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This article provides the first English translation of Tanabe’s early essay, “The Limit of Logicism in Epistemology: A Critique of the Marburg and Freiburg Schools” (1914). The key notion that the young Tanabe seeks to define in relation to his detailed analyses of contemporary Neo-Kantian epistemology is the notion of “pure experience” presented in Nishida’s philosophy. The general theory of epistemology shared among the thinkers from these two prominent schools of philosophy in early 20th century Germany aimed to eliminate the empirical residues in Kant’s theory of knowledge while opposing naïve empiricism and the uncritical methodology of positive science. Their “logicistic” approach, according to Tanabe, seems to contradict Nishida’s notion of pure experience, for it cannot allow any vestige of empiricism in its systematic framework, which is specifically designed to ground scientific knowledge. Yet given that the Neo-Kantian configuration of epistemology does not create the object of knowledge, it must face sensation or representational content as its limiting instance. Thus, to ground a Neo-Kantian theory of knowledge while taking account of this limit of logicism involves explaining their understanding of the unity of subject and object in human knowing. For this, Tanabe argues, recourse to Nishida’s notion of pure experience is indispensable.
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