Deconstruction, Anti–Realism and Philosophy of Science—an interview with Christopher Norris

Journal of Philosophy of Education 36 (2):265-289 (2002)
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In this interview, Christopher Norris discusses a wide range of issues having to do with postmodernism, deconstruction and other controversial topics of debate within present–day philosophy and critical theory. More specifically he challenges the view of deconstruction as just another offshoot of the broader postmodernist trend in cultural studies and the social sciences. Norris puts the case for deconstruction as continuing the ‘unfinished project of modernity’ and—in particular—for Derrida’s work as sustaining the values of enlightened critical reason in various spheres of thought from epistemology to ethics, sociology and politics. Along the way he addresses a number of questions that have lately been raised with particular urgency for teachers and educationalists, among them the revival of creationist doctrine and the idea of scientific knowledge as a social, cultural, or discursive construct. In this context he addresses the ‘science wars’ or the debate between those who uphold the values of scientific reason, progress and truth, and those (like the ‘strong’ sociologists of knowledge) who would reject such values as merely the expression of a dominant ideological consensus. Norris also discusses the emergence of anti–realism as a strongly marked trend within recent analytic philosophy, one that denies the existence of objective (‘recognition–transcendent’) truths in mathematics, the physical sciences, history and other disciplines. Thus statements are thought of as possessing a truth–value just insofar as we possess some adequate proof–procedure or some means of finding them out through empirical or other methods of enquiry. Norris offers a range of arguments against this anti–realist position and brings out its convergence with various postmodernist lines of thought. Through a running commentary on Derrida’s work in relation to these developments he shows how deconstruction has been misconstrued by sociologists, cultural critics and educational theorists whose understanding has often been based on a limited acquaintance with the primary texts. Above all Norris calls for a renewed engagement with the philosophic discourse of modernity and a willingness to challenge postmodern scepticism and value–relativism in a spirit of open–minded critical debate.



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Hilary Putnam: realism, reason, and the uses of uncertainty.Christopher Norris - 2002 - New York: Distributed in the U.S. by Palgrave.
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