This article argues that the development Epistemology in particular, provides a lens of especial clarity through which the development of bourgeois society may be viewed. Further, that since conceptual knowledge can only be acquired through social and historical practice, and since the value-relation is the quintessential social relation of bourgeois society, there is a strong sense in which the epistemological question reflects the development of the Value relation. In a sense, the bourgeoisie sees the world through the lens of value, builds it around value, and expresses what it sees and does in particularly pure form in epistemology.
By contrast with the stunning development of science and the related development in the science of knowledge, the bourgeoisie's efforts in creating a society in which people are able to live in a truly human way - in cooperation, conscious of their relation with each other and with nature as a whole, enjoying health and free from fear and in control of their own fate - Ethics, is woefully unsuccessful. While science, technology and social organisation developed in leaps and bounds as the social power of the bourgeoisie extended itself, all the talk of liberté, egalité and fraternité, of the Rights of Man, and so forth, were materialised in unbridled oppression, extremes of inequality, greed and violence. The real ethics of bourgeois society is contained in the laws of political economy, accumulation of capital and propagation of generalised poverty.
Political economy is the essence of the bourgeois view of the world, their ethics, their sociology, their science. The Essence of political economy is the concept of Value. Inevitably the concept of value develops in response to the development of value itself, albeit in a distorted bourgeois way. The concept of value is itself intimately connected with the whole body of science and its generalised image in the theory of knowledge.
Consequently, the concept of value is a mediating link between the real development of human labour, in the form of exchange-value and the theory of knowledge, which is itself the essence of bourgeois philosophy. The ambiguity in the word "value" - on the one hand, the directly political economic sense of "value" which undergoes transformations in the history of political-economy, but in general means the "metaphysical" substratum of the phenomenon of price, and on the other, its use in Ethics to reflect metaphysical substratum of the goals of human action - is deliberately worked upon the clarify the way Knowledge and Value are connected in human action.
The aim of this project is to view the development of social relations from the 1600s up to the 1990s through the lens of epistemology and to view the development of philosophy through the lens of the concept of value. Conversely the relation between knowledge and practice is explored through the lens of the relation between Epistemology and Ethics, and the relation between Ethics and Epistemology through the lens of the study of political economic theory and practice.
Epistemology is the study of the validity and limits of knowledge. It is one of the classical "departments" of philosophy alongside Ethics, Logic and Ontology. After Marx, there is in a certain sense an "end" to epistemology along with the rest of philosophy; the point is now not to speculate on the nature and limits of Knowledge, but to "change the world" and live in a different way. But, this declaration is not only a rejection of epistemology; it is also the central tenet necessary to complete epistemology, a reconciliation of philosophical and practical knowledge.
In a sense, we have now, in 1999, pushed the boundaries and limits of knowledge to a point where humanity has drawn into practical doubt the very existence of the planet, not as a question of speculation but as a material possibility; but, learning how to overcome this horrific alienation of people from each other, from Nature and from themselves, which is responsible for the uncontrolled destruction of Nature and impoverishment of whole nations while others choke on luxury, is not only a problem of Ethics, but also a problem of self-knowledge, of the formation of social knowledge and belief.
Also, Epistemology is not terminated just because we have glimpsed its fate. The conditions for the negation of philosophy, for the "end of (pre-)history" are present, but is has by no means been accomplished. We need to both investigate the content of Epistemology and the trajectory of Epistemology as an activity of people, to work out how to complete this process.
Prior to Marx, from Galileo to Hegel, epistemology, growing in close connection with the physical sciences and the gradual extension of empirical knowledge, was the inner, most abstract side of the struggle of the bourgeoisie to free itself from the shackles of feudalism. The development of capital, and consequently the bourgeois class itself in the various countries, lends the epistemology of each of the great capitalist nations its own specific character, still distinct within a world economy not yet fully integrated by the world market.
It is without question that this history of epistemology is a brilliant and successful one, laying the basis for natural science and the bourgeois republic. On the other hand, the development of ethics is, as we have remarked before, laughably inadequate. Also, after Marx, who openly declared war on the entire bourgeois order, bourgeois epistemology did not only fail to continue the gains of Marxism, or even those of Hegel, but at the speculative level actually regressed.
