THE POLITICAL FOUNDATIONS OF KNOWLEDGE (I) ABOUT DISCIPLINES AND TRADITIONS

José Luis Moreno Pestaña (FiloLab) discusses Fernando Broncano’s work “Conocimiento expropiado. Espistemología política en una democracia radical” (“Expropriated knowledge. Political epistemology in a radical democracy”) and highlights its importance to understand how our points of view shape our own analyses of reality. I addresses how knowledge in dependent on political relations. The text was originally published in El Rumor de las Multitudes, a blog on Political Philosophy belonging to the Spanish newspaper “El Salto Diario”.

Fernando Broncano’s latest work, Conocimiento expropiado. Epistemología política en una democracia radical (Akal, 2020), was created within a work program that goes beyond the frontiers of the field of philosophy. It is a book of encyclopaedic scope, whose discussion will require different approaches and competences. Here, I will focus on two main aspects. Firstly, I will highlight the intellectual challenge that a text like this one poses, and I will address the message that it sends regarding philosophy education and how to create an ambitious and successful program in this field. Secondly, I will stress the link between epistemology and politics, which can interest both philosophy and science students as well as those who want to change society.

A program that exceeds disciplines.

This work introduces specific renovations on history of philosophy. Just to name one reference, Descartes epistemology is considered to be intrinsically shaped by the context of political unrest in which it was born. Within the loneliness of the Cartesian “I think”, there is a project of defence against scepticism which is both political and epistemological. Therefore, it is the project of a bourgeoisie that conflicts with the feudalising attitude of persisting to ignore. Of course, Platonic epistemology was through and through very political, as it was built to distort and ridicule the political and epistemic practices of democratic Athens.

On a different note, epistemology requires the assistance of political epistemology. John Rawls created a social structure which placed primary good at the basis of its political philosophy. Broncano does the same so as to conceive the epistemic structure of society as a set of knowledge goods that are essential for social functioning. But this means deciding that knowledge is a good and, guided byMichael Walzer, Broncano corrects Rawls: primary goods are a historical product, the effect of social struggles and political conflicts. Similarly, the decision as to whether knowledge is a primary good and should be distributed is a central issue in the epistemic structure of society.

The existence of a basic epistemic structure is undoubtedly one of the important contributions of Broncano’s work. It requires an explanation as to whether knowledge is a good that should be distributed. To take an example from Axel Honneth’s The Struggle for Recognition, we do not have the right to claim reciprocity in love, but we do have it in terms of the social resources that fit our contributions. In the field of love, the good to be distributed would be forms of family or affectivity that do not harm the relationship achieved with oneself; but this does not mean that we can claim rights. However, knowledge does seem to be susceptible to being claimed as a right and, in this sense, Broncano opens up a new space of struggle for citizens: that of epistemic claims.

On this note, Broncano suggests a solution to the dilemma of epistemic structure based on two considerations: one concerning self-respect –which is corrupted by lies–; and another one regarding our obligations to other people. The first one is presented by a classic by Immanuel Kant, whereas the second one comes from an article by Saray Ayala y Nadya Vasilyeva.

You can continue reading the article at El Rumor de las Multitudes.

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