Critique of Classical Epistemological Thinking: A Postmetaphysical and Postmodern Perspective

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Addis Ababa University


In the history of philosophy, epistemological thought has taken on many forms and has been the subject of numerous epistemological doctrines. In order to provide valuable answers to epistemological questions, some philosophical positions are located in the abstract, supersensible, or transcendental realm. While the other philosophical positions are located in subject-object philosophy. However, with the emergence of postmetaphysical thinking and postmodernism, the classical epistemological thought has come under heavy criticism. Because both of them operate in a linguistic and socio-historical turn in philosophy. Such questions about the subject and the universal conception of truth are disregard. Postmetaphysical thinker Jürgen Habermas disregarded the abstract world; in return, operating within the linguistic turn, he developed communicative rationality as an alternative foundation of theory of knowledge and truth. Communicative rationality holds that truth and knowledge are rooted in language rather than the transcendental realm. On the other hand, Jean-François Lyotard was one of the postmodern thinkers who criticized the universal, transcendental classical conception of epistemological thinking because it entertained grand narratives and founded mini narratives as alternative means to provide knowledge and truth. Therefore, both Habermas and Lyotard embrace their new alternative theory of truth by criticizing classical epistemological assumptions. One of this thesis’s central questionsis to answer,"Do they succeed?" In this thesis, my aim is two-fold: first, todiscuss, examine, and criticize Habermas’ communicative paradigm and Lyotard’s conception of mini narratives as an alternative foundation of truth. Second, through such analysis and examination, I shall argue that both Habermas’ communicative paradigm and Lyotard’s mini narratives do not succeed as alternative foundations of truth. I argue that Habermas’ communicative paradigm does not fully succeed because, it has some Eurocentric element, it is instrumental, and it is just an ideal/utopian concept. It also fails to ensure equal opportunity for all and fails to be universal at all, or cannot escape from relativism. Furthermore, I argue that Lyotard’s conception of mini narratives, as an alternative foundation of truth does not succeed because it fails to overcome the crisis and societal problems. Having different conceptions of truth fosters a sense of meaninglessness and purposelessness. Therefore, in this thesis, I argue that both Habermas and Lyotard’s alternative theories of truth lead to nihilism; we need to evaluate, improve and revise their theories.



Postmetaphysical, Postmodern, Language, Philosophy of the subject, Mini Narrative, Communicative Action