Over the 150 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto, bourgeois epistemology has undergone a contradictory development, which is reflected in the breath-taking development of all the sciences, the manifest failure of this development to deliver any benefit to the majority of the world, and in the bewildering array of philosophical currents, many of which appear nonsensical and incomprehensible to boot. The limitations of this development is reflected in the fact that the main social and historical problems of humanity have actually been exacerbated by the development of bourgeois science.
In the first period, from the 1840s to the 1860s, there was a reaction against the whole tradition of speculative philosophy. All agreed that it was necessary to turn to "lived experience": Faith (Kierkegaard), Will (Schopenhauer), Love (Feuerbach), Revelation (Schelling), Science (Comte), Sociology (Comte, Mill, Spencer), Anthropology (Feuerbach). There was also a reassertion of Ethics (Mill, Kierkegaard). While Marx and Bakunin sought the overthrow of all social conditions, the bourgeois camp was polarised around those who elevated pursuit of knowledge as the highest ideal against those who explicitly rejected the unquestioning value placed on knowledge, a line of development later continued by Nietzsche. In a sense what begins from this time is a recapitulation of the history of speculative epistemology in the epistemology of understanding. This turn accompanies a massively expanded division of labour, including the parallel development of a multiplicity of "branches of science".
In the next period, from the 1870s to the turn of the century, the practical tasks underlying Epistemology come to the fore - particularly physiology, psychology and towards the turn of the century, physics. The focus of this development was the practical and theoretical investigation of perception. That is, the subject-object relationship which had been at the centre of epistemological speculation since Descartes became subject to detailed natural scientific investigation, and the problems of the limits and validity of knowledge were tested out and redefined in new terms.
The crisis of physics and new developments in psychology at the turn of the century posed the problems of knowledge at a new level, and these problems would underlie struggles over the nature of knowledge for the remainder of the century. At the same time, in the early years of the century, the opening of the epoch of imperialism, the application of mathematics to economics, the investigation of structure in linguistics and new approaches to anthropology opened new directions. Given some impetus from the surprising role that mathematics played in the crisis of physics, during the first 30 years of the century, the foundations of mathematics became the site of intense epistemological struggle, whilst psychology and physics continued to be the source of new insights and new problems.
After the shock of the Great War, the Russian Revolution and its degeneration, the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism, social theory becomes a centre of epistemological struggle. Later, literary criticism and the questions of social identity and power come to the fore. The problems of knowledge in these areas of investigation thrown up by the crisis of bourgeois society, each invest Epistemology with a certain character, successively deepening and broadening it, even while people are more and more losing control over their lives. After World War Two, and particularly after the 1968 events in Europe, there was an in-flow of people and ideas from Stalinism into bourgeois ideology, and indeed these people constitute the main creative strand within bourgeois ideology in the post-1968 period. In a sense, the whole process of development is recapitulated again beginning in the wake of World War Two, but now with the subject defined, not speculatively, nor naturalistically, but socially.
Laid across these specific avenues of development, the past 150 years have witnessed a number of broad epochal developments marking phases in the global crisis of accumulation of value:
Alongside these essential development there are negative currents expressing scepticism, turning away from science and the socialisation of human life, calling into question or its value: in the first period Voluntarism and Kierkegaard's and Nietzsche's "pre-Existentialism" and various schools coming out of psychology, continued with Existentialism, "Phenomenology" and "Irrationalism" and quasi-scientific trends such as behaviourism and ultra-relativism.
I aim to connect the development of the capitalist crisis with the development of epistemology using the development of the theory of value in bourgeois economics - an area of science directly sensitive to changes in the conditions of accumulation and contemporaneous theories of knowledge - as a possible mediating thread connecting value and knowledge. This is not at all far fetched because it is precisely through the value relation that the individual citizen of capitalism discovers and measures her connection with society and precisely through value that both individuals and society measures the worth of her ideas.
It is not proposed to actually investigate the whole field mentioned above which is the work of many, not of one. The specific task is to investigate whether there can be shown to be some parallelism between bourgeois epistemology and value as each develop over the period covered, to investigate whether the material basis of such a parallelism can be substantiated and to view that relation both from the aspect of practice and of theory.
In what follows I present my own view on the fundamental problems of epistemology. These views are drawn from the reading of numerous writers. However, I here give no credit and make no criticism of the views which have been elaborated over the long history of Epistemology, leaving that task for elsewhere. Analysis and explanation of the historical development of epistemology is the central task of this project, but I do not hold that epistemology is something which is purely and simply culturally relative, and for the record, the following is my view on the limits and validity of knowledge.
