Social Epistemology and its Politically Correct Words: Avoiding Absolutism, Relativism, Consensualism, and Vulgar Pragmatism

Leigh Price


Where social epistemology has been applied in environmental education
research, certain words have come to be associated with it, such as, “social,”
“contextualized,” “strategic,” “political,” “pragmatic,” “democratic,” and
“participatory.” In this paper, I first suggest interpretations of these words that
potentially avoid absolutism, relativism, consensualism, and vulgar pragmatism. I
then identify interpretations that succumb to these problems. To support my
argument, I draw on Peircean scholars, critical realist scholars, and scholars who
rely on a tranche of metaphor that evoke images of connections, partnerships,
webs, and rhizomes. These writers suggest a social epistemology in which in
which relationships, not objects, are primary.

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