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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 48, Issue 2, 2016

Tom Rockmore
Pages 59-74
DOI: 10.5840/eps20164829

Epistemic Constructivism, Metaphysical Realism and Parmenidean Identity

The cognitive problem, which is a main modern theme, arises early in the Greektra- dition. Parmenides, who formulates one ofthe 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 metaphysicalrealism 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 criticalphilosophy 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 ofthe abstract Kantian view ofthe subject as finite human being by Fichte and Hegel. Early in the Greektradition,in equatingthinking and being, Parmenides pointstothree approaches to knowledge as epistemic skepticism, metaphysicalrealism or epistemic constructivism. If epistemic skepticism is unacceptable and, metaphysical realism is implausible,then epistemic constructivism appearsto bethe most promising approach to cognition.

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