ExperienceNew Foundations for the Human Sciences
New Foundations for the Human Sciences

This book is a radical plea for the centrality of experience in the social and human sciences. Scott Lash argues that a large part of the output of the social sciences today is still shaped by assumptions stemming from positivism, in contrast to the tradition of interpretative social enquiry pioneered by Max Weber. These assumptions are particularly central to economics, with its emphasis on homo economicus, the utility-maximizing, instrumental actor, but they have infiltrated the other social sciences too.

Lash argues for a social sciences based not in positivism’s utilitarian a priori but instead in the a posteriori of grounded and embedded subjective experience.  This features a politics of Hannah Arendt’s public sphere, which begins with the particular experience of Aristotle’s polis and moves - via Rome, Augustine and Kant - to a modernity that acknowledges the fragility of political worlds. Yet modernity is also a matter of technological experience and technological forms of life. Lash - starting from Aristotle’s technics and working through Turing’s and Shannon’s computer mediation – develops a novel account of technological experience, of how objects themselves experience.  And here he finds a surprising convergence with Chinese cosmology’s ethos of dao, qi and li: the experience of the embedded multiplicity of the ‘ten thousand things’.  

This original book by a leading social and cultural theorist will be of interest to scholars and students across the social sciences, from sociology and cultural studies to anthropology and politics.

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  • July 2018
  • 200 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9780745695143
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9780745695150
  • Open eBook $24.95
  • 9780745695167
Table of Contents
  • Contents
  • Introduction: Three Types of Experience
  • Chapter One
  • Have We Forgotten Experience?
  • 1.1 In Praise of the A Posteriori
  • 1.2 Substance
  • 1.3 New Totalitarianisms and Technological Phenomenology: The Chapters
  • Chapter Two
  • Experience in Antiquity: Aristotle’s A Posteriori Technics
  • 2.1 Technics and Praxis: Aristotle
  • 2.2 Against Theoretical Reason: Praxis, Technics, Contingency
  • 2.3 Form and Substance: Ancients, Christians and Moderns
  • Chapter Three
  • Subjective Experience: William James’s Radical Empiricism
  • 3.1 James’s Radical Empiricism
  • 3.1.1 James and Hume: Radical Empiricism and Classical Empiricism
  • 3.1.2 Experience and its Functions
  • 3.2 Pragmatism: Activities
  • 3.3 Dewey or Formal Pragmatics
  • 3.4 Some Conclusions
  • Chapter Four
  • Objective Experience: Methodenstreit and Homo Economicus
  • 4.1 Methodenstreit: Formalists and Substantivists
  • 4.1.1 Historical School: Subjective Experience and Institutions
  • 4.1.2 Max Weber: Subjective Experience as Method, Objective Experience as Outcome
  • 4.2 Classicals and Neoclassicals
  • 4.2.1 Physics and Economics: From Conservation of Substance to Field of Utilities
  • 4.2.2 Scottish Enlightenment
  • 4.3 Conclusions: The Economic and the Political
  • Chapter Five
  • Hannah Arendt’s A Posteriori Politics: Free Will, Judgment, and Constitutional Fragility
  • 5.1 Ancients and Moderns
  • 5.2 Pax Romana
  • 5.3 After the Polis: Augustine and Free Will
  • 5.4 Politics as Aesthetic Judgment
  • 5.5 Conclusions: From Politics to the Technological System
  • Chapter Six
  • Forms of Life: Technological Phenomenology
  • 6.1 Forms of Life: Transformations of Performative Language
  • 6.1.1 Forms of Life and Exclusion: Homo sacer’s experience
  • 6.1.2 Language and Forms of life
  • 6.2 Technological Forms of Life
  • 6.2.1 Communicational Forms of Life
  • 6.2.2 Entropy against Negentropy
  • 6.2.3 Incompleteness: From Predications (Science) to Algorithms (Engineering)
  • 6.2.4 System Encounter: War Games or Sex Games?
  • 6.3 Conclusions
  • Chapter Seven
  • Aesthetic Multiplicity: The View and the Ten Thousand Things
  • 7.1 Fuzzy Singularities
  • 7.1.2 Art and Singularities
  • 7.2 The Gaze as Multiplicity
  • 7.2.1 Beauty: China against Metaphysics
  • 7.2.2 Mountains that Breathe (and Perceive)
  • Chapter Eight
  • Conclusions
  • 8.1 Technology
  • 8.2 Institutions
  • 8.3 Metaphysics or Empirical Multiplicity
About the Author
Scott Lash is Professor and Research Director at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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"This is a book of amazing scholarly scope. It stands out as an extremely serious study that does not pander to fads and fashions nor seek approval from readers. Here is a major statement that will surprise many who think they are familiar with Lash's thought."
Philip Smith, Yale University

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