Science, Language and the Human Condition

Review of Metaphysics 42 (4):843-844 (1989)
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An ambitious work, based on a lifetime of reading and research, Science, Language and the Human Condition provides a strong defense of a realist theory of knowledge, opposing various forms of contemporary positivism and subjectivism. Kaplan identifies with the pragmatic tradition of Peirce, James, and Dewey, and acknowledges a particular intellectual debt to Morris Cohen. He views that tradition as fundamentally Aristotelian in orientation, as one that recognizes a plurality of methods of inquiry as well as the open-ended character of science. Encyclopedic in his treatment of contemporary figures and movements, Kaplan calls for a synoptic view of the world and the recognition of objective moral values in that world. He affirms the possibility of knowledge both of nature and of the moral order. But as he puts it, knowledge is not a seamless whole. Knowledge is pragmatically constructed in terms of multiple purposes and levels of certainty. While our knowledge of the world is objective, no single way of knowing yields absolute certainty. Thus Kaplan is equally critical of those positivists who would adhere to the model of mathematical physics as the only source of reliable knowledge and of those system builders such as Hegel and Marx whose global vision is inevitably obscurantist. He is just as harsh in dealing with Derrida and with the deconstructionist movement.



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