Quaker Studies

A Distinctive Quaker Theory of Knowledge: An Expanded Experiential Empiricism

Quaker Studies (2016), 21, (1), 67–94.

Abstract

While few Quakers have been academic philosophers, Quaker thought provides a distinctive way of understanding knowledge that does not fit easily within the standard historical narrative of Western epistemology. The standard historical narrative tells the story of the rationalism–empiricism debates in early modern philosophy, emphasising the triumph of empiricism, the rise of modern science and the establishment of the scientific method as the highest form of Western knowledge by the early twentieth century. From a scientific point of view, religion could no longer be properly regarded as a kind of knowledge, but ‘merely’ a matter of faith whose claims are seen as often coming into conflict with scientific understandings. The Quakers, however, have generally not regarded science and religion as being in conflict, and the reason is that they have generally grounded both their scientific and religious understandings in experience. The distinctive epistemology that emerges from Quaker thought can thus be described as an expanded experiential empiricism.

A Distinctive Quaker Theory of Knowledge: An Expanded Experiential Empiricism

Abstract

While few Quakers have been academic philosophers, Quaker thought provides a distinctive way of understanding knowledge that does not fit easily within the standard historical narrative of Western epistemology. The standard historical narrative tells the story of the rationalism–empiricism debates in early modern philosophy, emphasising the triumph of empiricism, the rise of modern science and the establishment of the scientific method as the highest form of Western knowledge by the early twentieth century. From a scientific point of view, religion could no longer be properly regarded as a kind of knowledge, but ‘merely’ a matter of faith whose claims are seen as often coming into conflict with scientific understandings. The Quakers, however, have generally not regarded science and religion as being in conflict, and the reason is that they have generally grounded both their scientific and religious understandings in experience. The distinctive epistemology that emerges from Quaker thought can thus be described as an expanded experiential empiricism.


Details

Author details

Rediehs, Laura