosophy of Science Is Done (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). (9.) W. V. O. Quine, "Epistemology Naturalized." (Reprinted from W. V O. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.) In Kornblith, Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 25. (10.) Hilary Kornblith, "The Naturalistic Project in Epistemology: A Progress Report," APA Pacific Division paper, Los Angeles, May 1990. Komblith poses the questions differently in his Introduction to Naturalizing Epistemology. There he asks: "l. How ought we to arrive at our beliefs? 2. How do we arrive at our beliefs? 3. Are the processes by which we do arrive at our beliefs the ones by which we ought to arrive at our beliefs?" (p. 1). And he states the tasks of naturalized epistemology rather differently in his "Naturalism: Both Metaphysical and Epistemological," in Peter French, Theodore E. Uehling, and Howard K. Wettstein (eds. , Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Volume XIX, Philosophical Naturalism (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994). He writes: "We must now try to explain how creatures with the faculties cognitive science tells us we have could come to understand the kind of world which the sciences generally tell us that we inhabit" (p. 43). 1 opt for the 1990 formulation in appreciation of its more secular tone. (11.) Quine observes: "For surely there is nothing more basic to thought and language than our sense of similarity; our sorting of things into kinds" (W. V. O. Quine, "Natural Kinds," in Komblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 58). (12.) Komblith, "The Naturalistic Project in Epistemology," ms. p. 15. (13.) Other versions of naturalism grant to other sciences the privileged place that Quineans accord to scientific psychology. Evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive sociology, genetic epistemology, history of science, and ethnomethodology are the most prominent contenders. See in this regard James Maffie, "Recent Work On Naturalized Epistemology," American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 27 (1990). Here I draw on his note #7, p. 290. (14.) These examples come from articles in Kornblith, Naturalizing Epistemology, from Alvin Goldman's Epistemology and Cognition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986); and from Callebaut, The Naturalistic Turn. (15.) The Kahneman and Tversky studies figure prominently in Hilary Kornblith's essays, "The Laws of Thought," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 52 (1992); and "Naturalism: Both Metaphysical and Epistemological;" and in Alvin Goldman's "Epistemic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology;" and Stephen Stich's "Could Man Be an Irrational Animal? Some Notes on the Epistemology of Rationality," both in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology. (16.) Alvin Goldman, cites experiments that reveal the workings of long-term memory in his "Episteniic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology." In Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 310. (17.) Quine, "Epistemology Naturalized," p. 25. (18.) Alvin Goldman "Epistemic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology." In Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology. (19.) Alvin Goldman, "Epistemology and the Psychology of Belief." The Monist vol. 61 (1978), p. 525, italics in original. (20.) Jaegwon Kim charges Quinean naturalists with setting aside "the entire framework of justification-centered epistemology.. to put in its place a purely descriptive, causal-nomological science of human cognition." (Jaegwon Kim, "What Is "Naturalized Epistemology'?" In Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 40). On my reading, by contrast, naturalism secularizes justification with reference, also, to its pragmatic dimensions; it does not eschew it. (21.) In Lynn Hankinson Nelson, Who Knows. From Quine to a Feminist Empiricism (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990); and "Epistemological Communities," in Alcoff & Potter, eds. Feminist Epistemologies. I discuss Nelson's rereading of Quinean naturalism in "Critiques of Pure Reason," in my Rhetorical Spaces: Essays on (Gendered) Locations (New York: Routledge, 1995. And see Jane Duran, Toward a Feminist Epistemology (Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990). (22.) See Elizabeth Potter, "Gender and Epistemic Negotiation;" Susan Babbitt, "Feminism and Objective Interests: The Role of Transformation Experiences in Rational Deliberation;" and Kathryn Pyne Addelson, "Knowers/Doers and Their Moral Problems," in Alcoff & Potter, eds., Feminist Epistemologies. (23.) Louise Antony also affirms the