The project of political epistemology, politics and the criteria of truth

Date of Award

Summer 2006

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Linda Martin Alcoff


Political epistemology, Truth, Dialectical materialism

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Political Theory


Political epistemology is a research project about how politics frames the questions of knowledge. As a strategic activity to make the production of truth meaningful, ethically valuable and politically emancipatory, it promotes a new understanding of the theory-practice relationship and seeks an epistemological criterion of truth that is attentive to the political conditions that determine meaning.

For epistemic as well as political reasons we need a normative criterion of truth. The project of political epistemology articulates this normative criterion of truth, new coherence , as the relation of mutual support among the superstructural and the structural elements of reality. New coherence is new since it transcends the traditional coherence theory of truth that defines truth as logical consistency among propositions. Moreover, the criterion of new coherence is new since it goes beyond not only the web of propositions, but also the present reality. New coherence has to do with openness towards the possibilities of reality being otherwise than it is in the present.

The main theme of the investigation is to ask the following: if Karl Marx, Theodor Adorno, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida were to clarify further their implicit, as well as different, epistemological positions and ontologies of truth, would their works significantly contribute to the project of political epistemology? My dissertation argues that these thinkers advance a more or less similar articulation of the relationship between truth and politics and of political epistemological normativity. In other words despite these thinkers' important differences, there is still a shared political understanding of knowledge, of the epistemic normativity and of the theory-practice relationship among them. While hoping to respect their differences, this study attempts to offer a hybrid paradigm that involves all these significantly different figures. Through dialectical materialist readings of their works each chapter explores the contribution of a particular thinker to the project of political epistemology.


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