Hugh Hewitt comments on today’s LA Times article on blogs.
The dominant theory of knowledge in the modern era is foundationalism. Foundationalism is the notion that we need an indubitable foundation upon which we can build our knowledge. Nothing certain? Then no real knowledge. Descartes got the ball rolling (I’m simplifying a bit) with his Cogito ergo sum, but Locke, Kant, and others followed the same path.
One requirement of the foundation of one’s knowledge structure was univeralizability – it had to be equally available to anyone. Thus the guardians of real knowledge had to be neutral observers – freed from all particularity. With this scheme the universal and the abstract held sway over the local and the particular.
Fast forward to today. The MSM sees itself as the neutral guardian of knowledge. They are the experts, properly trained in the skills of acquiring and building knowledge into a structure. The bloggers? They’re chaotic elements hovering on the edges. If we want real truth, they (the MSM) think, we must stick with those who are neutral.
Problem: Nobody’s neutral. No one stands nowhere. Thomas Nagel wrote a book years ago – The View from Nowhere. His aim was to describe a truly objective epistemology. His title, however, has been claimed by “the other side,” those who reject the possibility of standing nowhere.
According to moderns, knowledge IS built on foundations. If there are no foundations, then there is no knowledge. This is their take on the bloggers. The bloggers have no foundations. No universitality. They are to the media, what Nietzsche (and Nietzsche’s recent followers – I think of Derrida and Foucault here) is to the theory of knowledge. Real knowledge is foundational in structure, you [Nietzscheans, bloggers) say there is no foundation (only difference), so there is no knowledge. BUT: we all want knowledge, so we need the MSM, not the bloggers. QED.
But there are other postmoderns – and though I am fairly new to blogging, I think I would be right to think that whether bloggers consider themselves postmodern or not, the phenomenon itself IS – who refuse to accept that all knowledge must be conceived foundationalistically. Once we make that move, no longer do we have to worry about the lack of foundations.
So how might the blogs become producers of real knowledge given non-foundationalism? Well, it looks like they talk with each other. They push each other. They provoke each other. They argue. They critique. They learn.
Oh – but what if Blogger A is not really who or what he says he is? Eventually, if that is relevant to the piece of knowledge pursued, I believe it will come out.
Finally (it’s getting late) let me turn this around for a moment. I think it possible that what we’re seeing with the blogs vis-a-vis the MSM not only is a picture of the demise of foundationalism, but also might very well be an agent of the demise in broader culture. We’ll see.