Publication 4019

Nola R. (2003) Naked before reality, skinless before the absolute: A critique of the inaccessibility of reality argument in constructivism. Science & Education 12(2): 131–166. Fulltext at
There is an old argument in philosophy that attempts to undermine any realist account of truth and thus knowledge in science and elsewhere. This is the claim that we can never compare either our experiences of, or our beliefs about, reality with how reality is because, in order to check whether our experiences or beliefs correspond with reality, always further experiences or beliefs must intervene. Thus we can never have direct knowledge, or more strongly any knowledge at all, of how reality is. Constructivists take this to heart and look for accounts of knowledge that are anti-realist and coherentist and/or constructivist in which the role of the external world in knowledge claims is thoroughly downplayed or non-existent. This argument is a central tenet of constructivism both with respect to scientific knowledge and learning. The argument, though widespread, is not without serious difficulties that leave the realist position untouched.

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