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 The Ethics of (Not) Knowing: Take Care of Ethics and Knowledge Will Come of Its Own Accord E D U A R D O M E N D I E TA THE E PISTEMIC MACHINE: AN ATTEMPT AT D ISMANTLING IT Over the gates that open to our modern age there hangs a sign, cast in iron but radiant like so many neon signs in Manhattan’s Times Square: ‘‘Knowledge shall make you free.’’ This is the shibboleth that since Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and René Descartes has set apart our period from those coming before it. From Bacon, we get the catchphrase ‘‘knowledge is power.’’ From Newton and Galileo, we inherited the idea that to decipher the language of the book of nature requires that we crack its mathematical syntax: God’s thoughts are written in the language of mathematics. From Descartes, we receive the carte blanche of radical doubt that would leave standing only that which cannot be doubted—the certainty of the thinking ‘‘I.’’ The Cartesian project of laying an unshakable ground of epistemic certitude led to the ethical and moral evisceration of the subject. Although our age is called the ‘‘modern age,’’ the age of reason, and the age of science, where each one of these designators is the Janus face of the other, it can also be called the age of knowledge. We have pursued reason, against faith, to obtain knowledge that could be functionalized into technology. In fact, our science and technology have been one since Bacon launched the age of science. The metastasizing of science and technology into technoscience has been epitomized by Leonard da Vinci as no one else has epitomized it. We have become modern as we chased after an elusive ‘‘modernity’’ by pursuing knowledge. Knowledge, so PAGE 247 ................. 18125$ CH12 09-19-11 07:52:54 PS 248 兩 e d ua r d o m e n di e t a goes the mythology of the West, has made us modern. Knowledge is thus always juxtaposed against tradition. Tradition is what we received from our predecessors. Knowledge is what we wrest from the body of nature. Tradition makes us old, that is, traditional. Knowledge makes us new, that is, utterly modern. Knowledge thus is about being dehistoricized by being catapulted into the not yet, the future. Knowledge appears atemporal, although what makes us distinct is in fact temporal or, rather more precisely, historical. Knowledge raises us above history, whereas tradition grounds us in history. This is one seductive story, but it is hardly the whole story, or for that matter the real story of how our time, our own historicality, has been constituted by a more intricate and dissimulated project. Even if there is a kernel of truth in this self-congratulating and self-aggrandizing story about the ‘‘rise of the West,’’ the story has to be localized and placed within a larger narrative about how the pursuit of knowledge is accompanied by the constitution or construction of certain types of knowing subjects. Before there is knowledge, there is a knower. The project of the pursuit of knowledge, additionally, commands the mapping, or gerrymandering , of regions of knowledge. A knower knows something, some things about some things. The project of knowing thus requires the construction of a reservoir of entities to be known. This mapping, bounding, and circumscribing exclude by including. The modern epistemological project, the project of becoming modern by becoming atemporal , presupposed the construction of a particular type of subject that would be, to use Donna Haraway’s apropos expression, the ‘‘authorized ventriloquist’’1 of that object world in which it had been traced, encircled, duly registered. This subject, the modern subject, is the knower par excellence , that is, as a knower he (and we know that the proper, legitimate , reliable, and trustworthy knower is gendered without gender, that is, as male) would be transparent, reflective, impassioned, passive, a perfect surface on which the object of knowledge would be faithfully reflected . Again, in Haraway’s language, this ‘‘credible’’ and ‘‘authorized’’ knowing subject would be one in which ‘‘subjectivity would be objectivity .’’2 The story of the rise of the West thus is a story about the invention of this epistemic machine that empties out his subjectivity so as to become a receptacle for objectivity. This epistemic machine, however, is a device, what Michel Foucault would have called a dispositif, that is, an PAGE 248 ................. 18125$ CH12 09-19-11 07:52:55 PS t h e...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780823249343
Related ISBN
9780823241361
MARC Record
OCLC
787845994
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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