What Is Natural about Epistemology Naturalized?

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<ul><li><p>North American Philosophical Publications</p><p>What Is Natural about Epistemology Naturalized?Author(s): Lorraine CodeSource: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 1-22Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the North American PhilosophicalPublicationsStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20009844 .Accessed: 07/05/2014 08:34</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>University of Illinois Press and North American Philosophical Publications are collaborating with JSTOR todigitize, preserve and extend access to American Philosophical Quarterly.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 7 May 2014 08:34:20 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=illinoishttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=napphttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=napphttp://www.jstor.org/stable/20009844?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</li><li><p>American Philosophical Quarterly Volume 33, Number 1, January 1996 </p><p>WHAT IS NATURAL ABOUT EPISTEMOLOGY NATURALIZED? </p><p>Lorraine Code </p><p>1. Naturalistic Promise, Emancipatory Hopes </p><p>IN aturalized epistemologies open up an </p><p>impressive range of resources and possi? bilities' to participants in successor episte </p><p>mology projects. The new naturalisms </p><p>promise to dissolve many of the prohibitions and exclusions that have held the principal </p><p>Anglo-American epistemologies of the </p><p>twentieth century at a distance from the very </p><p>knowledge they claim to explicate. They shift </p><p>epistemology away from idealized abstrac? </p><p>tion to establish connections with epistemic </p><p>practice that could enable theories of knowl? </p><p>edge to engage constructively and critically with everyday cognitive activities. Neither </p><p>committed to analyzing what ideal knowers </p><p>ought to do nor constrained to devoting their </p><p>best efforts to silencing the sceptic, natural? ists assume that knowledge is possible and </p><p>seek to understand its real-world (natural) conditions. They abandon any quest for a pri? ori, necessary and sufficient conditions for </p><p>knowledge in general, to examine how </p><p>epistemic agents actually produce knowl? </p><p>edge, variously, within the scope and limits of </p><p>human cognitive powers as these powers are </p><p>revealed in the same projects of inquiry. In </p><p>this essay I ask how epistemologists work? </p><p>ing, specifically, from a feminist agenda </p><p>might best draw on these resources. </p><p>According to Sabina Lovibond, feminists </p><p>have good reasons to participate in a natural? </p><p>istic revival. Feminist theory, she contends, is </p><p>indebted to the efforts of philosophy over the last century and more to "naturalize" </p><p>epistemology... to represent the activity we </p><p>call "enquiry" as part of the natural history of human beings. For naturalist or materialist </p><p>analyses of the institutions of knowledge production </p><p>? schools, universities, the wider </p><p>"republic of letters" ?have made it possible to expose the unequal part played by differ? ent social groups in determining standards of </p><p>judgement. ...They have revealed the ideo? </p><p>logical character of value-systems which have passed as objective or universally valid.2 </p><p>Feminists are engaged, albeit from di? verse theoretical positions, in demonstrat? </p><p>ing how epistemologies ? often tacitly </p><p>? </p><p>carry within them a potential either to sus? </p><p>tain a social-political status quo or to pro? mote emancipatory ends. Tracing the effects </p><p>of theories of knowledge in the world where </p><p>knowledge is sought and made, feminist and </p><p>other critiques of epistemology have demon? strated that epistemic agendas and social-po litical commitments are inextricably intertwined and mutually constitutive.3 </p><p>Naturalistic analyses of institutions and </p><p>processes of knowledge-production con? </p><p>tribute invaluably to projects of explicating the repressive and/or potentially transfor? </p><p>mative consequences of epistemic assump? tions in their trickle-down effects in </p><p>everyday knowledge making.4 Although in? </p><p>vestigations of the emancipatory potential of theories of knowledge have not been </p><p>much in fashion or favor in the heyday of </p><p>twentieth-century preoccupations with de? </p><p>termining necessary and sufficient condi? </p><p>tions for knowledge in general, it is worth </p><p>recalling that, historically, such investigations commanded wider respect. For example, </p><p>1 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 7 May 2014 08:34:20 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</li><li><p>2 / AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY </p><p>Plato's quest for principles of certain </p><p>knowledge was animated by his need to en? </p><p>sure that the guardians in the Republic would exercise knowledgeable authority; and Bacon believed scientific inquiry would </p><p>contribute to securing the best life for hu? </p><p>manity.5 Marxist commitments to