epistemology

 

  • Debates in contemporary epistemology are generally clustered around four core areas:[1][2][3] • The philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and the conditions required
    for a belief to constitute knowledge, such as truth and justification; • Potential sources of knowledge and justified belief, such as perception, reason, memory, and testimony • The structure of a body of knowledge or justified belief, including
    whether all justified beliefs must be derived from justified foundational beliefs or whether justification requires only a coherent set of beliefs; and, • Philosophical scepticism, which questions the possibility of knowledge, and related
    problems, such as whether scepticism poses a threat to our ordinary knowledge claims and whether it is possible to refute sceptical arguments.

  • [55] To the contrary, they argue that a reliable process for acquiring a true belief adds value to the merely true belief by making it more likely that future beliefs of a
    similar kind will be true.

  • In Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi argues for the epistemological relevance of knowledge how and knowledge that; using the example of the act of balance involved in riding
    a bicycle, he suggests that the theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride, and that it is important to understand how both are established and
    grounded.

  • [43][27] A different approach is to require that the belief tracks truth, that is, that the person would not have the belief if it was false.

  • [19] Some have also attempted to offer significant revisions to the notion of belief, including eliminativists about belief who argue that there is no phenomenon in the natural
    world which corresponds to our folk psychological concept of belief (Paul Churchland) and formal epistemologists, who aim to replace our bivalent notion of belief (“either I have a belief or I don’t have a belief”) with the more permissive,
    probabilistic notion of credence (“there is an entire spectrum of degrees of belief, not a simple dichotomy between belief and non-belief”).

  • [19] There are various different ways that contemporary philosophers have tried to describe beliefs, including as representations of ways that the world could be (Jerry Fodor),
    as dispositions to act as if certain things are true (Roderick Chisholm), as interpretive schemes for making sense of someone’s actions (Daniel Dennett and Donald Davidson), or as mental states that fill a particular function (Hilary Putnam).

  • [50][51] More generally, the problem is to identify what (if anything) makes knowledge more valuable than a minimal conjunction of its components such as mere true belief
    or justified true belief.

  • Main article: Knowledge The entry “Knowledge How” of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy[13] mentions that introductory classes to epistemology often start their analysis
    of knowledge by pointing out three different senses of “knowing” something: “knowing that” (knowing the truth of propositions), “knowing how” (understanding how to perform certain actions), and “knowing by acquaintance” (directly perceiving
    an object, being familiar with it, or otherwise coming into contact with it).

  • On the linguistic level, it is distinguished from the other forms of knowledge since it can be expressed through a that-clause, for instance, using a formulation like “They
    know that…” followed by the known proposition.

  • The idea behind this thought experiment is that this is not knowledge even though the belief is both justified and true.

  • [28][44] On this view, all cases of knowledge involve a justified true belief but some justified true beliefs do not amount to knowledge since they lack this additional feature.

  • [28] One such approach is to require that the true belief was produced by a reliable process.

  • [34][35][36] Yet another method is to focus on linguistic evidence by studying how the term “knowledge” is commonly used.

  • He wrote that because the only method by which we perceive the external world is through our senses, and that, because the senses are not infallible, we should not consider
    our concept of knowledge infallible.

  • Most notably, this would exclude the possibility that branches of philosophy like metaphysics could ever provide informative accounts of what actually exists.

  • [30][45] A quite different approach is to affirm that the justified-true-belief account of knowledge is deeply flawed and to seek a complete reconceptualization of knowledge.

  • [37][30][38] As justified true belief[edit] The historically most influential definition, discussed since ancient Greek philosophy, characterizes knowledge in relation to
    three essential features: as (1) a belief that is (2) true and (3) justified.

  • [32][31][28] This feature is usually included to distinguish knowledge from true beliefs that rest on superstition, lucky guesses, or faulty reasoning.

  • Theorists more in tune with ordinary language usually demand lower standards and see knowledge as something commonly found in everyday life.

  • While some contemporary philosophers take themselves to have offered more sustainable accounts of the distinction that are not vulnerable to Quine’s objections, there is no
    consensus about whether or not these succeed.

  • [48][49][5] The value problem The primary value problem is to determine why knowledge should be more valuable than simply true belief.

  • [53][page needed] One of the more influential responses to the problem is that knowledge is not particularly valuable and is not what ought to be the main focus of epistemology.

  • [28][31][39] There is still wide acceptance that the first two features are correct, that is, that knowledge is a mental state that affirms a true proposition.

  • This problem gives us reason to think that not all justified true beliefs constitute knowledge.

  • There is much less agreement about the extent to which a knower must know why something is true in order to know.

  • However, a belief being justified does not guarantee that the belief is true, since a person could be justified in forming beliefs based on very convincing evidence that was
    nonetheless deceiving.

  • We can know it is true solely by virtue of our understanding in what its terms mean.

  • Most of them involve a justified true belief that apparently fails to amount to knowledge because the belief’s justification is in some sense not relevant to its truth.

  • [21] Justification[edit] Main article: Justification (epistemology) As the term justification is used in epistemology, a belief is justified if one has good reason for holding
    it.

  • According to Jonathan Kvanvig, an adequate account of knowledge should resist counterexamples and allow an explanation of the value of knowledge over mere true belief.

