Fact-constructivism and the Science Wars: Is the Pre-existence of the World a Valid Objection against Idealism?

In Jesper Lundsfryd Rasmussen & Christoph Asmuth (eds.), Philosophisches Anfangen. Reflexionen des Anfangs als Charakteristikum des neuzeitlichen und modernen Denkens Kultur. Königshausen & Neumann. pp. 319–339 (2022)
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Metaphysics relies on the presupposition of the non-being of the world: since the world has once not existed it is necessary to postulate a cause for its existence, i.e. an extrinsic principle to explain the absolute beginning of the causal series of all things that constitute the world. After the critique of theologizing metaphysics by authors like Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche, the notion of an absolute beginning still persists though in a field in which it often goes as such unnoticed, while it factually enjoys wide acceptance, namely in epistemology. It sounds as a truism that knowledge begins: personal inexistence (birth-death cycle) and the phenomenon of unconsciousness (sleep-wake cycle) seem to endorse the obviousness of that statement. Now, to link the beginning of the phenomenal series of subjective acts of knowledge with the existence of an external world that causes the specific content of our temporary cognitive acts relies, however, on two presuppositions, namely on the thesis of a complete non-being or nothingness of knowledge and, intrinsically related to this first presupposition, on the thesis of an absolute beginning of cognitive activity. If knowledge begins from its own nothingness, there must be a cause that is external to the totality of acts of knowledge, a cause that it doesn´t belong to the series of cognitive acts and, therefore, that it is not caused by any of them: this uncaused cause of contentful knowledge is supposed to be the real world external to the knowing subject. In my paper I make explicit the relation between realist-empiricist approachs to epistemology and the double presupposition of the nothingness and absolute beginning of knowledge, I explain the difficulties implied by these two presuppositions and, finally, I propose as a plausible solution to those difficulties some key theoretical claims of absolute idealism.



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Hector Ferreiro
National Research Council-Argentina (CONICET)

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