The world in which we live is a very humanised world. Even the plants and animals we see (if we venture away from the video screen and out of the city occasionally) are generally the outcome of generations of breeding by humans. We are inclined to view this very humanised world is if it were natural; that is, we take objects which are nothing but artefacts of our own social action - a job, the law, money, etc. - as if they were as independent of human will as the stars. However, the problem remains - how, if at all, do we know Nature, how much and what do we know about matter - "that which exists outside and independently of our consciousness and is given to us in sensation"?
Our (theoretical) knowledge is built out of concepts. Concepts, or Notions, are the specific form of representation out of which a subject builds a theoretical, or abstract image of the objective world. The other important type of abstraction out of which an image of the objective world may be built is the immediate abstraction of sensuous reflection. Real, living consciousness is a dynamic interplay and interpenetration of these two types of abstraction and the action of the subject both individually and socially. This interpenetration of immediate and theoretical abstraction can be referred to as Essence. Immediate sensuous representation is also mediated: that is, it is with human, cultured sense-organs that we view Nature. The ears of the Australian Aborigine do not hear the same music as the ears of the Austrian violinist.
Concepts are abstractions; that is, they are abstracted from the real, concrete movement of matter, torn out of their interconnection with everything else, idealised, concentrated and simplified. No abstraction can exist in Nature, outside of human consciousness, for everything outside of consciousness moves, changes, is infinitely complex, interconnected, and in perpetual transition and movement. Matter is neither immediate nor mediated, it just is.
Nevertheless, abstraction is not only a human process, but also a natural process, since the same kind of thing may be observed in Nature, such as when a plant abstracts from its environment the chemicals and radiation it needs in order to live. Likewise, reflection is a process which is as universal as matter itself, since all material objects impress their own properties on other objects in the form of modification of the properties of the Other.
To say that no human abstraction can exist in Nature is not to say that we cannot know matter, it simply means that our knowledge is not the same thing as matter. Indeed, there is nothing to know of matter in itself. Our knowledge is given in the form of immediate, essential or theoretical perception, and it is indeed a knowledge of the world beyond sensation.
If the conceptual abstractions by means of which we are able to grasp the immediate abstractions of sense perception are not to be found in the material world, but only in our heads, how do we understand the relation between these abstractions and the materiality of the world? How do we explain the fact that we can build bridges which don't fall down even after thousands of trucks been have driven over them? When we surmise things about what we can't actually see, is there any basis for such a surmising? And if you and I see different things, is it sensible to talk about something which exists independently of you or I seeing it?
I offer the following "story" as a kind of allegory if you will, as something which may be sufficiently plausible to at least make a case that something of this kind is reasonable: Conceptual knowledge dates back to the time when human beings emerged as a species. Conceptual knowledge first appeared not in the head but in the hand. Pre-humans developed certain practices, ways of living, in which they took from nature what they needed and changed it to meet their needs, initially just by carrying it elsewhere, later by breaking it up and then putting bits together in new ways. At this point humans are much like any other animal, abstracting what they needed from nature. They transmitted these practices to each other and to their young and over generations their hands and muscles, their sense organs and conditioning evolved in support of this mode of living. [Our knowledge of such things is so mediated that we can do more than surmise at this stage of our knowledge, and I would not pretend that a theory of knowledge can or should rely upon such speculation. My aim is simply to present an epistemology in narrative form.]
They went on to objectify their own powers by placing the power of their hands into objects torn from nature - stone axes, bags, jugs, string, fire, skins were used to carry out functions normally performed directly with the hands and other parts of the anatomy. The transmission of these practices, which referred to objects and objectified human powers, were transmitted at first by means of performing the actions themselves or passing on the objects, but sounds came to be used as "handles" to facilitate cooperation and later to be objectified by indicating the actions and the objects and the human powers associated with these actions and products. The cooperation in this work gave people something to talk about and something to talk with and the sounds used as handles for actions and objects became detachable from the actions and objects themselves and developed into language as people internalised the sounds, reproducing them not only in company, but also when alone and "silently", not only directly in connection with the object or action, but independently, producing in their minds images which were no longer just sensory images but images representing human social actions and consequently the objects in which these actions were objectified. Reproducing images of things and actions in the form of "silent speech" is just a small step from "thinking them". Rather than internalised sense perception, this is internalised social action and social action which proves to be adequate to everything we ever want to do in the world of nature and with each other.
