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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 37, Issue 3, 2013

Steve Fuller
Pages 14-39

Social Epistemology as the Science of Cognitive Management
Releasing the Hidden Potential in the History of Philosophy

Looking broadly at the history of philosophy, I develop the ideas of 'cognitive management' and 'cognitive economy', which have always informed my conception of social epistemology. I elaborate two general tendencies, which have been also expressed in more conventional philosophical terms, such as Kant's famous contrast of 'rationalism' and 'empiricism'. The former tradition stresses the mind's capacity to remake the world in its own image, whereas the latter stresses the mind's receptiveness to the inherent character of the world. In 'economic' terms, the resulting conceptions of knowledge are, respectively, 'demand' and 'supply' driven. In the former case, knowledge consists in the realization of the mind's own needs; in the latter, knowledge is proportionate what the world has to offer. In terms of access to ultimate truth, the former tends to overestimate (i.e. 'proactionary'), the latter to underestimate (i.e. 'precautionary'). I also discuss the idea of 'undiscovered public knowledge' as a pressing problem in cognitive management that relates to the scale and scope of the scientific enterprise in our time.

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