Wolfgang Teubert |
University of Birmingham and National Center for Foreign Language Education at Beijing Foreign Language University
Knowledge represents things as they are. But how are things? Traditionally, epistemology has based knowledge on experience. To accept a proposition means to find it consistent with one’s experience. But can we trust experience to give us the ‘facts’ in an unadulterated way? There are scholars who claim just that, for instance Roy Harris in his new book After Epistemology, and Martin Heidegger in his Being and Time, now almost a century old. While I agree with both of them that Cartesian rationality is not a sound basis for making epistemological claims, I take issue with their argument that knowledge can be generated by a prelinguistic interpretation of authentic experience. I argue that there is no interpretable experience without participation in discourse, and that therefore the discursive construction of the category ‘cat’ is prior to any cat experience. Instead of viewing ourselves as solitary knowing minds, we should assign intentionality (‘aboutness’) to discourse as a collective mind. Knowledge that can be represented in the form of arbitrary signs only exists in discourse, of which we, the selves, are a part.
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