Paper Title

[3.2] What is Knowledge?: Questioning Validity and Objectivity

Location

Old Main 1761, Moderated by Tim Fitzjohn

Disciplines

Epistemology | Philosophy | Theory, Knowledge and Science

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Max Weber believes that absolute ‘objectivity’ cannot be achieved. No research, whether it be in the social sciences or natural sciences, can be conducted without carrying over the values of the researcher. Instead, Weber posits that ‘objectivity’ should be understood as ‘inter-subjectivity,’ as the concepts of the social world are constructions of human subjectivities. In fact, no concepts can exist outside of human perception. For example, the findings of the double-slit experiment have shown that electrons behave like particles in the act of observation, and like waves outside the act of observation. When describing the findings, the observer uses terms which represent concepts familiar to the subject, but do not constitute the actuality of the object. Weber's realization opens up the possibility of validation for alternative forms of knowledge beyond science. However, alternative knowledge is not treated as equal to scientific knowledge; a consequence of Eurocentrism. Eurocentric thought perpetuates the myth that only knowledge produced by European cultures can be innovative and valuable, dismissing the potential benefits of alternative knowledge. One prominent example has been Indigenous knowledge, which encompasses a rich history and plethora of scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge, yet is often broadly categorized as ‘traditional knowledge.’ In Canada, the government and educational system have historically carried out a century-long mission of assimilation which has severely diminished First Nations knowledge near the point of extinction. Therefore, knowledge systems are value-laden reflections of dominant ideologies, rather than value-neutral repositories of information. It is beliefs that condition and determine knowledge.

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[3.2] What is Knowledge?: Questioning Validity and Objectivity

Old Main 1761, Moderated by Tim Fitzjohn

Max Weber believes that absolute ‘objectivity’ cannot be achieved. No research, whether it be in the social sciences or natural sciences, can be conducted without carrying over the values of the researcher. Instead, Weber posits that ‘objectivity’ should be understood as ‘inter-subjectivity,’ as the concepts of the social world are constructions of human subjectivities. In fact, no concepts can exist outside of human perception. For example, the findings of the double-slit experiment have shown that electrons behave like particles in the act of observation, and like waves outside the act of observation. When describing the findings, the observer uses terms which represent concepts familiar to the subject, but do not constitute the actuality of the object. Weber's realization opens up the possibility of validation for alternative forms of knowledge beyond science. However, alternative knowledge is not treated as equal to scientific knowledge; a consequence of Eurocentrism. Eurocentric thought perpetuates the myth that only knowledge produced by European cultures can be innovative and valuable, dismissing the potential benefits of alternative knowledge. One prominent example has been Indigenous knowledge, which encompasses a rich history and plethora of scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge, yet is often broadly categorized as ‘traditional knowledge.’ In Canada, the government and educational system have historically carried out a century-long mission of assimilation which has severely diminished First Nations knowledge near the point of extinction. Therefore, knowledge systems are value-laden reflections of dominant ideologies, rather than value-neutral repositories of information. It is beliefs that condition and determine knowledge.