Whether or not such a story turns out to be justifiable - doubtless the story may come to be seen as much more devious and complex - it is a fact that by means of socially and historically produced language and a whole universe of social products - buildings, tools, crops, domestic animals, and practices such as work skills, rituals, social mores, cultural objects such as books and paintings - any individual human being is provided not only with hands and sense-organs, but with an array of materialised abstractions produced by previous generations and passed down the generations, which provide a basis for effective social and practical-natural human activity, effective to just that degree and in just that way as corresponds to the level of development of the social forces of production in the society in which they live.
We find these "abstractions" in quite material forms such as perfectly rectangular buildings and alphabetical characters in books, alongside the real objects of nature and human society, be they actual personalities (Joe Bloggs) or natural features (the Yarra River). We learn to deal with the words, artefacts and diagrams side by side with the person, the wood and the water, without particularly distinguishing between the two kinds of object - the abstractions seem to us to exist in Nature, and the world certainly does exist outside of and independently of our individual consciousness. And these abstractions have become very concrete over the thousands of generations of human history which has invested them with more and more content.
In our domestic life as children and in our practical activity at work as both agents of nature and producers of commodities, we acquire sensori-motor intelligence, or "intuition". This intelligence is the ground of conceptual knowledge which is acquired exclusively through our social relations, particularly in the acquisition of language and in the acquisition of theoretical knowledge of the world beyond our immediate sensori-motor experience. Human knowledge arises in a human individual through the interpenetration of intuition and concepts.
The world in which we live and learn to coordinate our actions has for the whole period of civilisation been very much a human, artificial world. But even as recently as the 1960s we climbed trees and bred tadpoles, or played with balls as we developed our sensori-motor intelligence; nowadays, we increasingly hit keyboards and toggle joy-sticks, stare at video screens and operate software packages. There has been in the past couple of decades a qualitative change in the extent to which our bodies are adapted to a world which is not just artificial, but mental. Thus, the boundary between sensori-motor intelligence and conceptual knowledge is pushed down. The child who has learnt to move her/his hands by punching the "right" key on the Nintendo is adapting herself to the ideas transmitted by the programmer. Even a generation ago, the world in which we tuned up our sensori-motor intelligence was generally speaking a domestic world, a world dominated by a conventional division of labour among kinfolk. Today, advertising and "current affairs" enter the living room via the TV screen and our basic needs are met increasingly with the products and services of the market.
The conception of knowledge as culturally determined does not diminish the objectivity of knowledge as knowledge of the real, for social relations themselves are based in the necessity of making a living out of Nature and in Nature.
Nor does this conception of knowledge in any way place a question mark over the validity of subjecting theory to the standards of logical analysis - on the contrary. An idea may or may not stand up within its own frame of reference. However, it is clear that, if we want to know why we think and act in one way rather than another, equally or more effective way, then the key to such a problem lies in an enquiry into the social relations which produce or underlie the conception under question.
There is nothing sceptical or excessively relativist about this view of knowledge. In this conception, the model of knowledge begins from the most practical of knowledges, such as that of the artisan who learns her trade from the Master Craftsman. Insofar as human beings act as "natural objects", then our conceptions correspond not just to the relation of human beings to Nature, but of one specific kind of natural object to others. Our sensori-motor intelligence or "intuition" is formed on immediate sensuous representation, and within the limits of perception imposed by our sense-organs knowledge is not problematic.
However, we cannot take a step beyond the cave door without dealing with abstractions which either (i) go beyond the limits of immediate sensuous perception, or (ii) deal not with natural objects but with objects formed by the human will. When our thinking oversteps the bounds of naturalism in either of these directions, then knowledge is problematic. I do not believe a human society has ever been found which does not have the most elaborate system of science or mythology to manage their relation to the world around them.
How do we answer the criticism of the unreflective materialist that this view is sceptical and relativistic? If I see a tree over there, how can I deny that that tree exists in the material world independently of my seeing it? Well, I am not denying it, but simply saying that "tree" is a concept, an abstraction, and an abstraction which has been proved over millennia to be an excellent guide to practical activity. Human practice has proved the truth of such assertions that we will hurt ourselves if we try to walk through it (even though modern atomistic theories allow us to conceive of the tree as billions of invisible molecules flying around what is mostly empty space, recognisable as a "tree" only with the aid of sense-organs, sense-organs that evolved in that same biosphere along with the tree). But what exists outside of our consciousness and which is given to us in sensation is not an abstraction, but a real material world, capable of forming the basis of innumerable such abstractions.
