Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"the politics of wish-fulfillment"

"Alongside the political commitment to multiculturalism, honourable in intention though profoundly problematic in practice, we must also acknowledge a powerful fantasy, the fantasy that we can remake the world in any way we choose, and, equally powerful, the fantasy that no one can tell us that what we are trying to do can never be done.  Multiculturalist politics had a real referent in post-colonialism and immigration.  But postmodernist epistemology also has a fantasy referent in what we may call the politics of wish-fulfillment, according to which there are no obstacles to our remaking the world as we choose, apart from the ideas in our minds.  The world can be anything we want it to be, because thinking makes it so.  When Shapin and Schaffer say 'it is ourselves . . . that is responsible for what we know' they seem to imply that knowledge can be whatever we choose to make it; and if we do not like science as we find it, then all we need do is wish for it to be otherwise.
     "Concealed within relativism there thus lies a dream of omnipotence, a fantasy recompense, perhaps, for the impotence and irrelevance of academic life."

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 555.

No comments: