Critical Realism And The New Perspective -- By: Richard C. Gamble
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Critical Realism And The New Perspective
Professor of Systematic Theology
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
A well known British biblical scholar has described himself as a “critical realist.”1 Critical realism is the philosophical foundation for this person’s view of “knowing” about Christ as well as knowing about his “resurrection”.2 Since competing views are in a “state of collapse” he argues that “critical realism...is required for a coherent epistemology.”3
This short study has very limited goals: to trace some of the historical and philosophical backgrounds to the development of critical realism, to make a brief connection between critical realism and language philosophy, and to summarize how such philosophical thinking has impacted contemporary New Testament theology.4
The founder of critical realism was Michael Polanyi (1891-1976). It seems that the best way to comprehend Polanyi is to think of him as a scientist who was dissatisfied with how philosophers explained his field of endeavor- and from that dissatisfaction Polanyi developed his own massive
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epistemological system.5 He was not a “normal” scientist — or philosopher. To explain, his life story runs along these lines.
Born in the last decade of the nineteenth century to a Jewish family from Hungary, Polanyi was trained as a physician in Budapest (1914) and served as such during the First World War. While on sick-leave he attained a Ph. D. (1919). He then began research in Germany and was elected to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Physicalische Chemie three years later.
A decade after that honor, Polanyi discerned the problems connected with the rise of Germany’s National Socialism and moved to England in 1933.6 While living in England, Polanyi was made a fellow of the Royal Society (in 1944), and taught as Professor of physical chemistry and social studies at the University of Manchester.7
The Czech scientist had problems with “positivism”- the way that science was comprehended when Polanyi was a student. He felt that positivism had too great a tendency toward “reductionism”- the notion that all ideas derive f...
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