More on Knowledge and power and Kant

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Here's a link to a recent thoughtful SHRE blog by Jim Hordern on the recent Owusu – Young Knowledge and power in higher education seminar at Bath that I wrote about last week.

Hordern reminded us that Owusu had talked about Kant who, she said, was a racist. Because of this, she wondered whether his philosophy should taught.  I had meant to write about this anyway as there are issues of babies and bathwater here and society needs to be careful not to hamstring itself by rejecting socially useful ideas just because their originator was less than perfect – a state none of us are in, it should be said.  Einstein was pretty neglectful of his family but that seems no good reason to reject his work on relativity – and we (with our reliance on modern technology) would be in trouble if we did.  For me, Kant had valuable insights on the human condition and I'm capable of differentiating between these and what I might think of the man even if he were more personally reprehensible than most at the time.  To do otherwise to live in an untenable binary world.

I was particularly struck by this passage:

"There were a couple of particularly interesting direct challenges to the notion of powerful knowledge. One contributor appeared to assert that powerful knowledge was responsible for global environmental destruction and inequality. This perhaps needed a more nuanced outworking of the relationship between the production and use of knowledge, and the relationships between scientists, industry and government. While the argument could convincingly be made that much ‘mode 2’ contemporary knowledge production is fuelling global problems, it is not clear how powerful knowledge, as outlined by Young, could be held responsible for the increasing dominance of such knowledge production in higher education, which largely seems to be a consequence of governmental and industrial influence on research priorities."

and this:

"Young’s powerful knowledge thesis is as much about society and sociality as it is about knowledge per se, as a speaker towards the end hinted. It is the commitment of disciplinary communities to the pursuit of truth that gives knowledge its power. But these communities can easily be prone to conservatism if not welcoming to new colleagues and alternative points of view. Nevertheless, the disciplined commitment of such communities enables us to argue about what knowledge should be produced and taught in higher education – and such arguments may lead to different visions of knowledge in different societies and at different times."

... seems close to a point I made in my own comments.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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