Problems of Epistemology Essay

August 3, 2017 Construction

Epistemology is the survey of our right to the beliefs we have. More by and large. we start from what we might name our cognitive stances. and inquire whether we do good to hold those stances. Cognitive stances include both our beliefs and ( what we take to be ) our knowings ; and in another dimension they include our attitudes towards the assorted schemes and methods we use to acquire new beliefs and filter out old 1s. every bit good as the merchandises of those schemes and methods. Epistemology. on this screening. is explicitly normative ; it is concerned with whether we have acted good or severely ( responsibly or irresponsibly ) in organizing the beliefs we have.

In prosecuting this enquiry. we do non. of class. inquire merely about the beliefs and schemes we find ourselves with at the beginning. We besides ask whether there are non others which we would make better to hold. and whether there are non others which we should hold if we have these 1s to get down off with. The hope is to stop up with a full history of how a responsible cognitive agent should act. with some confidence that we do non fall excessively far short of that ideal. 1. Justification. We can separate between two kinds of belief: the mediated and the direct.

Mediated beliefs are those which we reach by some scheme which starts from other beliefs we have. Inference is such a scheme ( but non the merely 1 ) ; we infer that will rain shortly from our separate beliefs that it is mid-morning and that it is turning really dark exterior. Mediated beliefs raise the inquiry of whether the scheme we adopt is one to which we have a right—one we do good to utilize. Unmediated beliefs are those which we adopt without traveling to them from other beliefs we already have.

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These raise different jobs. which concern the beginning of our right to believe. I open my eyes and. because of what I see. instantly believe that there is a book in forepart of me. If I do good in following that belief. it is justified ( or I am justified in following it ) . This focal point on justification is one manner of showing the thought that epistemology is normative. What makes it the instance. so. that this belief is justified? Assorted replies suggest themselves. One is the reliabilist reply: that the belief is justified because it is the consequence of a dependable procedure.

Another is the coherentist reply: that this belief is justified because my universe is more consistent with it than it would be without it. A 3rd is the authoritative foundationalist claim that this belief is non in fact direct. but inferred from a belief about how things seem to me merely now. If this last were true. we are thrown back to two inquiries. The first is whether. and how. the belief about how things seem to me merely now is justified. The 2nd is whether the illation from that belief is justified. We might inquire what rule of illation is employed.

Suppose it is this: that if things seem to me that manner. they likely are that manner. What makes lithe instance that we do good to utilize this rule? 2. The Structure of Justification. This brings us to one peculiar inquiry about justification. which has received much attending. Suppose that we give the justification of a mediated belief A which entreaties to its relation to some other belief B. This belief. B. justifies that one. A ; my belief that it is Sunday justifies my belief that there will be no mail today. There is a really strong intuition that B can merely convey justification to A if it is itself justified.

So the inquiry whether Angstrom is justified has non yet been answered. when we appealed to B. but merely shelved. Whether it is justified depends on whether B is. What justified B? We might appeal to some farther belief C. but so the job will merely repeat. We have here the beginnings of an infinite reasoning backward. The first belief in the series is non justified unless the last 1 is. But will there of all time be a last belief in the series? This is the infinite reasoning backward of justification. Foundationalism takes this reasoning backward earnestly. and attempts to happen basic beliefs that are capable of halting it.

Promising ways of making this include the thought that basic beliefs are justified by their beginning ( they are the immediate merchandises of the sense. possibly ) . or by their subject-matter ( they concern the nature of the believer’s current centripetal provinces ) . Empiricism. in this connexion. wants in some manner to land basic beliefs in experience. Foundationalism concerns itself with the construction of this empiricist programme. So a concern with the reasoning backward of justification is a concern with the construction of justification.

Coherentism attempts to demo that a justified set of beliefs need non hold the signifier of a superstructure resting on a base: the thought here is that the foundationalist programme is bound to neglect. so that the ‘base’ is left groundless. resting on nil. If this were the consequence. and foundationalists were right about the construction of a justified belief set. the lone possible decision would be the doubting 1 that none of our beliefs are in fact justified. Coherentists reject the base-superstructure differentiation ; there are no beliefs which are per se evidences. and none which are per se superstructure.

Beliefs about experience can be supported by entreaty to theory ( which would be traveling upwards in footings of the foundationalist theoretical account ) . every bit good as frailty versa ( theories need the support of experience ) . The whole thing is much more of a muss. and can non be sorted neatly into beds. 3. Knowledge. Epistemology. as so far explained. focal points on justification. There is a 2nd focal point. on cognition. Person whose belief is justified does good. But justification comes in grades. and so does our epistemological position ( determined by how good we are making ) .

The top position is that of cognition. Person who knows that P could non be making better ( at least with regard to p ) . There is a natural involvement in this top position. Two chief inquiries originate: what is the most we can trust for. and in what countries do we acquire it? The traditional efforts to specify cognition focal point on the first of these. These efforts come in two chief households. The first attempts to see cognition as some cagey signifier of belief ; the best-known signifier of this position is the ‘tripartite definition’ . which takes cognition to be 1 ) belief which is both 2 ) justified and 3 ) true.

The 2nd household of positions takes cognition to get down where belief gives out. Plato’s version of this was that belief is concerned with the changing ( particularly the material universe ) . and cognition with the unchanging ( e. g. mathematics ) . Other versions might propose that we can hold cognition of our milieus. but merely when some physical thing is straight present to the head. So cognition is a direct relation. while belief is conceived as an indirect relation to the thing believed. The 2nd inquiry about cognition. viz. what countries we can acquire it in. introduces us to the differentiation between planetary and local.

In some countries. we might state. cognition is available. and in others it is not—or at least it is less freely available. It is common to hear people say that we have no cognition of the hereafter. of God. or of right and incorrect. while leting that there is at least some scientific cognition and some cognition of the yesteryear ( in memory ) . Similarly. in discoursing the justification of belief we might state that our beliefs about our present milieus are on house land. every bit house as that which supports our ( instead different ) cardinal theoretical beliefs in scientific discipline. while our beliefs about God and about the hereafter are per se less good supported.


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