radical feminist import of Quinean naturalism; but she is committed to an epistemological individualism and a degree of scientism that separate her analysis from those I mention here. See Louise Antony, "Quine As Feminist: The Radical Import of Naturalized Epistemology," in Antony & Witt, eds., A Mind of One's Own; and "Individualism, Ideology, and the Nature of Feminist Epistemology," APA Central Division paper, Kansas City, May 1994. (24.) Kornblith, "Naturalism: Both Metaphysical and Epistemological," ms. p. 50. Indeed, most philosophers -- and I among them -- do not have the credentials even to endorse Kornblith's statement with much confidence. (25.) Tom Sorell characterizes "scientism" as "the belief that science, especially natural science, is much the most valuable part of human learning . . . because it is much the most authoritative, or serious, or beneficial" and that "science is the only valuable part of human learning, or . . . that it is always good for subjects that do not belong to science to be placed on a scientific footing." Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 1, emphasis in original. (26.) See Arthur Danto, "Naturalism," in Paul Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 5:448. Cited in Werner Callebaut, Taking the Naturalistic Turn, pp. 1-2. (27.) Michael Friedman, for example, takes note of this circularity, yet by writes: "although the justification we obtain by deriving the reliability of scientific method from general facts about the actual world is undoubtedly circular, it is not necessarily viciously circular." Michael Friedman, "Truth and Confirmation," in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 177. Vicious or not, its circularity obliges it to offer extra-epistemological reasons why epistemologists might claim the convergence with psychology that naturalists require. (28.) Jerome Bruner, Acts of Meaning (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 36, my emphasis. (29.) Joseph Rouse, Knowledge and Power: Toward a Political Philosophy of Science (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987), pp. viii-ix. And see also Tiles & Tiles, An Introduction to Historical Epistemology. (30.) The outlines of these debates are set out in Bryan Wilson, ed., Rationality (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970) and Martin Holfis & Steven Lukes, eds., Rationality and Relativism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982). For more recent contributions, see Paul Rabinow & William M. Sullivan, eds. Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); and David R. Hiley, James E Bohman & Richard Shusterman, eds., The Interpretive Tum: Philosophy, Science, Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992). (31.) Sorell's view entails that "epistemology and empirical psychology can influence one another, but it stops short of implying that epistemology contains or is contained by empirical psychology, and carries no suggestion that work on any unresolved issue from traditional epistemology should be stopped," Scientism, p. 139. (32.) Quine, "Natural Kinds," p. 65. (33.) Sabina Lovibond, "The End of Morality?" in Lennon & Whitford, eds., Knowing the Difference, p. 72. (34.) Tiles and Tiles observe that "Science disputes the cognitive credentials of its critics, encouraging skepticism with respect to their methods and claims. Environmentalists, humanists and feminists seek to limit the scope of the authority of science, examining its methods and arguing that it really cannot claim decisive authority in matters social and environmental." An Introduction to Historical Epistemology, p. 206. (35.) I refer to Quine's pronouncement: "Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind." Quine, "Natural Kinds," in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 66. (36.) My point is not to ignore recent departures from individualism in "socialized" theories, particularly in naturalized philosophy of science. See, for example, Stephen Downes, "Socializing Naturalized Philosophy of Science," Philosophy of Science, vol. 60 (1993); Lynn Hankinson Nelson, "A Feminist Naturalized Philosophy of Science," Synthese, vol. 104 (1995); Miriam Solomon, "Social Empiricism" (Nous, vol. 28 (1994); and David Stump, "Naturalized Philosophy of Science with a Plurality of Methods," Philosophy of Science, vol. 59 (1992). My concern is with naturalism's individualist articulations, apparent in the essays in Naturalizing Epistemology, and in Alvin Goldman's claims that "individual" epistemology "needs help from the cognitive sciences" in Epistemology and Cognition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), and his assertion that knowledge "is the property of individual minds" (p. 1). Although Goldman's 1986 book is presented as part of a project that will go on to "socialize" epistemology, the assumption that individuals are prior to sociality, to which this ordering attests, implies an ontology of separate individuals who are only derivatively social. (37.) The now-classic text on this subject is Genevieve Lloyd's The Man of Reason: "Male" and Female" in Western Philosophy, Second Edition (London: Routledge, 1993). 38. Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter observe: "The authors in this collection who agree that epistemology should be naturalized disagree with malestream naturalization programs in two important ways. Nelson, Addleson, and Potter reject the assumption of epistemological individualism that the individual is the primary epistemic agent of knowledge. It follows that the use of sciences such as neurophysiology to study individual human brains or evolutionary biology to study the evolution of human individuals puts the epistemological cart before the horse." (The second disagreement is with the reduction of epistemology to science). "Introduction: When Feminisms Intersect Epistemology," in Alcoff & Potter, eds., Feminist Epistemologies, pp. 10-11. (39.) James Maffie observes that both Goldman and J. Angelo Corlett "favor an information-processing approach to human cognition which is solipsistic, i.e. which seeks to understand cognition without reference to states external to the mind-brain of the cognizer." James Maffie, "What is Social About Social Epistemics?" in Social Epistemology, vol. 5 (1991), p. 106. Contra this approach, Maffie argues, convincingly, that "the native vs. acquired distinction lacks both epistemic significance and conceptual precision" (p. 101). (40.) In his provocative reading of the features -- both positive and negative -- of psychology experiments, Steve Fuller remarks that "the institution of experiments in psychology . . . exaggerated the foregrounding effects of ordinary vision by physically isolating the organism in the artificially sparse setting of the laboratory." In his "Epistemology Radically Naturalized: Recovering the Normative, the Experimental, and the Social," in Ronald N. Giere, ed., Cognitive Models of Science (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 436. Analytic epistemologists, Fuller notes, "form a close-knit subculture who, through frequent written and oral rehearsals of the test cases for knowledge, prime each other's intuitions into mutual conformity," p. 441. (41.) Quine refers to an "innate spacing of qualities" in "Natural Kinds," pp. 64 and 67, claiming that A standard of similarity is in some sense innate," p. 63. The theory of innate linguistic readiness is due to Noam Chomsky. See his Cartesian Linguistics (New York: Harper & Row, 1966) and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1965). (Stephen Stich, it should be noted, parts company with other naturalists on this issue, arguing that it is "extremely plausible that there are substantial individual differences in cognitive competence." "Could Man Be an Irrational Animal?" in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 353. (42.) Annette Baier, "A Naturalist View of Persons," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 65, #3, November 1991, p. 7. (43.) See especially Annette Baier, "Cartesian Persons," in her Postures of the Mind: Essays on Mind and Morals (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985). (44.) A Naturalist View . . ." p. 5. (45.) Couze Venn, "The Subject of Psychology," in Julian Henriques, Wendy Hollway, Cathy Urwin, Couze Venn & Valerie Walkerdine, Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Subjectivity. (London: Methuen, 1984, pp. 140,141. "See also Wendy Hollway, Subjectivity and Method in Psychology: Gender, Meaning and Science (London: Sage Publications, 1989). (46.) Jerome Bruner, Acts of Meaning, p. 12. The extensive bibliographical references in Bruner's text and in the Changing the Subject collaboration dispel any suspicions that these are isolated voices speaking out against the hegemony of cognitive science. (47.) Jerome Bruner, Acts of Meaning, p. 73. Bruner cites Roger Lewin, In the Age of Mankind (Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Books, 1988) in support of this suggestion. (48.) Bruner, ibid., p. 73. (49.) Bruner, Acts of Meaning, p. 118. (50.) Fuller, "Epistemology Radically Naturalized," p. 431. (51.) See in this regard my "Incredulity, Experientialism and the Politics of Knowledge," in Rhetorical Spaces. (52.) I refer here to the title of Hileybohman, and Shusterman, eds., The Interpretive Turn:philosophy, Science, Culture. (53.) The genealogically-informed