We met as a faculty recently to discuss Chapter 5 of Integrative Approaches. This chapter is titled “The Pursuit of Truth: (Epistemology: Ways of Knowing).” It opens with a compelling example of Entwistle discussing his take as a psychologist on someone suffering from a delusion, while others (the patient) see that experience as truth, and still others experience it as demon possession. He uses this to get the reader into a discussion of epistemology or ways of knowing.
Entwistle espouses the view of “tentative certainty.” This is critical realism as contrasted with naive realism (my perceptions all correspond to reality) and anti-realism (my perceptions do not necessarily correspond to reality but are shaped by biases, assumptions, and so on).
According to Entwistle:
Critical realists take a middle ground, believing that, while assumptions and biases color perception, reality imposes some limitation on interpretation. The critical realist thus recognizes that assumptions and biases affect data interpretation, but also believes that assumptions and biases can be evalued (at least to some degree), and that interpretations can be judged by their fitness with the data. (p. 87)
I have also described myself as a critical realist – at least in contrast to other approaches to the relationship between science and religion that undermine integration, such as perspectivalism. In any case, we had a good discussion that contrasted critical realism with common sense realism, which comes out of the tradition of Thomas Reid and others. Current proponents of common sense realism include Alvin Plantinga, one of the foremost epistemologist of our day, who developed what he refers to as Reformed epistemology.