Conceiving, experiencing, and conceiving experiencing: Neo-kantianism and the history of the concept of experience [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Topoi 22 (1):55-67 (2003)
It is often claimed that epistemological thought divides around the issue of the place of experience in knowledge: While empiricists argue that experience is the only legitimate source of knowledge, rationalists find other such sources. The trouble with such accounts is not that they are wrong, but that they are incomplete. On occasion, epistemological differences run deeper, raising the very notion of experience as an issue for epistemology. This paper looks at two epistemological debates which concerned not simply the place of experience in knowledge but also the appropriate account of experience itself. The first episode is the rise of Marburg Neo-Kantianism in the 1870s – in particular the seminal work of Hermann Cohen in his Kants Theorie der Erfahrung (1871). Cohen's principal point was that Kant's significance as an epistemologist was in providing a new theory of experience, one that tied experience to exact science and led to a new stress on the formal conditions of exact knowledge. The second episode is Carnap's rejection of epistemology in the 1930s in favour of a program of the logic of science. My focus in each case will be the interplay between an epistemology focused on exact science as the locus of knowledge and a concomitant call for logical methods in epistemology.
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