We cannot place an equals sign between the abstraction and the reality; what mediates between the two, so far as we humans are concerned, is human practical activity - such as bumping into it. If another individual denies the tree, says that it is only a mirage, then that can be adequately resolved in practice. The difference between the abstraction and the reality, is that the abstraction is a human product, both human beings and their products are a part of the material world along with non-human Nature. Any separation of a part of that whole material world from the rest is itself an act of abstraction. Pre-humans were avoiding bumping into trees long before they formed a concept of "tree".
Can we say "That tree exists" with any kind of objectivity? Can we say that a tree existed somewhere 100,000 years ago, perhaps on the basis of a fossil record? Yes, there is no reason to deny the sense and possible objectivity of such a statement. It is only important to correctly understand how the validity of the statement is a socially and historically produced and possibly overtaken. Since avoiding hard objects is a "practice" common among all sentient beings, and bouncing off them common to all bodies organic or inorganic, the scope of validity of such a statement as "That tree exists" is very broad indeed. However, the scope of such immediate sensuous certainty is rather limited.
What about things which are manifestly social-historical products such as "money" or "working class"? The issue with such concepts is that the identification of the object is not dependent on the material characteristics of the object, but its place within a system of social relations. Social relations change, and a concept which may be perfectly valid in the context of one particular society may be total nonsense in some other context, just as "species" is a perfectly valid concept in the organic world, but nonsensical in the inorganic world. And the limits of possible human social relations are as yet unknown to us. Since we have developed our sensori-motor intelligence within a specific kind of humanised natural world, we are inclined to view all those objects for which we have adequate abstractions as "natural" objects, as objects whose existence within a stable material world is not problematic.
And what about concepts such as "working class" or "God", "public opinion", "democracy", "The Free World", "law of value", "science", "Sagittarian", etc., etc, whose validity within a given social-historical context is the subject of controversy? It is impossible to consider any proposition or concept in isolation from the whole world-view or theory and social-practice of which it is a part. The validity of a concept within a theory is something which can be tested by logical means; practice is necessary to test the validity of the theory as a whole. Whatever we make of "Science" and "Sagittarian", the two concepts cannot be fitted within the same world-view, they are incompatible. "God does not exist" is no more or less a valid statement than "God exists", except in the context of a world view: prior to a couple of centuries ago, "God" was an integral part of social thinking and action; whatever we make of the concept today, human beings created science and industry, circumnavigated the globe, built cities, etc., etc. with the aid of concepts inseparably connected with the concept of God. This does not at all mean that "anything goes": "The Free World" for example is a total deceit, and the theory of which it was a part was "unreal" and deserved to perish.
What about concepts such as "electron", "galaxy" or "virus" or for that matter "phlogiston", "ghost" or "life force" which refer to the non-human world, but take us beyond the limits of immediate sensuous representation? These are abstractions which are meaningful within theories which have their place in human history and must be evaluated accordingly, that is historically, in terms of the development of human practice, of the development of the forces of production throughout history. Theories change, and the objectivity of all such concepts is relative, but within the relative there is always the absolute, the whole development of human society from its beginning to its end, from Mecca to Los Angeles.
Thus conceptual knowledge must be understood both as a product and reflection of social relations, and therefore a "lens" through which it is possible to perceive social relations more clearly, and also a material support or lever within any social context. The criticism of concepts is never complete so long as it remains at the level of contemplation or commentary. Conceptual knowledge is changed by changing the social conditions on which it is based; but also, production of knowledge is a material part of conserving and transforming social conditions.
As citizens of capitalist society, we acquire our conceptual - i.e. social - knowledge principally, though never exhaustively through the medium of the value relation. Even the family hearth, which was until a generation ago the site of human relations more akin to feudal bondage than bourgeois right, is now thoroughly permeated by the commodity relation and almost dissolved in societal relations. Nothing in this world provides the basis for an ethic which rises higher than the dog-eat-dog ethic of the market. Ethics is acquired by other means - but any ethic which runs counter to the ethic of the market must withstand the daily, all-pervasive assault of the commodity relation.
