ERIC Number: EJ804939
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
An Essay for Educators: Epistemological Realism Really is Common Sense
Cobern, William W.; Loving, Cathleen C.
Science & Education, v17 n4 p425-447 Apr 2008
"What is truth?" Pontius Pilot asked Jesus of Nazareth. For many educators today this question seems quaintly passe. Rejection of "truth" goes hand-in-hand with the rejection of epistemological realism. Educational thought over the last decade has instead been dominated by empiricist, anti-realist, instrumentalist epistemologies of two types: first by psychological constructivism and later by social constructivism. Social constructivism subsequently has been pressed to its logical conclusion in the form of relativistic multiculturalism. Proponents of both psychological constructivism and social constructivism value knowledge for its utility and eschew as irrelevant speculation any notion that knowledge is actually about reality. The arguments are largely grounded in the discourse of science and science education where science is "western" science; neither universal nor about what is really real. The authors defended the notion of science as "universal" in a previous article. The present purpose is to offer a commonsense argument in defense of critical realism as an epistemology and the epistemically distinguished position of science (rather than privileged) within a framework of epistemological pluralism. The paper begins with a brief cultural survey of events during the thirty-year period from 1960-1990 that brought many educators to break with epistemological realism and concludes with comments on the pedagogical importance of realism. Understanding the cultural milieu of the past forty years is critical to understanding why traditional philosophical attacks on social constructivist ideas have proved impotent defenders of scientific realism.
Descriptors: Constructivism (Learning), Realism, Cultural Pluralism, Psychology, Rejection (Psychology), Epistemology, Ethics, Social Sciences, Science Education, Educational History, Cultural Influences, Philosophy, Social Theories, Social Influences
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
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