Nature of EP

August 18, 2000

At the risk of an extra bite of the cherry, may I add to Steven and Hilary Rose's reply (Letters, THES, July 28) to evolutionary psychology and clarify my prior, brief letter (July 21) backing them?

Clearly a main sticking point is whether EP inherently has rightwing, capitalist implications or, as Tom Sambrook says (Books, THES, July 14) is "uniquely resistant to hijack by political ideology". Having left and rightwing support is no proof of neutrality, if both sides are deceived about EP's real nature.

One answer is to compare the realist and positivist (aka Cartesian) epistemology of EP with the opposed hermeneutic, antirealist view. While, for the former, science is disinterested and the bridging or closing of a gap between mind and world, so that mind mirrors world, the latter sees all belief as already a "mirror" (selection and interpretation rest on the theory, values, interests and ignorance we bring), calling for the opening of a critical gap/distance in perception's intrinsic circularity to avert a shut mind.

Under its closed hall of mirrors, EP is the scientism unable to link insightfully the "factual" sciences and "evaluative" arts; the radical relativism blind to testable criteria for value judgements; and, reconciling causality and freedom, the "soft" determinism of idol, Hume, collapsing into "hard".

These outcomes cannot unify natural and social science. They confuse cause and effect, rely on unverifiable claims, and bar progressive knowledge.

Yes, they are rightwing.

Ironically, the Cartesian split of (second order) meta-theory from (first order) practical life (for example, science) denies EP the reflexive, interdisciplinary philosophy to see this.

David Rodway Kensington & Chelsea College London

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