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Title: Objectivity, reasoning and interdisciplinary : making the links
Author: McNulty, Lisa
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2010
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Both the production of knowledge and the product, knowledge itself, are social phenomena. This generally accepted fact is generally thought to require relativism, scepticism, and Kuhnian incommensurability, as well as casting serious doubt on the potential of our cognitive traditions to provide us with objective knowledge about an objective world. This thesis exposes and critiques the presuppositions about the nature of reasoning and objectivity which underlie these fears. Combining a Nietzschean, perspectivist account of objectivity with a conception of reasoning drawn from Lockean epistemology and pedagogy, I build a new account of cognitive optimality, dubbed 'Linkmaking'. The phrase deliberately encompasses several meanings. We 'make links' by noticing connections between objects in the world, by linking ideas together to form a theory or a curriculum; by forming social connections, and by developing interdisciplinary practices. I defend the view that we cannot fully address any of these kinds of Link without reference to all of the others. I further show that out best means to critically assess our cognitive groups is to evaluate the extent to which those groups encourage Linkmaking practices. The major potential challenge to Linkmaking is Kuhnian incommensurability. Having demonstrated the flaws inherent in Kuhn's account, this thesis defends the weaker, Doppeltian form of incommensurability, which grants us insight into the genuine problems which can occur in interdisciplinary research. We then see that the Strong Programme in the sociology of knowledge, inspired by the strong, relativistic version of the Kuhnian incommensurability thesis, has held sway among sociologists because they do not generally study interdisciplinary practices, which highlight scientists' (perspectivist) objectivity. Furthermore, social scientists who accept Kuhnian constructivism doubt their own potential for objectivity, presuming the presence of strong incommensurability where there is none. Undertaking Linkmaking practices both cures this illusion, and improves the cognitive optimality of the group.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available