Foucault, Sellars, and the “conditions of possibility” of science

Marco Piasentier (2022). In: Philosophy & Social Criticism, 0(0).


New conceptual tools to understand the relationship between knowledge and power appear more necessary than ever in an era marked by declining trust in science.

The relationship between expert knowledge and power is at the core of many contemporary public debates. Some scientists and intellectuals argue that the authority of scientific knowledge depends on it remaining insulated from power. Other scholars and public figures claim that scientific practice is intertwined with social values, political decisions, and economic interests. These questions are deeply related to philosophical debates on the nature and authority of science. Michel Foucault and Wilfred Sellars are representatives of conflicting philosophical traditions: whereas Foucault insisted that “power is everywhere”, Sellars argued that “science is the measure of all things”. The tension between these two perspectives is so strong that each seems to reduce the other to an illusion. In this article, I shall attempt to show that the works of Sellars and Foucault are not necessarily irreconcilable; instead, they can help us to better frame the relationship between science and power. These conceptual tools appear more necessary than ever in an era marked by declining trust in expert knowledge.


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