Science and the social construction of reality

1. Introduction

In their famous work The Social Construction of Reality1, Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann analyse ‘knowledge’ as a social construction. In doing this, they obviously do not mean knowledge in the fullest sense, but rather whatever is socially constructed as knowledge and reality2. This, however, includes everything. There is no neutral kind of knowledge — all is socially constructed. What, then, is the status of such things as science that are believed to reach more objective knowledge? What would be the status of a hypothetical system of knowledge that was in fact completely true and comprised true knowledge? Could such a thing be attained?

In this essay, I intend to make a survey of some aspects of Berger’s and Luckmann’s theory and proceed to make my own observations. In particular, I will look at how their model of social systems of knowledge can apply to all kinds of knowledge — including the theory itself — and what effect this has on the credibility of the theory and to that of all theories that seek to obtain objective knowledge. Continue reading

How the other side was totally dogmatic: An example

A while ago I wrote about how I’m unlikely to be impressed if you come telling me how the people who don’t agree with you have bad arguments and are generally stupid. There were mostly two reasons: First, as the title of the article pointed out, there are people on every side of an issue that defend it badly and based on bad reasons, regardless of how right their side overall is. Second, because it’s hard not to be biased against those disagreeing with you and judge them more harshly.

This time, I’m writing about an example of the second thing — mostly. It’s about someone who was being quite unreasonable — but who, when I looked at things from his perspective, probably walked away thinking everyone else, people who disagreed with him, were being intolerant and closed-minded. Continue reading

Then why is it called “feminism”? (Like you don’t know.)

One of the cliché lines in the argument between feminists and anti-feminists seems to be “If it’s about equality, why is it called ‘feminism’ instead of ‘egalitarianism’ (or ‘humanism’ or something)?”

There’s a more detailed case to be made about the importance of the way the movement is named and described, you can read about that here, for example (specifically “Part One”), but I won’t go into that here. It’s been done. What I want to ask is this: for the people who say that, are you telling me you honestly don’t know already? Continue reading