develop? </p><p>ing emancipatory epistemologies that could </p><p>shatter the naturalistic illusions of the capi? talist social order are well known.6 And the </p><p>early positivists proclaimed the benefits of </p><p>scientific knowledge for liberating human? </p><p>ity from thralldom to religious or meta? </p><p>physical excesses by enhancing standards of </p><p>"clarity and responsibility."7 It is this kind </p><p>of interest that the new naturalists might be </p><p>able to reanimate. </p><p>In this essay, then, I endorse Lovibond's </p><p>hopes for a naturalistic engagement with </p><p>questions about knowledge when the aspi? rations of "the epistemological project" are </p><p>under strain from post-modern, post-colo? nial, and post-patriarchal critiques. I offer </p><p>some suggestions about how feminists can </p><p>make the most of the rich possibilities that </p><p>a well conceived (natural historical) natu? </p><p>ralism has to offer. Yet I engage critically with naturalism's most successful North </p><p>American version ?the line that claims an </p><p>originary debt to the work of W.V.O. Quine </p><p>?regarding features that, on my reading, limit its promise. My contention will be that </p><p>the transformative potential of this strand </p><p>of naturalism is thwarted in three principal </p><p>ways which are interconnected, mutually informative, and yet separable. First, natu? </p><p>ralistic venerations of physical science as </p><p>the only "institution of knowledge-produc? tion" that is worthy of analysis tend to gen? erate an excessive and reductive scientism. </p><p>Second, Quinean naturalists' consequent reliance on scientific psychology and cogni? tive science as uncontested sources of ex? </p><p>emplary knowledge of human cognitive </p><p>functioning begs the question about the </p><p>epistemic status of psychology itself. Third, naturalism works with contestable repre? sentations of "nature," both physical and </p><p>human. I elaborate the first and second set </p><p>of issues in the next section of this essay, </p><p>and the third in section three. In section </p><p>four I sketch out a version of naturalism </p><p>that could enable feminists to reclaim the </p><p>promise that I, with Lovibond, see in epis? </p><p>temology naturalized. </p><p>2. Natural Science, Human Subjects </p><p>It is impossible in one essay to address the whole vast naturalistic project, whose </p><p>literature is proliferating more rapidly than even the most assiduous scholar could read </p><p>it.8 Hence I am restricting my analysis to </p><p>the line of inquiry that derives from </p><p>Quine 's now-landmark claim that "episte? mology, or something like it, simply falls </p><p>into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural </p><p>phenomenon, viz., a physical human sub? </p><p>ject."9 I pick up the Quinean thread where </p><p>Hilary Kornblith picks it up in his 1991 es? </p><p>say "The Naturalistic Project in Epistemol? ogy: A Progress Report," to identify its two </p><p>principal questions as "What is the world </p><p>that we may know it? And what are we that we may know the world?"10 Answers to </p><p>these questions are to be sought at the </p><p>places where the best current theories of </p><p>the nature of the world and the best current </p><p>psychological theories dovetail. For knowl? </p><p>edge about the world, state-of-the-art sci? ence may include chemistry, biology, </p><p>physics, and other laboratory sciences. For </p><p>the knowledge about "us" that it gleans from scientific psychology, it relies upon a </p><p>rejuvenated doctrine of "natural kinds" and assumes that these "kinds" are not dena? </p><p>tured when they are studied in a laboratory </p><p>setting and so still count as "natural."11 It </p><p>studies "how we are adapted to the struc? </p><p>ture of the world around us"12 so that it </p><p>makes sense for us to rely on the informa? </p><p>tion we acquire through our perceptual ap? </p><p>paratus and on the conclusions of our </p><p>inductive inferences. Science need not ex? </p><p>clude mental states and processes from its </p><p>ontology, but it tends to assume that they are physically constituted. In psychological as in physical inquiry, it grants pride of </p><p>place to prediction, (causal) explanation, and technological application as knowledge </p><p>attesting activities. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 7 May 2014 08:34:20 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</li><li><p>EPISTEMOLOGY NATURALIZED? / 3 </p><p>Guided by their commitment to deriving normative recommendations from the </p><p>demonstrated scope and limits of human </p><p>cognition, naturalists study psychological </p><p>experiments that show how people justify their beliefs, generalize to new conclusions, correct perceptual errors, conserve infor? </p><p>mation in memory, assimilate testimony, and accommodate or resist novelty, to cite </p><p>just a few examples.14 Taking the findings of </p><p>such research seriously enables epistemolo </p><p>gists to tailor their normative demands to </p><p>what people can achieve epistemically, to </p><p>how they tend to process evidence and re? </p><p>spond to incongruities. Thus, for example, exhortations about how