Handbook on the Knowledge Economy
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Handbook on the Knowledge Economy

Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Abraham Ninan

This fascinating Handbook defines how knowledge contributes to social and economic life, and vice versa. It considers the five areas critical to acquiring a comprehensive understanding of the knowledge economy: the nature of the knowledge economy; social, cooperative, cultural, creative, ethical and intellectual capital; knowledge and innovation systems; policy analysis for knowledge-based economies; and knowledge management.
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Chapter 5: Social Epistemology: Preserving the Integrity of Knowledge About Knowledge

Steve Fuller


1 Steve Fuller Social epistemology is a naturalistic approach to the normative questions surrounding the organization of knowledge processes and products. In other words, it seeks to provide guidance on how and what we should know on the basis of how and what we already know. The subject matter corresponds to what the pragmatist philosophers used to call ‘the conduct of inquiry’ and what may appear to today’s readers as an abstract form of science policy. Social epistemology advances beyond other theories of knowledge by taking seriously that knowledge is produced by agents who are not merely individually embodied but also collectively embedded in certain specifiable relationships that extend over large chunks of space and time. Moreover, for the social epistemologist, the ends of knowledge need to be established, not taken for granted. Words like ‘validity’, ‘reliability’ and even ‘truth’ itself do not refer to ends inherent to the conduct of inquiry. Rather, they refer merely to constraints on inquiry that still leave wide open questions concerning the ends of knowledge: what sort of knowledge should be produced, by whom, and for whom? Knowledge policy captures the activity that addresses these questions, which (as discussed below) tend to be neglected by conventional science policy. The need for social epistemology arises from an interdisciplinary gap between philosophy and sociology: philosophical theories of knowledge tend to stress normative approaches without considering their empirical realizability or political and economic consequences. Thus philosophers are much better at providing definitions of knowledge (e.g. ‘justified true...

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