Reflexivity

Perhaps the founding gesture of philosophy is reflexivity—that is, the turning around of thought upon itself. Unsurprisingly, media practices and technologies are at the core of this turn, according to foundational accounts of the origins of  philosophy,  in which writing (as distinct from the oral tradition) fixes understandings of the world so as to highlight their transformation over time. This fixity points to competing modes of understanding that require, in turn, reflection on different (and incompatible) “truths” (see, for example, Havelock 2009). Once a truth is fixed in written form, or so the story goes, it cannot adjust, as oral accounts do, to shifts in shared cultural understandings that develop over time: it stands out   as an anachronous understanding that needs to be accounted for—hence the link between history and philosophy.

Reflexivity tends to be associated by sociological popularizers of the term (Beck, Giddens, and Lash 1994) with a distinct …

This essay may be found on page 168 of the printed volume.

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