Bringing into play a lifetime of sociological analysis, Harry Bredemeier here explores fundamental issues in epistemology and ethics and how social research has altered traditional views on such major subjects as the play of physical force in social life, the distinction between the physical and moral universe, risk taking and life making, rights and obligations in short the most basic questions posed for our times by the sociological tradition.
Bredemeier takes sharp issue with postmodern indictments of the Enlightenment movement of the early eighteenth century: that the Enlightenment was a cover for Western cultural imperialistic destruction of other cultures; that its glorification of reason undermined morality and paved the way for fascism and irrationality; or that it perpetuated a willful indifference to ecological concerns and to women's rights. The author clarifies all those issues and shows how reason, properly understood, transcends polemics that currently obfuscate appeals to experience.
Experience vs. Understanding covers a wide range of topics. Among them are the need for interpretation of experiences; responsibility for consequences of one's choices; the danger in not thinking beyond immediate perceptions; all human activities are governed by cultural rules; individual virtues such as intelligence or courage are not sufficient to evaluate actions; and the issues of national foreign policy parallel those of each person's policy towards other people's. Experience vs. Understanding is a unique study that will be enjoyed by and beneficial to philosophers, sociologists, and political theorists, who are searching for the philosophical foundations of social science.