This paper elaborates on the value of a humanistic approach to the production and judgement of sociological knowledge by defending this approach against some common criticisms. It argues that humanising sociological knowledge not only lends an appropriate epistemological humility to the discipline, but also encourages productive knowledge development by suggesting that a certain irreverence to what is considered known is far more important for generating useful new perspectives on social phenomena than defensive vindications of existing knowledge. It also suggests that the threat of what is called “relativism” evoked by critics of humanised conceptions of knowledge is largely illusory, and that in fact a far graver danger comes from dogmatic assertions of social truth that claim to have somehow secured access to non-contingent arenas of knowing, forestalling ongoing conversation, and tying future discovery to the limits of current perspectives.
- Bernard Williams
- Philosophy of the Social Sciences