knowers should go about justifying their probablisitic conclu? </p><p>sions that extend beyond available evi? </p><p>dence may be tempered by readings of </p><p>Kahneman and Tversky's experiments that </p><p>show, repeatedly, how "people regularly violate [a] basic tenet of probabilistic rea? </p><p>soning."15 The aim is not for naturalists to </p><p>learn to tolerate this violation, thus turning the "is" into an "ought." It is, rather, to en? </p><p>able them to offer manageable guidelines within which to urge improvement, or to be </p><p>well placed to assess the extent of epistemic </p><p>culpability, say when a subject fails "to re? </p><p>cover or activate something from long-term </p><p>memory."16 This, then, is the physical hu? man subject who becomes the new </p><p>epistemic subject: the human being as proc? essor of knowledge as information, whose </p><p>experiential input is quite inadequate to ac? </p><p>count for the "torrential output" that </p><p>emerges in its knowledge of "the three-di? </p><p>mensional external world and its history."17 Because people can survive only to the ex? </p><p>tent that they can process the information </p><p>available from their environments, under? </p><p>standing their information processing ca? </p><p>pacities should yield an epistemology more </p><p>adequate to human purposes than one that </p><p>directs its recommendations toward an </p><p>ideal of epistemic perfection that no human </p><p>knower could achieve. And naturalism's </p><p>commitment to studying how real people perform in experimental situations prompts </p><p>Alvin Goldman to commend it for main </p><p>taining contact with "epistemic folkways."18 Naturalists show, then, that epistemic in? </p><p>junctions are worthless if they require peo? </p><p>ple to perform cognitive tasks that their </p><p>intellectual or perceptual capacities do not </p><p>permit. (Hence it would be ludicrous to re? </p><p>quire people to learn to distinguish be? </p><p>tween ultra-violet intensities with the </p><p>unaided eye.) As Goldman puts the point, </p><p>given that "epistemology is in the business </p><p>of saying what psychological states a cog nizer should be in in various circumstances, or what states it would be rational or intel? </p><p>ligent for him [or her?] to be in, we need as </p><p>good a specification as possible of the range of cognitive states open to him."19 Yet natu? </p><p>ralists are not thus advocating a static, </p><p>purely descriptive ? hence non-normative </p><p>? epistemology. They are insisting that nor </p><p>mativity is as much a practical as a purely </p><p>logical concern, that epistemic imperatives </p><p>acquire their force from a demonstrable </p><p>congruence between their urgings and the </p><p>possibilities that human cognitive equip? ment affords. Naturalism will transform </p><p>epistemology's justificatory strategies just as radically as it will restructure its evi? </p><p>dence-gathering procedures.20 I discuss Quine-derived naturalism here </p><p>not just because of its professional success </p><p>in English-language philosophy, but be? </p><p>cause, in following this line, feminist </p><p>epistemologists have produced some of </p><p>their most innovative work. Lynn Nelson has developed subtle readings of Quine as a proto-feminist, as the articulator of a ver? </p><p>sion of empiricism that can be critically elaborated to serve feminist ends; and Jane </p><p>Duran sees in naturalism a valuable re? </p><p>source for developing a feminist epistemol? </p><p>ogy.21 Essays by Susan Babbitt, Elizabeth </p><p>Potter, and Kathryn Addelson in the 1993 </p><p>collection Feminist Epistemologies22 all (al? beit variously) claim a debt to naturalistic </p><p>epistemology. Yet none of these philoso? </p><p>phers adopts naturalism's aims and ideals </p><p>uncontested and whole; to varying degrees, they work, at once, in and out of naturalized </p><p>epistemology, drawing on its resources even as they criticize its reductive and exclusion </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 7 May 2014 08:34:20 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</li><li><p>4 / AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY </p><p>ary features. Their principal challenges to </p><p>naturalistic orthodoxy are directed at its </p><p>scientistic excesses, which I discuss here, and its epistemic individualism, which fig? ures centrally in the next section of this es? </p><p>say.23 </p><p>The Quinean naturalists have an impres? sive record of scientific and technological successes to cite as evidence when they rep? resent natural science as the best knowl? </p><p>edge of how the physical world works that </p><p>human beings have produced and when </p><p>they read this record of success to show that </p><p>scientific method is pretty much in order as </p><p>it stands. Kornblith ? I think rightly ? as? </p><p>serts that philosophy "does not have the </p><p>credentials ...to dictate how science itself </p><p>should be carried out."24 But neither does </p><p>science have the credentials to dictate how </p><p>philosophy ? and hence epistemology </p><p>? </p><p>should be carried out. I am suggesting...</p></li></ul>


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