Lane Wilkinson's Reviews > Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism

Fear of Knowledge by Paul Boghossian
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May 15, 10

bookshelves: postmodernism, philosophy
Read from May 10 to 15, 2010

Let's be clear...this is not a typical polemic against postmodernism. For what its worth, over the past decade, postmodern constructivism has been reasonably confined within English and Interdisciplinary Studies departments where it can do no harm (other than perpetuate the myth of the irrelevance of liberal arts programs, but that's another issue). What Boghossian presents is a well-timed argument against the spectre of constructivism in traditional philosophic studies.

Philosophy, as a field of study, has largely avoided the relentless onslaught of relativistic thinking; unlike some other areas in the humanities, philosophy has resisted such passing, cyclical intellectual fads. Yet, there have been attempted breaches by constructivist theories, and it is to the proponents of such theories that this book is directed. In particular, Boghossian directs his attention at analytic philosophers such as Nelson Goodman or Hilary Putnam: both well-respected titans within their fields. Yet, these thinkers (along with Boghossian's other whipping boy, Richard Rorty, who I can only guess is included as a rhetorical straw man) are not typical po-mo targets. Forget your Koertge-style surveys of unintellectual intellectuals like Derrida, Irigaray, or Kristeva...this book takes on real philosophers on their own turf. From arguments agains moral expressivism (and I am a quasi-realist) to category mistakes that arise when conflating Millean and Fregean conceptions of propositional content, Boghossian avoids the politicizing, rhetorical flourishes, and wolf-crying of other diatribes against relativism.

In sum, this is a book by a philosopher, about philosophy, and written for those who wish to take the philosophical high-road against the inanity of constructivism. To summarize Boghossian, I don't care if you want to make Hamlet a bi-univocal, ethno-hermeneutic discourse on Zuni nationalism, just stay the hell away from we philosophers and our respect for reality.
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