Bataillean Ventures Into Epistemology #1: A Bataillean Critique of Empiricism

05/05/2021

When I speak of empiricism, I am referring to logical positivism/empiricism and verificationism, which the former and latter respectively constitute a theory of knowledge, epistemology, that puts forward the idea that things can only be verified as truth via empirical knowledge/evidence i.e. knowledge derived from the senses, direct cognition, and/or observation. Most scientific theories have this as their epistemology. The scientific method itself is intrinsically verificationist in its teleology.

Georges Bataille’s critique of this aforementioned brand of empiricism (logical positivism/empiricism) and its derivatives (verificationism and science) is derived from his view of experience, the unknowable, and inner experience.

The Transcendental Empiricism of Bataille, Logical Empiricism and Its Derivatives

In their article The Transcendental Empiricism of Georges Bataille, Kane X. Faucher says that Bataille rejects the idea that we can derive knowledge via experience because “all is mutable and in constant becoming, including that which is experiencing”.[1] In other words, Bataille believes that because everything is always changing, that which we experience is also always changing and therefore we cannot derive knowledge from experience because, for Bataille, knowledge depends on stability. For Bataille, it is a “futile measure” to “erect a framework or category of understanding post facto” because it presupposes that such a “framework maps seamlessly upon that which is experienced”.[2] The empiricist has the burden of proof that their framework can be applied to experience and that experience is able to be an object of study in the first place.

Inner Experience

The Bataillean idea of inner experience which has experience as its own authority would refuse subordination to the servile operations of epistemology.

Bibliography

Faucher, Kane X. “The Transcendental Empiricism of Georges Bataille: The Incommensurable Object.” Culture, Theory and Critique 46, no. 2 (2005): 163–76.

References

[1–2]: Kane X. Faucher, “The Transcendental Empiricism of Georges Bataille: The Incommensurable Object,” Culture, Theory and Critique 46, no. 2 (2005): pp. 163–176, 166.

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Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille