Normativity at the edge of reason - review of Cecile Malaspina, An Epistemology of Noise [Book Review]

Radical Philosophy 9:93-96 (2021)
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Abstract

In recent years noise seems to have become an interdisciplinary concept par excellence, apt to capturing important dynamics at work whether in technological, scientific, social, or aesthetic domains. But when economists, biologists, psychologists, and musicians speak of noise, are they really all referring to the same thing? In An Epistemology of Noise Cecile Malaspina takes this dispersion of the notion of noise as a starting point, and moreover accepts that, when removed from its mathematical formulation in information theory and spread into diverse disciplines, noise takes on a metaphorical ambiguity. Yet rather than aiming to eliminate this ambiguity, Malaspina sets out to account for it. The key problem in An Epistemology of Noise is not to identify the legitimate usage of the concept of noise, but rather to examine what happens when noise moves between disciplines, and what the ‘noisiness’ of this movement tells us about the conditions for interdisciplinary knowledge. Noise here is both an object (or many objects) of inquiry and a condition for that inquiry, and presents us with the problem of how knowledge can find its ground in these ‘shifting sands’ (9).

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Iain Campbell
University of Edinburgh

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