Discover more from Digital Liturgies
📚 Review: Jonathan Rauch's "The Constitution of Knowledge"
Is pragmatism the best we have?
For TGC, I reviewed Jonathan Rauch’s influential book The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. Perhaps you’ve heard that Western society is having an epistemological crisis, and perhaps you’ve heard that it’s due to polarization, the death of expertise, and the Internet. If so, this is the kind of book that’s easy to love: erudite, precise, and written with the feel of independent thinking.
Unfortunately, I did not love this book, and I don’t think it advances our understanding of our current epistemological standoffs. Here’s an excerpt:
The problem with The Constitution of Knowledge is not its identification of our crises, but its proposed strategies to solve them. Rauch’s identification of pragmatism as the essence of a healthy epistemological marketplace suffers from a profound failure of imagination; he does not seem either aware or concerned that the most fundamental questions of truth, goodness, and beauty are controversial precisely because they cannot be adjudicated by the reality-based community. Indeed, his term “reality-based” turns out to be a misnomer.
Further, Rauch’s emphasis on credentialism and the importance of expert consensus as the gatekeeper of public knowledge portrays him as significantly out of touch with current events and the crisis not merely of public trust but of institutional integrity.
Read the whole thing here.