Knowing and Value

Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology

By Frederick Ferre

Subjects: Epistemology
Series: SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought
Paperback : 9780791439906, 393 pages, October 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439890, 393 pages, October 1998

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Table of contents


Introduction to SUNY Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought
David Ray Griffin

1. Why Do Epistemology?


Knowing and the Requirements of Theory
Knowing and the Variety of Life
Knowing and Basic Contrasts
Knowing and Being
Knowing and Valuing



2. Ancient Knowers


Plato and His Predecessors
Aristotle and His Successors


3. Medieval Believers


Between Augustine and Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Scotus and Ockham


4. Modern Doubters


Hobbes and Descartes
Locke and Berkeley
Hume and Kant



5. Reducing the Gap


Intuitions of a World
Fichte and Hegel
Comte and Mill
Mach and Ayer
Problems with Reduction


6. Webbing the Gap


The Coherentist Pedigree
F. H. Bradley
Brand Blanshard
Problems with Coherentism


7. Leaping the Gap


Søren Kierkegaard
Reflecting on Kierkegaard
C. S. Peirce and William James
Problems with the Leap



8. Experiencing the World


The Postmodern Turn
Physical Continuities in Experience
Conceptual Continuities in Experience
Experience: Spectra and Bipolarities
Bipolar Experience: Some Benefits


9. Thinking the World


The Phases of Concrescence
The Path to Conceptual Thinking
Defining the True


10. Knowing the World


Practical Knowing
Observational Knowing
Theoretical Knowing
The Knowing of Beauty and the Beauty of Knowing


Works Cited

Note on Supporting Center


Offers a postmodern theory of knowledge based on an ecological worldview that stresses real relations and the pervasiveness of values.


Modern thought, finally free from premodern excesses of belief, immediately fell prey to excesses of doubt. This book points toward a postmodern approach to knowing that moves beyond the tired choice between dogma and skepticism. Its key deconstructive aim is to help contemporary philosophers see that their paralyzing modern "epistemological gap" is a myth. Its positive outcome, however, reverses the identification of "postmodern" with deconstruction rather than construction, with the "end of philosophy" rather than renewal in philosophy.

Knowing and Value begins by tracing how we got here, and argues that much of our modern dilemma rests on choices that might have gone otherwise. Key value judgments underlying Plato's and Aristotle's epistemological norms, which still tend to govern our theories of knowledge, are clarified. Next the value-laden sources of premodern attitudes toward knowing are exposed by showing how the Christian synthesis of faith and reason was at first built by medieval Platonists and Aristotelians, then razed by premodern nominalists. This diagnostic account concludes with a close look at how modernity, from Hobbes and Descartes to Kant, designed its own epistemological trap by rejecting some premodern values, while accepting others.

The book also examines the principal ways moderns (positivists, idealists, existentialists, and pragmatists) have tried to cope with the supposed epistemological gap—each without success, but with every failure leaving resources for rebuilding.

In a constructive climax, the book shows how an ecological worldview, emphasizing real relations (the view proposed in its predecessor volume, Being and Value) can heal the needless ruptures on which modern epistemic maladies depend. A reformed account of human experience confronts modern skepticism head-on; a fresh "process" approach to language and thinking is proposed; and finally, a postmodern, pluralist view of theories and truth is offered under a guiding aesthetic metaphor: "Knowing is the music of thought. "

Frederick Ferre is Research Professor of Philosophy at The University of Georgia, where he co-founded the Faculty of Environmental Ethics. He has published numerous books, among them Being and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Metaphysics, also published by SUNY Press.