Conceptions of Institutions and the Theory of Knowledge: 2nd Ed.
This classic study is concerned with the impact of the sociology of knowledge on the classical theory of knowledge. First issued in a limited edition in 1956, the book has since attracted what can only be termed a cult following. In his own quite original way, Taylor considers knowledge as a product of group life in an institutional and cultural context. In his emphasis on the sociological rather than the psychological or individual, he reveals a sharp break with the empiricist and rationalist traditions of epistemology as such. This makes the work path-breaking.
Taylor maintains that the sociology of knowledge began its career as a simple distrust of exact knowledge that betrayed its social origins. But the field is now at a point at which as a discipline it is in charge of the systematic formulation of the pervasive features of a culture. The growth of symbolism, relativism, and institution-building as such has transformed the study of knowledge itself. In this insight, he anticipates the development of knowledge as an area of study unto itself, apart from the information or ideology underlying claims to knowledge. This edition includes three newly discovered essays by Taylor-on the sociology of art; the role of choice in human life; and the connection between history and the written word. The essays complete his lifelong search for the institutional frames of ideological belief.
Taylor, whose career began as a teacher of sociology at the University of Texas and Dubuque University, takes up in systematic order the history of philosophical disputations on knowledge, moving from individualism, positivism, and historical relativism. He goes beyond criticism into a view of the "concept" as an organizing principle of action, and as a statement of propositions of how the world can be examined in future states.
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While little known today, this is an important book: ground-breaking in it's day. It explored the relationship between power (social institutions) and knowledge that would later be independently developed by Berger and Luckmann and Michel Foucault respectively, bringing them, especially Foucault, of course, global acclaim. Stanley Taylor was there first before the intellectual world was ready to receive and explore post-Enlightenment theories of knowledge: a profound thinker who deserved to be more widely read and remembered.
Summary and Interpretation
The Conceptual System
Recapitulation and Conclusion