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Knowledge in a Social World Paperback – March 25, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An important work of monumental scope. Its central concern is the ways in which social practices and familiar institutions contribute to and undermine the pursuit of knowledge. To that extent it reveals a sensitivity to the animating, if ultimately misdirected and misleading, insight of the
postmodernists that we are socially situated beings; at the same time it brilliantly defends the idea that this fact about our situatedness does nothing to undermine the possibility of truth and objective knowledge. This is a book of singular importance to lawyers, political theorists, social and
natural scientists as well as to educators and theorists of education. It is a major contribution to all these fields and not just because of its insights into them, but for its accessibility to intelligent practitioners as well. It may well be the most significant interdisciplinary philosophy book
of the decade."--Jules Coleman, Yale Law School
"Alvin Goldman, the premier epistemologist of the past two decades, has written a pioneering book that will define the field of social epistemology. Scholars will learn from his judicious and lucid proposals, and they will be wrestling for years with the exciting and important problems he
raises."--Philip Kitcher
"Until the late twentieth century social epistemology was a neglected subject. . . . The scope of Goldman's discussion and the characterstic clarity with which he approaches the issues make this book the first classic in the field."--Philosophy and Phenomenological Research



"An important work of monumental scope. Its central concern is the ways in which social practices and familiar institutions contribute to and undermine the pursuit of knowledge. To that extent it reveals a sensitivity to the animating, if ultimately misdirected and misleading, insight of the
postmodernists that we are socially situated beings; at the same time it brilliantly defends the idea that this fact about our situatedness does nothing to undermine the possibility of truth and objective knowledge. This is a book of singular importance to lawyers, political theorists, social and
natural scientists as well as to educators and theorists of education. It is a major contribution to all these fields and not just because of its insights into them, but for its accessibility to intelligent practitioners as well. It may well be the most significant interdisciplinary philosophy book
of the decade."--Jules Coleman, Yale Law School
"Alvin Goldman, the premier epistemologist of the past two decades, has written a pioneering book that will define the field of social epistemology. Scholars will learn from his judicious and lucid proposals, and they will be wrestling for years with the exciting and important problems he
raises."--Philip Kitcher
"Until the late twentieth century social epistemology was a neglected subject. . . . The scope of Goldman's discussion and the characterstic clarity with which he approaches the issues make this book the first classic in the field."--Philosophy and Phenomenological Research


"An important work of monumental scope. Its central concern is the ways in which social practices and familiar institutions contribute to and undermine the pursuit of knowledge. To that extent it reveals a sensitivity to the animating, if ultimately misdirected and misleading, insight of the postmodernists that we are socially situated beings; at the same time it brilliantly defends the idea that this fact about our situatedness does nothing to undermine the possibility of truth and objective knowledge. This is a book of singular importance to lawyers, political theorists, social and natural scientists as well as to educators and theorists of education. It is a major contribution to all these fields and not just because of its insights into them, but for its accessibility to intelligent practitioners as well. It may well be the most significant interdisciplinary philosophy book of the decade."--Jules Coleman, Yale Law School
"Alvin Goldman, the premier epistemologist of the past two decades, has written a pioneering book that will define the field of social epistemology. Scholars will learn from his judicious and lucid proposals, and they will be wrestling for years with the exciting and important problems he raises."--Philip Kitcher
"Until the late twentieth century social epistemology was a neglected subject. . . . The scope of Goldman's discussion and the characterstic clarity with which he approaches the issues make this book the first classic in the field."--Philosophy and Phenomenological Research



"An important work of monumental scope. Its central concern is the ways in which social practices and familiar institutions contribute to and undermine the pursuit of knowledge. To that extent it reveals a sensitivity to the animating, if ultimately misdirected and misleading, insight of the postmodernists that we are socially situated beings; at the same time it brilliantly defends the idea that this fact about our situatedness does nothing to undermine the possibility of truth and objective knowledge. This is a book of singular importance to lawyers, political theorists, social and natural scientists as well as to educators and theorists of education. It is a major contribution to all these fields and not just because of its insights into them, but for its accessibility to intelligent practitioners as well. It may well be the most significant interdisciplinary philosophy book of the decade."--Jules Coleman, Yale Law School


