EPISTEMIC CONSTRUCTIVISM, METAPHYSICAL REALISM AND PARMENIDIAN IDENTITY

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Author(s): 
Tom Rockmore
Peking University
Issue number: 
No. 2 (Vol. 48)
Pages: 
59-74
Abstract: 

The cognitive problem, which is a main modern theme, arises early in the Greek tradition. Parmenides, who formulates one of the first identifiably “modern” approaches to epistemology, points toward identity as the only acceptable cognitive standard.

The paper, which leaves epistemic skepticism for another occasion, reviews versions of metaphysical realism identified with Plato in ancient philosophy and Descartes in the modern tradition in suggesting that for different reasons both fail.

The paper reviews German idealist versions of epistemic constructivism formulated by Kant, Fichte and Hegel. The critical philosophy provides a widely known, complex a priori account of cognitive constructivism. This account is amplified, corrected, and reformulated in different ways by such post-Kantian German idealists as Fichte and Hegel. A key element concerns the restatement of the abstract Kantian view of the subject as finite human being by Fichte and Hegel.

Early in the Greek tradition, in equating thinking and being, Parmenides points to three approaches to knowledge as epistemic skepticism, metaphysical realism or epistemic constructivism. If epistemic skepticism is unacceptable and, metaphysical realism is implausible, then epistemic constructivism appears to be the most promising approach to cognition.

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