The Ontological Foundation of Positivist Epistemology

  • Michael Sunday Sasa Department of Philosophy Veritas University, Abuja.
Keywords: Constructivism, Epistemology, Knowledge, Ontological foundation, Positivism


The central argument of this paper is that what is referred to as positivist or
empiricist epistemology is a superstructure resting on the substructure of a certain
metaphysical orientation – materialism. The paper traces this point from several
premises informing the activities of scientific inquiries as well as figures in the
discourse. Epistemology, it is understood, is the search for those general,
foundational normative principles and procedures for arriving at reliable and
indubitable knowledge. At the heart of the traditional project of epistemology,
however, is the problem of justification, which neither the foundationalist nor
coherentist can resolve conclusively in an exhaustive sense. And so, the scientific
image of knowledge presented by the positivists is that, if we are to arrive at any
reliable knowledge of objective reality, then, we must conduct our enquiries in the
light of the general laws of science and the scientific method. However, the
materialist's orientation that underlies the scientific image of knowledge presents
an intractable difficulty. One of such is that it is hard to establish the a priori,
necessary, normative intervention of the human mind guided by free will. In other
words, the human search for knowledge is deterministic, and so cannot be
normative. This raises the question of the normative status of positivist
epistemology. The paper employs a philosophical method of analysis, conceptual
clarifications and reconstructivism to arrive at the thesis defended therein.


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