Constructive realism: In defense of the objective reality of perspectives

Human Affairs 23 (4):645-657 (2013)
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Abstract

The paper proposes an outline of a reconciliatory approach to the perennial controversy between epistemological realism and anti-realism. My main conceptual source in explaining this view is the philosophy of pragmatism, more specifically, the epistemological theories of George H. Mead, John Dewey, and also William James’ radical empiricism. First, the paper analyzes the pragmatic treatment of the goal-directedness of action, especially with regard to Mead’s notion of attitudes, and relates it to certain contemporary epistemological theories provided by the cognitive sciences. Against this background, the paper presents a philosophical as well as empirical justification of why we should interpret the environment and its objects in terms of possibilities for action. In Mead’s view, the objects and events of our world emerge within stable patterns of organism-environment interactions, which he called “perspectives”. According to pragmatism as well as the aforementioned cognitive scientists, perception and other cognitive processes include not only neural processes in our heads but also the world itself. Elaborating on Mead’s concept of perspectives, the paper argues in favor of the epistemological position called “constructive realism.”

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Roman Madzia
Masaryk University

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