Studies in the dissolution of classical epistemology : the role of philosophical critique in an age of sociological reason and historical method

What is the relation between philosophical analysis and sociological method? Sociology has traditionally looked to Philosophy to provide either an indubitable epistemic foundation for its practices or alternatively to legislate invariant criteria of scientificity which might guide the social sciences in questions of methodology. But has Philosophy itself such an autonomy from the developing knowledge domains of the different sciences,natural and social? A structural analysis of philosophic discourse in the twentieth century reveals as a key element of recent philosophic'al thought a central anthropologism. This study traces the rupture in philosophic thought which has occurred with the dissolution and collapse of classical epistemology and the emergence in turn of a radically new mode of philosophizing based on a recognition of the centrality of social reality to ontological judgement and epistemological critique. Just as the analytic epistemOlogy of the seventeenth century can be seen as an accommodation by Philosophy to the emergence and development of the empirical natural sc~ences, so the appearance of 'conversational' epistemology can be viewed as Philosophy's attempt to think'the implications for the nature of knowledge-in-general of the emergence and subsequent development of the social sciences at the end of the nineteenth century. The key theoretical instance which demarcates classical epistemology fram the anthropologistic philosophy since the 1920's is its inability to accommodate the category of intersubjectiv:itJY successfully within its egological structure. Contemporary philosophy, phenomenological, analytical, pragmatist and marxist, is forced to grapple with the new awareness of man's essential sociality. This has profound implications for epistemology. The question of the relationship of philosophical analysis to sociological method must be re-addressed in the light of the revealed epistemic proximity of the two disciplines. What sort of philosophical critique, we ask, is possible and appropriate in an age of sociological reason and historical method?
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