A New Epistemology
This chapter deals with George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. Unlike Our Mutual Friend, Daniel Deronda is explicitly about questions of knowledge. Daniel Deronda's structure indicates that her disillusionment with contemporary society exacerbated what must have been her disillusionment with the epistemology that underlay her earlier work. It also investigates the possibility of selflessness derived from the energies of egoism. Deronda undergoes that very act of self-obliteration that would be taken as the ideal condition of scientific objectivity. Eliot's conviction that mere rational and systematic thought was dehumanizing determines her rethinking of epistemology. Daniel Deronda, and the epistemological theory it narratively unfolds, may leave the reader in doubt: the tension between desire and disinterest remains after this extraordinary attempt, but it is an attempt that contains within it much that requires assent.
Keywords: George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, knowledge, epistemology, selflessness, egoism, epistemological theory