"Alvin Goldman, the premier epistemologist of the p

About the Author


Alvin I. Goldman is one of the world's foremost epistemologists; he is Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, and a Past President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (March 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198238207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198238201
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In this path-breaking book, Alvin Goldman brings academic epistemology to bear on important real world issues in information technology, the media, science, law, politics, and education. The motivating idea of the book is simple: Knowledge (in the weak sense of true belief) is important. Social institutions and practices can and should be evaluated on how well or how poorly they contribute to true belief. Taken as a whole, this book is one of the most effective explanations in the philosophical literature of why truth matters, both theoretically and in practice. This book is not for everyone. Its careful attention to evidence and its sustained philosophical argument demand the full attention of the reader. But unlike many other types of academic philosophy, here the evidence and argument are brought to bear on fascinating real world issues, including policies for freedom of speech, publishing on the World Wide Web, the adversary system of justice, political campaign fundraising, and proposals for curricular change in education. The depth and breadth of Goldman's knowledge on the variety of issues that he discusses is remarkable. In addition to presenting and defending Goldman's own well-thought-out positions on the issues, the book as a whole provides a powerful philosophical response of the theoretical excesses of deconstructionists, postmodernists, social constructionists and extreme pragmatists on these issues. My one reservation about the book is that, for a book in social epistemology, it sometimes tends to be overly individualistic. For example, Goldman's discussion of the jury system pays more attention to the evidence on the cognitive limitations of individuals than to the evidence of how juries as a group are often able to compensate for those individual cognitive limitations.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In his earlier book Epistemology and Cognition (Harvard University Press, 1986), Alvin I. Goldman sketched a distinction between individual and social epistemology, offered his own account of the former, and promised a sequel devoted to the latter. Knowledge in a Social World is that sequel, and offers a systematic treatment of social epistemology. It is original not only in substance but in conception, opening up whole new avenues of epistemological investigation. As Goldman treats it, social epistemology "is linked to those social science and policy disciplines that study knowledge in its social and institutional contexts." (ix) His aim is to offer a social theory of knowledge, which takes full account of "the interpersonal and institutional contexts in which most knowledge endeavors are actually undertaken" (vii); and, in light of the fact that "social practices can make both positive and negative contributions to knowledge," aims "to show just which social practices, under what conditions, will promote knowledge rather than subvert it." (viii) The book is a tour de force: wide-ranging, ambitious and challenging. It is engagingly written: non-technical, exceedingly clear, and witty. It treats a wide range of social domains and practices, including science, education, law, testimony, and argumentation. It uses examples deftly and tellingly; its arguments are consistently powerful. One couldn't ask for a better demonstration of the relevance of epistemology to a broad range of social and policy issues. Those who disagree with Goldman's conclusions, and his recommendations for truth-enhancing practices, will have to confront this book. It is a must-read for scholars from the gamut of disciplines that treat the issues it addresses, and to the intelligent non-specialist as well.
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Format: Paperback
I've seldom been more disappointed with the structure of a philosophical book. The author attempts to put together very general analyses of broad social systems. I think he misapplies his method and fails to find the right vantage points. His analyses don't yield any interesting insights.

After a couple of introductory chapters the author presents his theoretical framework for social epistemology in chapter 3. He understands social epistemology as "a discipline that evaluates social practices along truth-linked dimensions" (p.69). I thought he explained his plan well in general terms, but when he puts the plan in action he underestimates the difficulty in "evaluating social practices". Many of the "practices" he investigates are so broad that it would be a lifetime's work to analyze them epistemologically. Instead of thinking the matter through, he seems more than happy to settle for a general review of earlier literature and a tentative, unspecific argument. The few conclusions he manages to eke out are uninteresting and obvious.

This applies particularly to chapters 8-10, where the practices under study are science, law and democracy, respectively. In the chapter on science he presents the standard literature for undergraduate studies in the philosophy of science, but I don't see how it is relevant for social epistemology. The only conclusion he can muster is that science is better than non-science in answering the sorts of questions that science seeks to answer! In chapter 9 he tries to act as the epistemological referee between the common law and civil law traditions.
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