Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Delegitimation and liberal versus applied knowledge

I am having trouble separating the process of delegitimisation from the discursive opposition of liberal or traditional academic –and useful, skilled, knowledge

The process of delegitimation is one that functions at a level separate to the binary opposite of theoretical and applied knowledge, though it can easily be mistaken for that. This is because theoretical and applied knowledge operate within separate fields of discourse, as Lyotard shows.

But the actual reason for delegitimation is that the only operator of legitimacy is the producer of knowledge: knowledge legitimates itself. Where then is its value? Where is its legitimacy? It may actually have legitimacy but what it doesn’t have is a means to prove that it is legitimate.

This is why it looks like a division between applied and liberal knowledge: when the problem is that legitimacy is incestuous, external application appears to be the solution. But in fact external application is not entirely relevant: except that the statement (in the language game) that ‘application is outside of the scope of the university’s project’ functions to delegitimise it – because it emphasises that it is only those who possess it that can judge it: for what, then, is it worth?

Please help, if you can!


Hannah Forsyth said...

Though I will be surprised if anyone can help out on such a poorly-explained problem! I'll try to explin it better when I have some time...

Kim Kemmis said...

The answer may be elsewhere in Lyotardland, but as a (poor) theologian this appears to me to be a fundamental problem of epistemology, not just of “knowledge” as we sell it in the university. You might like to look at general epistemology for some clues.

Knowledge has traditionally depended on external legitimation - the traditional definition of knowledge is “justified true belief” (Plato, I think). This has been proven to be wrong - we can know something which is true even though our reasoning is incorrect. Subsequently approaches to defining knowledge have been developed which go beyond justification (eg fallibilism, which has its own problems) but I don’t know much about them.

I may have completely missed the point of your question, as I don’t know much about Lyotard apart from “metanarratives” and “legitimation of knowledge”. Still cranky with him for ripping off “language games” from Wittgenstein.

Hannah Forsyth said...

Thanks for this Kim, you may well be right that I need to look further than (I would like to).

There are reasons I didn't do philosophy (or theology) and this is making me cranky....