Knowledges

In the last post I suggested work on pedagogical methods that would help distinguish the classical categories of episteme and doxa. After thinking about it for a day or so, I think this is not the issue at all - these forms of knowing could not be more separated. Episteme is considered to be knowledge, and doxa is considered to be opinion. What we need is a way to bring doxa back into the rubric of knowledge. 

There are many topoi here that we can work with - the idea that "everyone knows" certain things about what you need to do to get a form filed with the government, or access some benefit in your taxes, etc. We also have the rise of protest politics where the wisdom of the crowd is not only right but good, so we put it on display in large marches around the sites of power in our cities. We have TV shows such as the one I see advertised on the subway, The Wisdom of the Crowd, where crowdsourcing is meant to solve crimes or something. And then there's the endless commodification of voting, for everything from new candy and chip flavors to which commercials we will be forced to watch during sporting events. 

But these are not really good topoi, are they? They all have something in common that I am having trouble putting my finger on. I believe they all seem to hint or demonstrate the idea that crowd-knowledge is good or celebratory knowledge, but there might be something wrong with it still. I think it might be mechanistic: These crowd knowledge claims are about access of knowledge and distribution, not creation of knowledge. 

Consider the website Kickstarter, something I love and have spent a lot of time browsing. Kickstarter appears at first look to be doxa but it is missing the same element - it is a place where the crowd confirms the value or wisdom of these products that come from experts who designed these things to address particular problems. 

This might be the trouble with all the examples - they are moments where the crowd is used to confirm the esoteric or universal rightness of the answer that was provided via episteme. In most cases where the crowd has a different knowledge from the official knowledge (or could we say the confirmed, or confirmable knowledge?) it is often the crowd knowledge that is frozen out. Doxa doesn't usually win versus episteme. The crowd's wisdom is in helping others in the crowd find via popularity what cannot be realized alone through the proper standards of evaluating knowledge.

In thinking about non episteme knowledge that is doxa, it's hard to think of good examples. The only one that comes to mind is interpersonal knowledge, such as when a family knows what sort of food, drink, TV program, or movie another member of the family will certainly like. There's also the democratic sense of "rightness" that is often associated with doxa. But it's hard to think of some that would appeal in a debate about the issues we debate about.

Perhaps the best example I have for now falls within Perelman and Olbrects-Tyteca's theory of argument pairs. Often this is a comparison meant to generate an argument or a meaning - "this looks like this, but really it is this." Such arguments are so common it's quite funny to think that at some point they didn't really have a name or a category until the 1950s. 

The argument pair can serve doxa in cases that work like this: "They tell us that this is X, but we won't be fooled; we all know what is really going on." This is a doxastic appeal that is often found in conspiracy theory rhetoric as well as the water-cooler rhetoric between employees in regards to management policies. We also talk this way about politics. But I wonder if this is an appeal to episteme via doxa, like the earlier examples were.

Another read on it is that rhetorically one constitutes the relationship and partnership between episteme and doxa by how one establishes the claims in a speech. It's good to keep the relationship rhetorical so you can move between and around the terms in order to make your case persuasive. "Real knowledge" can have a home anywhere, as long as the audience recognizes that location as a home, recognizable as the comfortable and cozy place that knowledge lives.