On Historical and Political Knowing [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 25 (2):356-357 (1971)

This work is intended to be a "philosophical analysis" of certain problems encountered by the social sciences. The aim of the book is to "help redirect modern social science from some important theoretical mistakes." According to Kaplan most of our knowledge rests on common sense. It is the mark of common sense knowledge that it is not self-conscious, that it does not engage in a critique of its own possibility. The realm of the philosophy of history, of social science, and of science is opened up through the attempt at "self-consciousness concerning the limits of the various processes by which knowledge is obtained." Kaplan accepts the proposition that the "framework within which knowledge occurs can never be included in knowledge itself," that the framework within which knowledge is acquired cannot be transcended. It might appear from his acceptance of this proposition that Kaplan would accept radical historicism. This is not the case. It is a primary intention of Kaplan to suggest that we can state the standpoint from which perspectival knowing exists, what it depends upon, and what it leaves out of account. Kaplan sees a measure of transcendence being achieved through the comprehension of different perspectives. However, he explicitly rejects the possibility of a true consciousness which would be the result of a single correct perspective on the world. The book has several major flaws. The greatest is the absence of sustained argument. The author fails to give evidence for the major propositions of the book. Usually a footnote to previous writings of his is offered as substitute for argument. Another major flaw of the book stems from Kaplan's understanding of what is characteristically human in the terms of systems analysis. To one not convinced in advance of the adequacy of this language to the task of understanding man, Kaplan's work will appear to suffer from an ill-conceived use of technical jargon.--J. W. S.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1971252218
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