A Brief Comment on the Moodey – Collins Exchange on Knowledge, Ilya Kasavin

SERRC —  September 17, 2016 — 2 Comments

Author Information: Ilya Kasavin, Russian Academy of Sciences, itkasavin@gmail.com

Kasavin, Ilya. “A Brief Comment on the Moodey – Collins Exchange on Knowledge.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 9 (2016): 18.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-3c6

Please refer to:

In der Bibliothek

Image credit: solar.empire, via flickr

Richard Moodey, in his reply to Harry Collins, wrote:

My disagreement with Collins turns on my denial that “knowledge” is something that can be “possessed,” the same sense that money or physical objects can be possessed. If “knowledge” is imagined to be something that can be possessed, then it follows that it can be possessed by either a collectivity or a person. I do not, however, imagine knowledge to be something that can be possessed. I imagine “knowledge” as inseparable from acts of knowing, as something performed, rather than possessed (42). 

This basic premise, insofar as I grasp it, means that knowledge together with acts of knowing are internal states. If so, we need a psychology of self-observation and self-analysis to study what knowledge is or, even more, neuroscience equipped with tomographic toolkit. In contrast social epistemology, as I view it, proceeds from knowledge objectivization in speech acts, books, other material artifacts and social institutions that scientists and scholars observe, describe and classify providing, thereby, the stuff for epistemological analysis and generalizations. According to this picture, there is hardly any difference between “possessing” and “performing” knowledge—both might be realized by collectives only due to communication between individuals and their joint decisions.

Accordingly, I doubt that there is a real way to draw a sharp boundary between an individual and a collectivity, if one takes them as a subject matter of epistemological analysis. In fact, every normal human individual is internally collective. There is no collectivity, which would complement individuality, since all persons are equally individuals and collective entities. Still, certain individuals manifest collective sociality and culture more than others.

But the main point is that this difference is not of ontological but, rather, of epistemological character. This difference might be the main reason for misunderstanding between Collins and Moodey. Individual differences, since they happen to be the focus of philosophical reflection, scientific research or artistic images, immediately turn into the products of typologization, classification and categorization, which are essentially collective artifacts produced by means of socially elaborated, approved and legalized laws of rational thinking.  Collectivity is not necessarily fictional, virtual or reducible to an individual. Rather, philosophy keeps silent about an individual as if it is like a tragic event, doomed to death and oblivion. A single individual is a thing in itself. An individual does not exist!

References

Moodey, Richard W. “Performing Knowing: A Reply to Collins.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 6 (2016): 42-43.

2 responses to A Brief Comment on the Moodey – Collins Exchange on Knowledge, Ilya Kasavin

  1. 

    Ilya Kasavin says: “This basic premise, insofar as I grasp it, means that knowledge together with acts of knowing are internal states.” This sentence does not express my premise. I distinguish between acts and states. I use “act” to point to an event, an “actual occasion.” I use “state” to point to the condition of a thing, a system of things, a network of things, or a random congeries of things. I use the adjectives “conscious” and “unconscious” to point to different states of a person or other animal.

    Kasavin’s assertion that the “premise … means that ….” suggests to me that we have a deep disagreement about language. I deny that a premise, as formulated in a declarative sentence, means something in and of itself. I hold that only persons can mean something by a word or a sentence. Both the sender and the receiver of a verbal message attribute meaning to it from their distinctive personal backgrounds.

    Kasavin doubts “that there is a real way to draw a sharp boundary between an individual and a collectivity, if one takes them as a subject matter of epistemological analysis.” I cannot be sure that the meaning I attribute to that sentence is even close to the meaning he attributes to it. What I am sure of is that the sentence does not mean anything “by itself.” One possible meaning I attribute to it is that he is (tentatively) denying that there is no real distinction between an individual and a collectivity. I doubt, however, that this is what he means. The rest of the paragraph does not help me to get a better grasp on just what it is that he is either doubting or asserting. His concluding sentence, “An individual does not exist!”, makes sense to me if I change “an individual” to “the isolated individual,” but makes no sense to me if he is denying that he exists or that I exist.

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  1. A Rejoinder to Moodey and Kasavin, Harry Collins « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - September 18, 2016

    […] Ilya. “A Brief Comment on the Moodey – Collins Exchange on Knowledge.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 9 (2016): […]

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