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Spring 2021: Authority and Knowledge

Spring 2021: Authority and Knowledge


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Publication Date: 10 May 2021

Length: 124 pages


“Authority has vanished from the modern world”, claims Hannah Arendt in her classic essay on the subject. This issue examines the dynamic relationship between authority and knowledge. How does what counts as knowledge both depend on and support authority, and what forms does knowledge have to take (objective, expert, etc.) in order to be authoritative? How do minority experiences and knowledge challenge authority? Has authority really gone completely, as Arendt argues, or has it just changed in form and appearance? Either way, how should we respond: should we celebrate or mourn authority, re-constitute it or re-distribute it? Today, these problems are especially acute in scientific fields, but are also fundamental to lived experiences in politics, parenting, education, and elsewhere. The essays that follow take up the Arendtian premise that understanding the complex relationships between authority and knowledge clarifies the human task of creating and caring for a collective world.


While Mladen Dolar attempts to define authority more broadly, locating it at the intersection of force and reason, Heidi Grasswick and Nima Bassiri consider authority specifically in relation to science, questioning both how scientific authority is warranted and how it is sustained. One of the most fascinating features of our current moment is the fragmentation of epistemic authority, captured by the idea of the “death” or “crisis” of expertise. Ian James Kidd draws on the resources of vice epistemology to raise crucial questions surrounding the trustworthiness of experts, while Jana Bacevic and Federico Brandmayr look to social theory to better understand some key debates relating to expertise in the social and political domains. Carl Mika offers a fascinating account of the relationship between Māori knowledge (mātauranga Māori) and science, ultimately rejecting the idea that the Māori must defer to the authority of science in matters pertaining to knowledge. Finally, cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein brings theoretical physics into productive dialogue with Black feminist science. Prescod-Weinstein argues that physics, generally considered the “purest” of the sciences and thus immune from accusations of sexism or white supremacy, is in fact no exception. These essays are interspersed with the provocative and often humorous images of New York-based artist jc lenochan. Lenochan’s work is a series of questions regarding the acquisition of knowledge through the process of deconstructing objects and de-circulating institutional relics. What role has pedagogy played in shaping history and our current social condition or cultural climate? Which narratives are given voice, and which ones are suppressed?


Other highlights in this issue include: Amy Allen explores the fraught relationship between philosophy and psychoanalysis; Veromi Arsiradam and Adam Ferner offer a compelling overview of some of the key questions related to the ethics of procreation and adoption; and Chiara Ricciardone asks, “What is it like to be a self?” 


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