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11/28/2018 7:12 pm  #1


Epistemology or metaphysics--where to begin?

Just a thought I've been entertaining along with a couple questions for those willing to answer:

The medieval tradition emphasized metaphysics over epistemology by discovering the nature of reality and then from there determining how humans epistemically relate to it. E.g. Reality is partitioned into substantial forms and man's intellect can abstract that form and come to know it. Generally speaking, modern philosophers of a Kantian and Cartesian bent emphasize epistemology over metaphysics by starting with the subjective conscious self and then coming to understand the world only through that subjective lense. Why such a dramatic philosophical shift? What do you think is the proper interplay between metaphysics and epistemology?

 

11/29/2018 4:36 am  #2


Re: Epistemology or metaphysics--where to begin?

RomanJoe wrote:

Generally speaking, modern philosophers of a Kantian and Cartesian bent emphasize epistemology over metaphysics by starting with the subjective conscious self and then coming to understand the world only through that subjective lense. Why such a dramatic philosophical shift? What do you think is the proper interplay between metaphysics and epistemology?

This change does not reflect modernity though. After the death of Humeanism with Logical Positivism most analytical takes on metaphysics tend to be realist (as opposed to anti-realist), as anti-realism fits badly with the popular project of naturalising the mind. If anything there is a resistance to admitting that subject/first-person knowledge can give us access to any new information.

Likewise nowadays epistemology as it used to be has fragmented into different fields e.g. semantics, philosophy of perception, theories of justification, phenomenology and philosophy of mind.

 

11/29/2018 9:53 am  #3


Re: Epistemology or metaphysics--where to begin?

RomanJoe wrote:

Just a thought I've been entertaining along with a couple questions for those willing to answer:

The medieval tradition emphasized metaphysics over epistemology by discovering the nature of reality and then from there determining how humans epistemically relate to it. E.g. Reality is partitioned into substantial forms and man's intellect can abstract that form and come to know it. Generally speaking, modern philosophers of a Kantian and Cartesian bent emphasize epistemology over metaphysics by starting with the subjective conscious self and then coming to understand the world only through that subjective lense. Why such a dramatic philosophical shift? What do you think is the proper interplay between metaphysics and epistemology?

Although contemporary philosophers may have abandoned the point of view you mention, you are right that part of the modern project is a subjective turn from metaphysics to epistemology.  These ideas were the result of Enlightenment thinking in many ways.  When individualism is promoted it makes sense for your "first-philosophy" to begin with individual impressions or perceptions.  When you start with a religious worldview, it makes sense to begin with God or Being. 

Similarly, where the modernist is committed to reductionism (again based on a sort of metaphysical individualism which says wholes are merely the sum of parts) the AT view stresses both material cause (reductive causation, for lack of a better term) and formal cause (top-down causation, which sees the form or essence of a whole as prior to the parts).  Ultimately, I see the epistemology/metaphysics change as  but one part of a larger change of Western man's worldview that began with something like nominalism and the Reformation and ended with something like the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Why this larger change occured is a different and harder question though.

 

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