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Sociology of Knowledge, Science and Intellectuals

We live in a time when expertise – including scientific expertise - is increasingly called into question.

The sociology of knowledge studies how knowledge acquires authority in society. This has to do with how practitioners justify claims to themselves and to the larger society that sustains them. In the case of the most authoritative forms of knowledge – religion and science – enormous trust has been placed on their ability to provide guidance in various spheres of social life. In addition, they have also transformed how humans think about who they are and what’s their place in the greater scheme of things.

This module will approach these big questions, beginning historically and then moving to contemporary controversies involving religion, science and technology, which are in the process of perhaps radically transforming the human condition. Here I refer to the emerging movements of ‘posthumanism’ and ‘transhumanism’, which envisage a social world that includes much more than human beings but also, to varying degrees, other natural and artificial beings.

When you think about the role that concerns about both the environment and artificial intelligence increasingly play in debates over policy and culture, it becomes clear that our conventional notions of human existence are about to change.

The sociology of knowledge is the field that is at the cutting edge of these changes, and this is the module to take to study them.

Module Director

Steve Fuller