Of false promises and good bets: a plea for a pragmatic approach to theory building (the Tartu lecture)
Journal of International Relations and Development, 2007, 10, 1, 1-15
KRATOCHWIL, Friedrich, Of false promises and good bets: a plea for a pragmatic approach to theory building (the Tartu lecture), Journal of International Relations and Development, 2007, 10, 1, 1-15 - http://hdl.handle.net/1814/7236
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In this lecture I review some of the issues that meta-theorizing was supposed to address in international relations and show how this project of securing knowledge through hierarchization and finding absolute foundations failed. Basically I argue that since neither the 'order of being' nor the categories of the mind provide an unproblematic and trans-historically valid Archimedean point that allows for an incontestable 'view from nowhere', the traditional epistemological project cannot make good on its promise. I'm trying to refute the twin fallacies that seem to fuel much of the hypertrophic concern with epistemology: First, that in the absence of secure universally valid and trans-historically established criteria everything becomes 'relative' and that, therefore, the adherents of a more critical or pragmatic orientation towards knowledge have to be either nihilists or charlatans since they deny 'truth'. Second, since the foundationalist claims of traditional epistemology can be shown to be faulty, indeed 'anything goes' and we need not worry about criteria that warrant our knowledge claims. Here relatively mindless research activism or some form of pragmatism at basement prices is supposed to take care of the problems. I argue for a pragmatic turn in theorizing not in the hope of having now found a new foundation after the failure of the epistemological project, but with the understanding that such a turn represents a good bet in pursuing our research while remaining attentive to the importance of meta-theoretical issues that arise in its course.
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