Human beings living in capitalist society learn the value of their own activity through the daily activity of selling it on the labour market and exchanging their wages for the labour of others. Conversely, the use-value of labour power is discovered in the process of applying it to the creation and accumulation of profit. In recent years this commodity relation has become almost exhaustively pervasive, penetrating aspects of domestic and personal life formerly isolated from the market.
The division of labour between mental and manual labour at the foundation of civilisation formed the ground of philosophical idealism. If philosophy may be deemed to have originated in ancient Greece, at least insofar as we are concerned with Western philosophy, then we see that the first precondition for the appearance of philosophy was slave society, in which the producers of philosophy belonged to a ruling class which never went anywhere near manual labour. They moved entirely within the realm of ideas.
Philosophical idealism changes its forms with the various stages of class division within civilised society. The great monotheistic religions of the world originate in feudal society. In these religions, the spiritual world is a reflection of a society in which everyone has their place, their responsibilities and their rights, their occupation and a name to reflect it. There is no access to God by the individual, who must consult the priest.
The bourgeoisie did not right-off seek the overthrow of religion but at first sought to revise religious doctrine: during the development of bourgeois philosophy, the translation of the Bible into the language of the common people, the assertion of the access to God of the ordinary citizen.
With the growth of science and trade, the nature of the conception of God and its relation to nature and humanity changed, was successively pushed to the "boundaries" and consigned to a role of keeper of morals and eternal laws.
The development of imperialism brought about a crisis in the exclusively personal conception of knowledge and we see the increasing role of what was formerly called "metaphysics" and is now called "structure".
Later on this century, rather than using the colonies as sources of raw material and markets, the older imperialist countries all begin exporting industry to sources of cheap labour and de-industrialising the metropolitan centre. This has now spread much further, affecting the US, Japan and all the imperialist countries. Thus the division of labour between mental and manual labour at the foundation of civilisation which formed the ground of philosophical idealism, has now to a great extent manifested itself on a global scale - and it is precisely in the dominant imperialist countries where services and "symbol-industries" predominate over material production, that the cultural production of postmodernism is centred.
In the post-war period there appeared liberation movements which exposed the narrow character of value emanating from the white-male bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries and ex-colonial, Black and female people demonstrate the (at least) equal value of their own labour and introduced new epistemological insights to bourgeois philosophy in the process of fighting for their liberation from colonialism, racism and sexism. This philosophical process reflected the integration of new capitalist economies from the ex-colonial world into the world economy and the socialisation of women's labour.
The globalisation of news and entertainment media means that the evident power of the producer of ideas over the manufacturer and the distance separating the producer of culture from human natural activity are both enormously increased, while the products of the producer of symbols penetrate ever more deeply into everyone's lives.
Prior to the silicon chip, making a machine to perform a function formerly carried out by a worker, entailed ingenious emulation of the actions of hand and eye by combining material components appropriately. The analogue computer, whose brief life span many may not even recall, took this process to a limit: each of the laws of physics reflecting the movement of material things, had an analogue within electro-magnetic theory. Engineers constructed electrical circuits using knowledge of these analogies to emulate the action of mechanical systems. The analogue computer passed into oblivion when overtaken by the digital computer based on the binary-analogue of propositional calculus using the silicon chip. "Modelling" of any process, natural or artificial, social, linguistic or whatever, no longer requires any particular degree of ingenuity: any thought writable in a context-sensitive language can program a machine. It appears as if even perfectly material objects can now manifest laws of motion which are pure products of the human mind, utterly independent of any objectively existing substratum of existence.
Such a situation cannot but be reflected in ideology.
Natural science itself is an industry which is organised and controlled on exactly the same basis as other industries though more closely associated with other knowledge industries and more separated from the point of application. Science is an object of profitable investment according to planned programs like any other industry and knowledge is bought and sold like any other commodity.
We are well and truly in the period in which bourgeois epistemology is a "lost civilisation" - just at the time when the actual limits and validity of knowledge appear to have been stretched to infinity. This is no coincidence, for epistemology is no longer the essential task of humanity at the level of philosophy.
Social development is henceforward not a question of the validity and limits of knowledge, but one of how we must live: "to each according to their needs, from each according to their ability" - a period of the essential development of ethics.