interpretation I am advocating has its source in the work of Michel Foucault. See especially his "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" in Donald E Bouchard, ed., Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977). Translated by Donald Bouchard and Sherry Simon. (54.) Naomi Weisstein, "Psychology Constructs the Female," in Vivian Gornick & Barbara K. Moran, eds., Woman in Sexist Society (New York: Basic Books, 1971). See M. Crawford and J. Marecek, "Psychology Reconstructs the Female: 1968-1988," Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 13, pp. L47-65, for the ongoing state of these debates. (55.) See Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982). (56.) I offer one such reading in my Taking Subjectivity Into Account, in Alcoff & Potter, eds., Feminist Epistemologies, pp. 27-32. (57.) A minimal sampling of such critiques would include Ruth Hubbard, Mary Sue Henifin, and Barbara Fried, eds., Biological Woman: The Convenient Myth (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1982); Janet Sayers, Biological Politics (London: Tavistock, 1982); Lynda Birke, Women, Feminism, and Biology (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1986); Anne Fausto-Sterling, Myths of Gender. Biological Theories About Women and Men (New York: Basic Books, 1985); Ruth Hubbard, The Politics of Women's Biology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990); and Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modem Science (New York: Routledge, 1989). (58.) Karen Messing, "Don't Use a Wrench to Peel Potatoes: Biological Science Constructed on Male Model Systems is a Risk to Women Workers' Health," in Sandra Burt & Lorraine Code, eds., Changing Methods. Feminists Transforming Practice (Peterborough, ON & Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press, 1995), p. 219. (59.) Messing, ibid., p. 230. (60.) Ibid., p. 233. (61.) Ibid., p. 242. (62.) Consider Quine: "A standard of similarity is in some sense innate. This point is not against empiricism; it is a commonplace of behavioral psychology," "Natural Kinds," in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology, p. 63. (63.) See Alison Wylie, Kathleen Okruhlik, Leslie Thielen-Wilson, and Sandra Morton, "Philosophical Feminism: A Bibliographic Guide to Critiques of Science," Resources for Feminist Research, vol. 19 (1990), pp. 2-36. (64.) Helen Watson-Verran, "Contemporary Aboriginal Life and Some Foundations in Reasoning," Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne, 1994. See also her earlier essay on a related topic in Helen Watson, "Investigating the Social Foundations of Mathematics: Natural Number in Culturally Diverse Forms of Life," Social Studies of Science, vol. 20 (1990). (65.) Amy Mullin, "Art, Politics, and Knowledge: Feminism, Modernity, and the Separation of Spheres." CPA Paper, Calgary, June 1994. (66.) Ecology-talk is not foreign to more standard forms of naturalism, though it does not function as a guiding, regulative concept. Ronald Giere notes that for Michael Gorman: "A claim is extemally valid if it generalizes well to other well-controlled, idealized conditions. A claim is ecologically valid if it generalizes well to natural settings, for example, to the reasoning of scientists in their laboratories." (Ronald N. Giere, "Introduction: Cognitive Models of Science," in Cognitive Models of Science, ibid., p. xxvi. "My resistance to designating the laboratory a natural setting will be clear from what I have said so far. For Steve Fuller, questions of ecological validity arise, rather, with reference to how the "contrived situations" analytic epistemologists study bear upon the "conditions under which people try to make sense of the world" ("Epistemology Radically Naturalized," p. 442) questions that also arise within the model I am seeking to develop. Although he does not use the language of ecology, Giere's discussion of naturalized philosophy of science in Ronald N. Giere, Explaining Science: A Cognitive Approach (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), esp. pp. 9-18, resonates with the analysis of knowledge I favour, as does James Maffie's position in "Towards an Anthropology of Epistemology," The Philosophical Forum, vol. 26 (1995). Framing the issues ecologically permits integrating political and epistemological concerns in ways that depart both from Giere's and from Maffie's analyses. (67.) I begin to elaborate such a conception of subjectivity in chapter 3, "Second Persons" of my What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991). (68.) Noteworthy exceptions to this concentration on adult behaviour are Komblith's appeal to developmental psychology in his 1990 symposium paper; Ellen Markman's "Natural Kinds," in Kornblith, ed., Naturalizing Epistemology; and Susan Carey, "The Origin and Evolution of Everyday Concepts," in Giere, ed., Cognitive Models of Science. (69.) In this sketch of the model I am quoting, with modifications, from my What Can She Know? pp. 269-70. (70.) I quote Kornblith's Midwest Studies paper (p. 16) where he notes the necessity of evaluating "our inductive inferential habits . . . against the background of the environments in which they operate . . . which are populated by natural kinds." (71.) For a provocative discussion of some of these issues, see Michael E. Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity (Berkeley: University of Califomia Press, 1994). Feminist engagement with ecology is often framed within ecofeminist debates. See for example Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (London: Routledge, 1993); and Karen J. Warren, ed., Ecological Feminism (London & New York: Routledge, 1994). (72.) Robyn Ferrell, "Richard Rorty and the Poet's Utopia," in Rosalyn Diprose and Robin Ferrell, eds., Cartographies: Poststructuralism and the Mapping of Bodies and Spaces (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1991). (73.) THis description of the ecological subject has affinities with the ethology that, for Gilles Deleuze, informs Spinoza's Ethics. Ethology, Deleuze says studies "the capacities for affecting and being affected that characterize each thing." It studies "the compositions of relations or capacities between different things.. It is . . . a matter of sociabilities and communities." In Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988), pp. 125,126. Genevieve Lloyd drew my attention to this discussion. (74.) Kornblith observes that epistemic norms that derive from a theory of epistemic virtue or responsibility (he cites my 1987 book) require an instrumental account of epistemic value. In "Epistemic Normativity," p. 375, note 11. He is not "convinced that it is possible to give an account of epistemic norms which provides more than this." (p. 359) (75.) Writing of a balance that moral-epistemological debates must achieve between "reverence" and "suspicion," Lovibond observes: "the appropriate relation between these two attitudes will be a mutually correcting or `dialectical' one; and the balance between them at any given moment will be the outcome of this continual process of mutual correction. . ." "The End of Morality?" p. 75. (76.) Ursula Franklin, who was University Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto, is now professor emerita. I draw this example from her lecture at the University of Guelph in February, 1986. (77.) Jim Cheney, "Postmodern Environmental Ethics: Ethics as Bioregional Narrative," in Environmental Ethics vol. 11 (1 989), p. 126. (78.) Vandana Shiva, Stayinga Aive: Women, Ecology and Development (London: Zed Books, 1989), p. 4. (79.) See Michel Foucault, "Two Lectures," in Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews Other Writings 1972-1977 (New York: Pantheon, 1980). (80.) See Patricia J. Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991). (81.) Bruno Latour, in section 5.4.2. Irreduction, of Werner Callebaut, Taking the Naturalistic Tum, p. 218. In the conversation cited here, Callebaut is Latour's interlocutor, and it is he who describes the metaphor as ecological. (82.) I elaborate the exemplary character of knowing other people in chapter four of What Can She Know?, and in "Taking Subjectivity Into Account," in Alcoff & Potter, eds., Feminist Epistemologies. (83.) I owe this formulation to David Hull in his allusion to this ambiguity in section 3.5.2 How to Get Beyond the Purely Descriptive in Callebaut, ed., Taking the Naturalistic Turn, p. 99. (84.) Bruner, Acts of Meaning, p. 60. (85.) Quine, "Epistemology Naturalized," p. 26. (86.) For extensive and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper I am grateful to Murray Code, Carmel Forde, Genevieve Lloyd, Lynn Hankinson Nelson, Richard Schmitt, James Wong, and an anonymous referee for the American Philosophical Quarterly. Audiences at the Chapel Hill Colloquium, the American Philosophical Association Central Division (1995), McMaster University, the University of Trondheim, the University of New South Wales, and Macquarie University, and members of the Nordiskt Natverk for Feministisk Epistemologi och Vetenskapsteori offered valuable criticisms and suggestions.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||feminism and ecological model for naturalized epistemology|
|Publication:||American Philosophical Quarterly|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1996|
|Previous Article:||Aretaic cognitivism.|
|Next Article:||What it isn't like.|