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178Philosophy and Literature short book is part ofa strategy recendy foUowed by some publishers who expect to make up in sales to libraries what they are wiUing to forego from individual readers. Authors get caught in the middle of this strategy, and purchasers for libraries, if only out of self-interest, ought to resist it. State University of New York at AlbanyBerel Lang Hermeneutics à? the Sociology of Knowledge, by Susan J. Hekman; vii & 224 pp. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986, $29.95. This book proposes a synthesis of two twentieth-century intellectual movements , Karl Mannheim's sociology of knowledge and Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics. In the 1930s Mannheim established the sociology of knowledge as an empirical approach for examining the relationship between ideology and specific social conditions. In more recent years, Gadamer helped to broaden the scope of hermeneutics beyond textual exegesis to encompass aU aspects of linguistic interpretation. Hekman argues that the two approaches can be worked into a "radical" and "anti-foundational" alternative to existing methodological approaches in the social sciences. "This anti-foundational approach to the social sciences," she notes, "provides a much-needed transformation of the sociology ofknowledge, and, more importandy, supplies an understanding ofthe project of the social sciences that transcends the sterile dogmatism of the positivisthumanist debate" (pp. 9-10). According to Hekman, the sociology ofknowledge is rooted in the Enlightenment 's preoccupations with pure reason and natural scientific method. It originated in the nineteenth century as a kind of brush-clearing operation for identifying sources ofbias and distortion arising from group commitments and social position. Although Mannheim also held foundationalist views of mathematics and some of the natural sciences, and sought desperately to ground the sociology of knowledge on an ideologically neutral standpoint, Hekman's reading of Mannheim excuses him of these "errors." Hekman's Mannheim initiates the move beyond foundationalism, preparing the way for Gadamer's positiveconception of"prejudice," where prejudiceloses its unilaterally pejorative connotation and becomes an ineradicable basis for aU interpretation. A major part of the book contains an exegesis of Gadamer's Truth and Method, where it is argued that Gadamer's "universal hermeneutics," and the associated concepts of "prejudice," "effective-historical consciousness," and "fusion of horizons," have radical implications forthe sociologyofknowledge and the human sciences. While acknowledging Gadamer's disclaimer that he is not offering a method- Reviews179 ology for the social sciences, Hekman maintains that "methodological implications " can nevertiieless be drawn from his work. His "fusion of horizons," for example, avoids what she calls the "errors" of positivism and subjectivism. Hekman's study fails to deliver on its promise of a major reorientation in our understanding of the social sciences. Like many odier exemplars of the once-again fashionable genre, "Grand Theory," the book neither substantiates nor exemplifies the "radical" proposals and methodological initiatives it announces . In the face of the postmodernist chaUenge, Hekman invokes that familiar subject of American social theory, "the normative values of our tradition " (p. 186). Hekman successfully "fuses horizons" with Mannheim and Gadamer, but she refuses to come fuUy to grips with alternative lines of theory and research. She upholds her program largely by advancing facile dismissals of relevant work in the sociology of scientific knowledge, ethnomethodology, and interpretive sociology; and her critiques ofWittgenstein, Rorty, Habermas, Derrida, and Foucault often amount to heavy-handed, and sometimes outlandish , assertions, such as "Wittgenstein's essentiaUy epistemological approach" (p. 119), or Foucault's and Derrida's having "forgotten that historical, social and cultural grounds are necessary to human life" (p. 196). Hekman writes as one possessed of a truth which enables her to pinpoint the "errors" of other thinkers, and she repeatedly asserts that "it is not difficult to show" how these rivals go astray. The criticism underplays theextent towhich some ofdie rejected approaches not only anticipate the sorts of critique she gives, but offer refinements and singular applications of the themes she espouses. Boston UniversityMichael Lynch Milton andFree Will: An Essay in Criticism andPhilosophy, by William Myers; 258 pp. New York: Methuen, 1987, $62.00. The tide seems misleading; the book is not so much about Milton as it is a protracted and difficult worrying of the question of free...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 178-179
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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