Christmas Greetings 2013, Steve Fuller

Author Information: Steve Fuller, University of Warwick,


Editor’s Note: Last year, Steve Fuller offered a manifesto for the coming year. Steve graciously agreed to extend holiday greetings this year — hopefully the beginning of an annual tradition! Sincere thanks to Steve and all the extraordinary contributors to the SERRC. Thanks, especially, to the exceptional efforts of our Collective. We realize the future together.

This year Jim Collier introduced a series of ‘collective visions’ for social epistemology that has probably engaged more of the collective than any other activity to date. An impressive range of visions has appeared so far, but even more impressive has been their studied avoidance of topics like ‘trust’, ‘testimony’ and ‘expertise’ that characterise analytic social epistemology. I have always disliked these topics because they suggest that someone else — not oneself — should be taking responsibility for knowledge claims. Analytic social epistemology has always been more about the beliefs we should have than the ‘we’ who should be having the beliefs.

The issue of who ‘we’ are is bound to be important in the coming years — and not only for the usual emancipatory reasons that concern overcoming various forms of unjust epistemic discrimination. In addition, claims are increasingly be made on behalf of certain animals and machines for them to join the epistemic community, thereby becoming one of ‘us’. Many fascinating and frightening questions of ontology and ethics are opened up by this prospect, especially once we add into the mix such issues as scarce resources, ecological and economic instability, as well as our growing powers to create new life forms and enhance already existing ones.

The Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective is poised to be on the frontline of these discussions, and I very much look forward to contribute to them with you in 2014.

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4 replies

  1. Lyudmila A. Markova
    Russian Academy of Science

    Steve Fuller proposed important problems for us to discuss over the next year. He poses the question: Who are “we”? I agree with Fuller that this question should be answered differently than in analytic philosophy. But I would prefer to be more radical.

    In my opinion, it’s not enough to include some animals and machines in the epistemic community. It’s necessary to understand every single thing in the surrounding world as a product of (as one might choose) man, nature or God. Each thing has a creator that can be member of the epistemic community. However, in traditional epistemology each thing in the world, including human beings, is an object. The problem of truth as the correspondence of knowledge to reality (to things) is a basic notion.

    In social epistemology, knowledge is oriented to humans. As a result, the problem of truth becomes marginal. In this connection we face not only the problem of who “we” are, but also with the problem of “what we can say we know” or, in a somewhat different formulation, “How do we know what we know?” These questions are posed by James Collier. If Fuller questions the concept “we”, Collier makes problematic the notion of the object of thinking. A clear boundary between two poles of the interaction between humans and the world is lost.

    We can find a way out of this situation if we rely on Fuller’s ideas about the future of humanity. He writes about what he believes is the next step in human evolution. Fuller calls this concept “Humanity 2.0.” Currently, this dispute is conducted usually on the degree of similarity between human and machine. In the future, will the border between them disappear? Perhaps the same way as the border between a man and surrounding world is already vanishing?

    And, of course, Fuller is right when he says that the basic notions in the social epistemology must not be the same as traditional ones.

    There are many topics to discuss in 2014.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Markova’s radical inclusion of everything in the epistemic community reminds me of Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind.” One of the reasons why I focus on the human members of this community is that humans seem to be the only ones who can give verbally formulated answers to the questions: “what can we say we know?” and “How do we know what we know?” I also question the “we” in these questions, but for reasons that might differ from Fuller. There are two quite different interpretations of the core words “we know.” One is that each of us knows, individually. The other is that we know, collectively.

    I deny that we know collectively. I affirm that our individual knowing depends upon social interaction.


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