From Empiricism and Rationalism to Kant and Nietzsche

  • David R. KellerEmail author
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 19)


Natural science assumes that nature is characterized by patterned processes that scientific investigation can reveal. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that focuses on knowledge: what it is and how it is obtained. It can be divided into four different methodologies: Rationalism, Empiricism, Kantianism, and Perspectivism. Pure rationalism, à la Descartes, fails by erecting an unbridgeable gulf between mind and matter (“mind-matter dualism”), making real knowledge of nature impossible. On the other hand, pure empiricism, à la Locke, supplies us with no principles of organization for making sense of experience—leaving it, so to speak, a “blooming, buzzing confusion.” This defect is corrected by Kantian epistemology, which recognizes that both a posteriori empirical observation and a priori principles of reason contribute to and are necessary for understanding the natural world. Yet, no judgment, a posteriori or a priori, is context free. There is no perspective on reality from which it can be viewed in perfect objectivity. There are only different perspectives on it, each shaped by a cultural and historical context. Thus, the best way of successfully moving toward greater objectivity in our understanding of nature is to recognize that alternative explanatory paradigms and hypotheses are possible (Methodological Pluralism), each offering one or more perspectives on the same subject matter to more fully illuminate it, and thus to better inform our ethical judgments and guide our treatment of it.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Salt Lake CityUSA

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