A sensible discussion of topics where silliness often masquerades as sophistication. Haack (Philosophy/Univ. of Miami)...

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MANIFESTO OF A PASSIONATE MODERATE: Unfashionable Essays

A sensible discussion of topics where silliness often masquerades as sophistication. Haack (Philosophy/Univ. of Miami) challenges the ""fads, fashions, and false dichotomies"" of recent philosophy, appealing to anyone troubled by the ""irrationalist tendencies of our times."" She is an epistemologist concerned with the conduct of inquiry, the conditions for obtaining knowledge, and the status of truth, and takes up these themes in essays on pragmatism, relativism, affirmative action, multiculturalism, and, most prominently, feminism. Throughout, her goal is to explode convenient assumptions that set up intellectually limiting dualisms. Consider the implications of conceiving philosophy as either socially constructed or completely alienated from a social context that could give it meaning, for example. Recognizing only such extremes serves the purposes of those who favor them because such extremes allow an attack on one to pose as a sufficient argument for the other. What is lost, beyond the ability to inject a level of subtlety into the discussion, is any modest claim to truth-seeking, any vision of a scholarly production of knowledge. Haack is especially upset by the manifestation of this development among feminist theorists. She sees a shift over the last two decades from a feminist philosophy asserting the common humanity of men and women to an ""ambitious, imperialist feminism which stresses the 'woman's point of view.' ""Feminist epistemologists insist that patriarchal agendas have shaped the production of knowledge in the past and that they are constructing an alternative. They assume that knowledge is unavoidably political, consequently the issue is not truth, but whose agenda is served. Haack's rejoinder is that sexist ideas have indeed been promoted as true, but this hardly means there is no truth or that seeking it is ""ideological humbug."" She argues that reducing epistemology to politics ultimately makes women more rather than less vulnerable, and that everyone benefits when seeking knowledge is about truth rather than hyperbole. A refreshing alternative to the extremism that characterizes so much rhetoric today.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0226311368

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998