Epistemology 101
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Epistemology 101

A brief introduction to Epistemology or the study of knowledge. Including four points most important to epistemology.

Epistemology is the study of episteme or knowledge.  Any ‘good’ or ‘logical’ epistemology will answer the following questions: 

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of ‘knowledge’? This area of epistemology deals with defining ‘what’ knowledge is.  Justified true believe is one such answer to this question.  Knowledge must be a belief as we believe ourselves to have it.  Knowledge must be justified or it is simple opinion.  And knowledge must be true or it… well is false.  Science in the modern age, and most specifically those looking at micro physical particles are ever increasing the belief in probability as a necessary condition.

What are the sources of ‘knowledge’? This area of epistemology is dealing with the ‘how’ of knowledge.  How is it one comes into possession of knowledge.  Leading answers have been ideas such as perception and recollection.  Perception has often been taken as the most obvious source for knowledge.  Though it has ever been questioned perceptive knowledge seems to be undeniable, but not immune.  Philosophers like David Hume questioned causality as a way to disprove the justification behind using perceptive induction of knowledge.  Other sources have used recollective sources, such that the ‘soul’ is imprinted with knowledge and we need only remember what it is we forgot.  You did not learn calculus, you simply recalled it from past existence.

What is the structure of 'knowledge'? There are two main camps in the structure of knowledge. These camps include foundationalism and coherentism. Foundationalism is by far the leading structural theory of knowledge.  Foundationalism accepts justification as a necessary, though not sufficient, condition of knowledge.  Such that each piece of knowledge ‘x’ is subject to justification ‘y’, ‘y’ is than subject to justification to ‘z’.  Such that an eventual first cause of knowledge is the foundation and justification for all knowledge. Coherentism is justified through a coherent web.  It is within coherentism that ‘x’ is justified by ‘y’ and ‘y’ by ‘z’ but ‘z’ is justified by ‘x’.  This theory is less persuasive in text than it is in its entirety when one begins to think about the vast amount of variables…  The thought of them never cross justifying one another is infinitesimally improbable. A third camp, less known as it is viewed almost as a anti-epistemological structure is that of infinitism. For now, suffice it to say it denies both the coherentist and foundationalist claims of circular justification and foundation justification.

What are the limits of knowledge? This area ranges from cases for skepticism, ambiguity, subjectivity, and others.  For instance it is impossible for me to have omniscience, as I am a finite being, and am subject to temporality.  All-knowledge is infinite and therefore is eternal, it is removed from time. I’ll post further on Infinitism at a later date, as it was my main area of interest as an undergraduate.

Links:

Brief introduction to infinitism

Justified true belief

Three kinds of Knowledge

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Comments (3)

Brilliant! Compliments aside, however, now that I realize that this was your area of study as an undergrad, names such as Socrates, Claude Levi-Strauss, H.D. Thoreau, Ferdinand de Saussure, and... and... so many others readily come to mind. Might I ask, who were YOUR greatest influences amongst the philosophers and structuralists and foundationalists (belief being justified by being inferred from other justified beliefs), even that of archaeologists or sophists or logicians? If you might, I am curious about your strongest general influences.

I can only express my opinion of this... as I'm sure I'm incorrect when I say I have no stronger influence then doubt itself. Socrates comes to mind as my greatest influence and Plato also. I know some of the influences most crucial to 'my' philosophy. Socrates gave me ignorance, to doubt my knowledge no matter how sure I was, yet to search all my life for it. Plato gave me 'form', that despite its beauty the physical world is not all there necessarily is. Hume gave me this moment, reason to doubt causation, and therefore perception even temporal. Peter Klien took away my ability to claim knowledge. For an infinite regress exist to justify each previous claim to reason. Socrates influenced me toward a perpetual search for knowledge. Klien gave me reason behind my disbelief in the knowledge we so often speak of. Plato gave me so much I cannot even reference, I don’t know how to express it… I think my friends aversion to Plato, I was the opposite. Perhaps it is the beauty of the immaterial predicted in the forms, but he is the back drop to perhaps my entire philosophy. Hume’s critique of causality is not solved by something continually reassuring predictions. Causation is unsure. This concepts were all I ever needed in order to debunk almost any argument for knowledge. Perhaps I never won in the sense that someone believed I was correct. But, I often convinced my ‘opponent’ of the possibility of their contrary. I say they all took something… but for what they took, I took far more and gained far more from them... though my friends at school might have viewed me as loosing, though I never understood what. I had the pleasure to see their arguments evolve as much as my own from my role as devil's advocate. I can't quote the author, but it has ever rung in my ears that it is the role of the skeptic to be forgotten so that their contemporaries may be remembered in the development of their work. All this I say as influences, but really the philosophy is more reason behind the feelings. For this reason the concepts are my influences. The men and women who gave them to me were only the mouth piece. Nothing necessarily more.

Exceptionally good discussion.

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