Epistemological Exercises: Towards a Typology of Knowledge Forms

Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 13)

In the case of literary documents, things are even more complicated. These documents may do various things. Some literary documents set out to analyse nature or, rather, they analyse the ways in which human beings experience nature, under particular conditions. But they may also, in a very explicit manner, study the ways in which scientists interact with nature. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein for instance studies the ways in which particular knowledge forms (notably alchemy and modern chemistry) allow nature to appear. In other words, literary documents may tell us something about nature, or about experiences of nature in the life-world, but they may also tell us something about science, about the way scientists perceive nature, or both. This implies that, if we ask ourselves to what extent literary documents can be epistemologically relevant, the answer is bound to be far from univocal. As became clear in the context of our case studies in previous chapters, literary documents can be helpful when it comes to addressing particular epistemological quandaries. Indeed, they can broaden our understanding of the natural world, as well as of the natural sciences, but they may do so in various ways. In order to answer the question in what ways literary documents are important for epistemology as a research field, we must draw up something like a “typology” of literary forms, a classification of literary genres – from an epistemological perspective of course. Not a typology in terms of “novels” versus “plays”, or “poetry” versus “prose”, or “tragedy” versus “comedy”. What would an epistemological typology of literary forms amount to?


Knowledge Form Literary Document Literary Genre Epistemological Perspective Speech Genre 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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