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Re-thinking the diversity of knowledge : cognitive polyphasia, belief and representation

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Traditionally, knowledge has been seen as an epistemic form opposed to belief. Whereas for the external observer knowledge carries the possi¬bility mid the promise of truth, belief rests on the uncertainties associated with the bias of subject, society and culture. In this paper I would like to problematise this view by proposing knowledge as a more encompassing term that can comprise different epistemic forms and ultimately different rationalities. Knowledge, I argue, is a plural and plastic form that needs to be understood as an action grounded in the network of relationships from which it emerges and in which it becomes possible. This argument rests in. the analysis of representation, how it works and the functions it aims to fulfil. In order to capture diversity in knowledge it is crucial to cap¬ture the constituents of representation and its social psychological func¬tioning: Once we understand that the aims of representation can be diver¬se and related to the different objectives and functions of a form of kno¬wing in social life, the over-sharp distinction between knowledge and belief collapses. I shall expand this argument by suggesting that different forms of knowing need to be assessed in terms of what they want to repre¬sent and how the desire to represent shapes the process of constructing knowledge. Based on this conceptualisation I shall introduce a typology of forms of knowing which I hope can help to dismantle classical views that see knowledge in terms of a hierarchical scale where lower forms progress towards a higher. better, and more « civilised » form of knowing.

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