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No Man Is An Island: The Axiom of Subjectivity

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Abstract:

Western thought since the seventeenth century has been dominated by methodological solipsism (Krieger, 1991). The famous sound-bite of René Descartes 'cogito, ergo sum': 'I think, therefore I am', became the starting point for most discourse on the nature of things. This dictum does not advocate idealism. It does not assert that everything is necessarily a construct of the human mind. But it assumes that the world of things and beings is surveyed and interpreted from the point of view of a single individual. Nowhere is this stance more entrenched than in the philosophy of science. To a remarkable degree the scientist is represented as studying the natural world as if alone in it, served only by mindless assistants who might as well be replaced by machines. Scientific theories are presented as systems of thought conjured up and tested by that same individual in a further series of single-headed operations. Research results are formulated and treated philosophically as the independent findings of lone explorers, each reporting the evidence of their own eyes and their rational inferences concerning the hidden mechanisms by which these personal percepts might be generated. Our epistemological role models are Robinson Crusoe and Sherlock Holmes, self-sufficient intellectuals to whom their human companions, Friday and Watson, are mere stooges.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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