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Wild Knowledge

Science, Language, and Social Life in a Fragile Environment

1992
Author:

Will Wright

Wild Knowledge

“A bold and timely challenge to our accepted notions of the connections between scientific knowledge, objectivity and our social and physical nature. . . . A polemical intervention into social and scientific theory that should be essential reading.” --David Frisby

“A bold and timely challenge to our accepted notions of the connections between scientific knowledge, objectivity and our social and physical nature. . . . A polemical intervention into social and scientific theory that should be essential reading.” --David Frisby

“In Wild Knowledge, Will Wright has once again played his strongest suit. In his examination of the scientific ethos he is savagely critical, yet the slave of no special polemic.” --Neil J. Smelser

“An important book. Will Wright is an original and usefully idiosyncratic thinker.” --Evelyn Fox Keller

The most outstanding interpretations of scientific knowledge are ‘both ecologically and conceptually incoherent.’ But negativity will not solve the problems that we face today. First, it must be demonstrated that ‘we accept scientific observations as objective because we accept scientific knowledge as valid and we accept scientific knowledge as valid because of its remarkable institutional success. This means that the credibility of the scientific method is really dependent on the cultural credibility of science, and not the other way around.’ Next, we must connect the failures of science and technology which are quite evident, with their alleged objectivity, and must do so within the framework of an objectivistic science. Finally, we need to develop an idea of rationality that ‘is about sustainability [ecological health] in the same way that medical rationality is about [individual] health.’ Wright offers such an idea and contrasts it with the status quo. His books shows that epistemological considerations are no intellectual luxury. They are needed for survival.

Paul Feyerabend

"Science is an incoherent form of knowledge, and, despite technical proficiency, it "is conceptually wrong, wrong about nature, and wrong about knowledge" (p. 3). With this radical premise, Will Wright's intentions in this book are to challenge the validity of the so-called instrumental successes of scientific technologies, to demonstrate the incoherence and inadequacy of science, and to establish new criteria for evaluating the legitimacy of knowledge claims. Wright clearly makes a contribution in taking the steps to turn what has been treated as a liability for social theories of science and knowledge issues of reflexivity, language, and sustainability into criteria for the coherence of knowledge." Contemporary Sociology

"Wright, a Berkeley-trained sociologist of medicine, proposes the intriguing idea of a 'sustainable theory of rationality.' Such a theory requires that we adopt an ecological (or 'wild') conception of knowledge, which is, in turn, rooted in an account of language that makes reference to its own enabling conditions-rather than distancing itself from them, as Wright believes scientific language does with its notion of 'objective' reference." International Studies in Philosophy

"This book is closely and beautifully argued. It is an exciting book because his revolutionary ideas are lucidly set forth and make such liberating good sense." Exceptional Human Experience

"The most outstanding interpretations of scientific knowledge are 'both ecologically and conceptually incoherent.' But negativity will not solve the problems that we face today. First, it must be demonstrated that 'we accept scientific observations as objective because we accept scientific knowledge as valid and we accept scientific knowledge as valid because of its remarkable institutional success. This means that the credibility of the scientific method is really dependent on the cultural credibility of science, and not the other way around.' Next, we must connect the failures of science and technology which are quite evident, with their alleged objectivity, and must do so within the framework of an objectivistic science. Finally, we need to develop an idea of rationality that 'is about sustainability [ecological health] in the same way that medical rationality is about [individual] health.' Wright offers such an idea and contrasts it with the status quo. His books shows that epistemological considerations are no intellectual luxury. They are needed for survival." Paul Feyerabend

"A bold and timely challenge to our accepted notions of the connections between scientific knowledge, objectivity and our social and physical nature. A polemical intervention into social and scientific theory that should be essential reading." David Frisby

"In Wild Knowledge, Will Wright has once again played his strongest suit. In his examination of the scientific ethos he is savagely critical, yet the slave of no special polemic." Neil J. Smelser

"An important book. Will Wright is an original and usefully idiosyncratic thinker." Evelyn Fox Keller

Wild Knowledge

The most outstanding interpretations of scientific knowledge are ‘both ecologically and conceptually incoherent.’ But negativity will not solve the problems that we face today. First, it must be demonstrated that ‘we accept scientific observations as objective because we accept scientific knowledge as valid and we accept scientific knowledge as valid because of its remarkable institutional success. This means that the credibility of the scientific method is really dependent on the cultural credibility of science, and not the other way around.’ Next, we must connect the failures of science and technology which are quite evident, with their alleged objectivity, and must do so within the framework of an objectivistic science. Finally, we need to develop an idea of rationality that ‘is about sustainability [ecological health] in the same way that medical rationality is about [individual] health.’ Wright offers such an idea and contrasts it with the status quo. His books shows that epistemological considerations are no intellectual luxury. They are needed for survival.

Paul Feyerabend

In Wild Knowledge, Will Wright has once again played his strongest suit. In his examination of the scientific ethos he is savagely critical, yet the slave of no special polemic; his critique is simultaneously interdisciplinary yet sustained and disciplined.

Neil J. Smelser, University of California, Berkeley

Will Wright’s Wild Knowledge is a bold and timely challenge to our accepted notions of the connections between scientific knowledge, objectivity and our social and physical nature. [It] engages with a wide range of contemporary debates in the philosophy and history of science, anthropology and critical social theory [and] offers us the possibility for a radical rethinking of our conception of knowledge of ourselves. A polemical intervention into social and scientific theory that should be essential reading.

David Frisby, Glasgow University

An important book. Will Wright is an original and useful idiosyncratic thinker.

Evelyn Fox Keller, University of California, Berkeley

Wright is moved by dismay at the unresponsiveness to ecological disasters of the modern scientific conception of knowledge, which takes physics as its paradigm and mathematics as its ‘language’ (not, the author argues, a real language). In this book he offers an ecological conception that takes the relationship of medicine to health as its paradigm, putting social concerns at the heart of knowing. Wright, who has worked in mathematics, argues that as a basic reference, language, rather than an objectified nature, better enables knowledge to critique itself (be "reflexive") and be sustainable. Such "wild knowledge" is "untamable" by social institutions because it is more accessible to criticism than knowledge produced by science or, especially, by religion. Yet wild knowledge retains formal values of equality and participation and, like ecosystems, encourages diversity for the sake of sustainability. Accessible to educated readers, Wright's arguments are placed in the contexts of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and contemporary philosophies of science, mind, and language. Lucidly presented; persuasively argued; well documented. Excellent bibliographies.

Library Journal

Science is an incoherent form of knowledge, and, despite technical proficiency, it ‘is conceptually wrong, wrong about nature, and wrong about knowledge’. With this radical premise, Will Wright's intentions in this book are to challenge the validity of the so-called instrumental successes of scientific technologies, to demonstrate the incoherence and inadequacy of science, and to establish new criteria for evaluating the legitimacy of knowledge claims. Wright clearly makes a contribution in taking the steps to turn what has been treated as a liability for social theories of science and knowledge-issues of reflexivity, language, and sustainability-into criteria for the coherence of knowledge.

Contemporary Sociology

Wright, a Berkeley-trained sociologist of medicine, proposes the intriguing idea of a ‘sustainable theory of rationality.’ Such a theory requires that we adopt an ecological (or ‘wild’) conception of knowledge, which is, in turn, rooted in an account of language that makes reference to its own enabling conditions-rather than distancing itself from them, as Wright believes scientific language does with its notion of ‘objective’ reference.

International Studies in Philosophy

This book is closely and beautifully argued. It is an exciting book because his revolutionary ideas are lucidly set forth and make such liberating good sense.

Exceptional Human Experience

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