Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Second Thought...: On Reflexivity

I'm not sure if I agree with the post I wrote earlier this morning. Part of me really does still feel like writing things. And I realized that when I was in my kitchen. I was thinking about the writing project I initiated a week or so ago. And I was thinking about the book I just finished, Being Human: Historical Knowledge And The Creation Of Human Nature. A most interesting book.

The author, Roger Smith, is attempting to vindicate history and the humanities as 'sciences' that need to play an important role in how we understand ourselves as humans. Smith is convinced that we will not be able to understand ourselves and our humanity if we approach it only from the perspective of evolutionary, biological, of natural science. Only through historical knowledge and the study of texts, Smith maintains, can we understand what it means to be human.

We do not study history, however, just to learn what it means to be human. But, on the contrary, to actively create what it means to be human. This claim rests on Smith's epistemological outlook, which he spends the bulk of the book explicating. The main thing that Smith wants to analyze is the reflexive nature of knowledge about being human. The term reflexive "characterises the nature and consequences of people being both subject and object of knowledge.... One implication of this, since people are subject and object of knowledge, is that knowledge about human beings changes what people are" (8, my italics). The study of history, according to Smith, is fundamentally a process of reflection. We are always reflecting on ourselves when we study history. And because knowledge of being human is inherently reflexive, this historical reflection will always change what we are. This is the starting point of Collingwood, Foucault, and Ian Hacking's work. Smith claims that Hacking's work in Historical Ontology is his starting point.

So anyways, this is what I have been reading about. These issues of the reflexivity of knowledge and the possibility of self-creation through historical and philosophical work.

So maybe I should write more. Because the truth is that my major writing projects have always changed me. I can see myself change from project to project. 'Society's Implicit War' changed me. My work on 'Art, Zen, and Insurrection', although unfinished, definitely has changed me over the last 9 months. So perhaps this new writing on relationships and mediums will change me too. Well, it will definitely change me. But perhaps it will change me in ways that I find beneficial.

I shouldn't stop writing because I don't want to stop creating myself.

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