Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Critical Realism and the Priority of Ontology Over Epistemology

Yellow Springs, Ohio

University of Notre Dame's Christian Smith is a critical realist (in distinction from positivist empiricism, constructivism, postmodernism, and variations on the new hermeneutic). Here Smith expresses critical realism's priority of ontology over epistemology. This, precisely, explains how critics of the likes of William Lane Craig fail to understand this 'critical' distinction. This explicates why, e.g., in the moral argument for God's existence evolutionary epistemological explanations of how we arrived at morality have nothing to do with the ontological claims the moral argument intends to make.

Smith writes:

"In critical realism, to spell out a few specifics, ontology (the study of being) is prioritized over epistemology (the study of what and how we can know)-a move that feels alien to us moderns and postmoderns who naturally prioritize epistemology, but which we nevertheless must make presuppositionally to get anywhere worth going in science. That which is cannot be immediately constrained by limits on the knowable of it." (Christian Smith. What Is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up, Kindle Locations 995-997)

Smith spends a good deal of time arguing for critical realism over the above-mentioned alternatives.