Internal and External Approaches to Epistemology

internal external perceptionGodfrey-Smith (1996)  talks about three epistemological approaches: An “externalist”  approach, an “internalist” approach, and interactionism.
The epistemic ontology of those of us who hold the externalistic approach is that we come to gain knowledge as external facts become exposed to us. Godfrey-Smith likens this approach to the Associationist Theory, and behaviorism. This brings to mind the dialectic discourse of Lakatos, who believed we could cleave ourselves from our emotional and political attachment to ideas, and that we could collaboratively find scientific truth through honest debate.

The internalistic approach is that we never perceive the external world without our view being adulterated by our internal cognition. He calls this  approach “strong constructivism“, or a “Kantian” approach.  How we perceive the world depends on our experiences, cf, what I presume Aristotle, Mauss, and Bourdieu would call “habitus“. However, I cannot understand the correlation he makes to Kantian philosophy, when Kant believed both the external and internal to both be constituents of knowledge fruition process; Kant devoted his arguments to bridging these two epistemological ontologies.  He argued that we need to straddle both. This internal approach also brings to mind Kuhn’s Scientific Revolution, where scientific “facts” don’t just expose their “veracity” to us, we interpret them in the external world through our own human idiosyncrasies.
The third approach proposed by Godfrey-Smith, the interactionism approach, combines the external with the internal, by realizing the reciprocal effect one has on the other. The act of observing  changes the external as we are perceiving it; they interact with each other, and with both we create knowledge.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s