  • Among philosophers who think that it is possible to analyze the conditions necessary for knowledge, virtually all of them accept that truth is such a condition.

  • “; “Is the content of our beliefs entirely determined by our mental states, or do the relevant facts have any bearing on our beliefs (e.g., if I believe that I’m holding a
    glass of water, is the non-mental fact that water is H2O part of the content of that belief)?

  • For example, an externalist response to the Gettier problem is to say that for a justified true belief to count as knowledge, there must be a link or dependency between the
    belief and the state of the external world.

  • While this distinction is first and foremost about meaning and is therefore most relevant to the philosophy of language, the distinction has significant epistemological consequences,
    seen most prominently in the works of the logical positivists.

  • But so, too, could a man who had true beliefs about how to get there, even if he had not gone there or had any knowledge of Larissa.

  • Much of what we call a priori knowledge is thought to be attained through reason alone, as featured prominently in rationalism.

  • The value problem is important to assessing the adequacy of theories of knowledge that conceive of knowledge as consisting of true belief and other components.

  • Some theorists think that one only needs to modify one’s conception of justification to avoid them.

  • [51] Acquiring knowledge Sources of knowledge[edit] Main article: Knowledge § Sources of knowledge There are many proposed sources of knowledge and justified belief which
    we take to be actual sources of knowledge in our everyday lives.

  • [31] Others engage in an analysis of knowledge, which aims to provide a theoretically precise definition that identifies the set of essential features characteristic for all
    instances of knowledge and only for them.

  • A different approach is to start from concrete individual cases of knowledge to determine what all of them have in common.

  • The traditional way of supporting a rational argument is to appeal to other rational arguments, typically using chains of reason and rules of logic.

  • A belief is an attitude that a person holds regarding anything that they take to be true.

  • While there is not universal agreement about the nature of belief, most contemporary philosophers hold the view that a disposition to express belief B qualifies as holding
    the belief B.

  • Should a theory of knowledge fail to do so, it would prove inadequate.

  • [24] He argued that if there is an omnipotent, good being who made the world, then it is reasonable to believe that people are made with the ability to know.

  • The act of saying that one does not exist assumes that someone must be making the statement in the first place.

  • He goes on to say that it does not matter if the statement is true or not, only that if you believe in one or the other that matters.

  • [5][31] However, even though it has been studied intensely, there are still various disagreements about its exact nature.

  • This verb seems the most appropriate in terms of describing the “episteme” in one of the modern European languages, hence the German name “Erkenntnistheorie [de]”.

  • [25] Defining knowledge A central issue in epistemology is the question of what the nature of knowledge is or how to define it.

  • The reason is that it is just a lucky accident since the person cannot tell the difference: They would have formed exactly the same justified belief if they had stopped at
    another site, in which case the belief would have been false.

  • Other common suggestions for things that can bear the property of being true include propositions, sentences, thoughts, utterances, and judgments.

  • Going back to the crow example, by Laurence BonJour’s definition the reason you would believe in option A is because you have an immediate knowledge that a crow is a bird,
    without ever experiencing one.

  • The initial development of epistemic externalism is often attributed to Alvin Goldman, although numerous other philosophers have worked on the topic in the time since.

  • [19][20] While belief plays a significant role in epistemological debates surrounding knowledge and justification, it has also generated many other philosophical debates in
    its own right.

  • He argued that certain fundamental truths about the nature of reality, such as the concepts of space, time, causality, and the categories of understanding, are not derived
    from experience, but are inherent in the structure of the mind itself.

  • Is it even possible to give an informative definition of truth?

  • In his own methodological doubt—doubting everything he previously knew so that he could start from a blank slate—the first thing that he could not logically bring himself
    to doubt was his own existence: “I do not exist” would be a contradiction in terms.

  • Beliefs can be occurrent (e.g., a person actively thinking “snow is white”), or they can be dispositional (e.g., a person who if asked about the color of snow would assert
    “snow is white”).

  • The distinction is most pronounced in Polish, where wiedzieć means “to know”, umieć means “to know how” and znać means “to be familiar with” (to “know” a person).

  • [53] Advocates of virtue epistemology have argued that the value of knowledge comes from an internal relationship between the knower and the mental state of believing.

  • However, this should not be confused for the more contentious view that one must know that one knows in order to know (the KK principle).

  • [31][28][33] Differences in the methodology may also cause disagreements.

  • The terms originate from the analytic methods of Aristotle’s Organon, and may be roughly defined as follows:[16] • A priori knowledge is knowledge that is independent of experience.

  • In mathematics, it can be known that, but there is also knowing how to add two numbers, and knowing a person (e.g., knowing other persons,[14][15] or knowing oneself), place
    (e.g., one’s hometown), thing (e.g., cars), or activity (e.g., addition).

  • If you believe in option B, then you are a posteriori justified to believe it because you have seen many crows therefore knowing they are black.

  • [23] Externalists hold that factors deemed “external”, meaning outside of the psychological states of those who gain knowledge, can be conditions of justification.

  • Socrates says that it seems that both knowledge and true opinion can guide action.

 

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[‘1. In Hintikka 1974, Chap. 2, episteme is said to be very close in meaning to the word tekhne, ‘skill’.[8]
2. ^ In Scots, the distinction is between wit and ken
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