categoryEpistemology

Epistemology

CS Lewis on the Incompatibility of Reason, Science, and Materialism

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All possible knowledge, then, depends on the validity of reasoning. If the feeling of certainty which we express by words like must be and therefore and since is a real perception of how things outside our own minds really ‘must’ be, well and good. But if this certainty is merely a feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them — if it merely represents the way our minds happen to work — then we can have no knowledge. Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.

It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound — a proof that there are no such things as proofs — which is nonsense.

 

Evidentialism and its Discontents

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Few concepts have been considered as essential to the theory of knowledge and rational belief as that of evidence. The simplest theory which accounts for this is evidentialism, the view that epistemic justification for belief–the kind of justification typically taken to be required for knowledge — is determined solely by considerations pertaining to one’s evidence. In this ground-breaking book, leading epistemologists from across the spectrum challenge and refine evidentialism, sometimes suggesting that it needs to be expanded in quite surprising directions. Following this, the twin pillars of contemporary evidentialism — Earl Conee and Richard Feldman–respond to each essay. This engaging debate covers a vast number of issues, and will illuminate and inform.

I Told Me So

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Think you’ve ever deceived yourself? Then this book is for you. Think you’ve never deceived yourself? Then this book is really for you. “Socrates famously asserted that the unexamined life is not worth living. But Gregg Ten Elshof shows us that we make all sorts of little deals with ourselves every day in order to stave off examination and remain happily self-deceived. Most provocatively, he suggests this is not all bad! While naming its temptations, Ten Elshof also offers a “strange celebration” of self-deception as a gracious gift. In the tradition of Dallas Willard, I Told Me So is a wonderful example of philosophy serving spiritual discipline. A marvelous, accessible and, above all, wise book.” ~ James K. A. Smith • “In this wise, well-crafted work Ten Elshof helps us to identify, evaluate, and respond to our own self-deceptive strategies, as he probes — with occasional self-deprecation and unavoidable humor — the bottomless mysteries of the human heart. His reflections on interpersonal self-deception and “groupthink” are especially helpful. To tell me the truth, I’m glad I read this book. You will be too — I promise.” ~ David Naugle • “Ten Elshof’s discussions are erudite, biblical, searching, and laced with soul-restoring wisdom. All of this together means that this book is solidly pastoral. What it brings to us is appropriate to individuals, but it especially belongs in the context of small groups and local congregations.” ~ Dallas Willard

Oxford Handbook of Skepticism

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In the history of philosophical thought, few themes loom as large as skepticism. Skepticism has been the most visible and important part of debates about knowledge. Skepticism at its most basic questions our cognitive achievements, challenges our ability to obtain reliable knowledge; casting doubt on our attempts to seek and understand the truth about everything from ethics, to other minds, religious belief, and even the underlying structure of matter and reality. Since Descartes, the defense of knowledge against skepticism has been one of the primary tasks not just of epistemology but philosophy itself. The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism features twenty-six newly commissioned chapters by top figures in the field. Part One contains articles explaining important kinds of skeptical reasoning. Part Two focuses on responses to skeptical arguments. Part Three concentrates on important contemporary issues revolving around skepticism. As the first volume of its kind, the articles make significant contributions to the debate on skepticism. ~ Product Description

On Being Certain

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You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You "know" the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001 — you know these things, well, because you just do. In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton challenges the notions of how we think about what we know. He shows that the feeling of certainty we have when we "know" something comes from sources beyond our control and knowledge. In fact, certainty is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. Because this "feeling of knowing" seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain, and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. The feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen. Bringing together cutting edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain, will challenge what you know (or think you know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason. ~ Product Description

Themes from G. E. Moore

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These thirteen original essays, whose authors include some of the world’s leading philosophers, examine themes from the work of the Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore (1873-1958), and demonstrate his considerable continuing influence on philosophical debate. Part I bears on epistemological topics, such as skepticism about the external world, the significance of common sense, and theories of perception. Part II is devoted to themes in ethics, such as Moore’s open question argument, his non-naturalism, utilitarianism, and his notion of organic unities. ~ Product Description • "A welcome addition to the re-evaluation of Moore’s philosophical legacy. The book as a whole is well-organized; the authors cover a wide range of topics related to Moore’s work in epistemology and ethics. The well written essays are timely and the authors demonstrate the contemporary relevance of Moore’s work by showing how his views illuminate current disputes. This book will be useful to experts in the field and is accessible to those who are new comers to Moore’s work." ~ William Tolhurst, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Alvin Plantinga

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Few thinkers have had as much impact on contemporary philosophy as has Alvin Plantinga. The work of this quintessential analytic philosopher has in many respects set the tone for the debate in the fields of modal metaphysics and epistemology and he is arguably the most important philosopher of religion of our time. In this volume, a distinguished team of today’s leading philosophers address the central aspects of Plantinga’s philosophy – his views on natural theology; his responses to the problem of evil; his contributions to the field of modal metaphysics; the controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism; his model of epistemic warrant and his view of epistemic defeat; and his recent work on mind-body dualism. Also included is an appendix containing Plantinga’s often referred to, but previously unpublished, lecture notes entitled ‘Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments’, with a substantial preface to the appendix written by Plantinga specifically for this volume. ~ Product Description

Douglas Wilson on Determinism and Reason

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But it is interesting that the same thing happens to you when you have to give some warrant for trusting in “reason”. I noted your citation of LaPlace in your book and am glad you brought him up here. LaPlace believed he was not in need of the God hypothesis, just like you, but you should also know he held this position as a firm believer in celestial and terrestrial mechanics. He was a causal determinist, meaning that he believed that every element of the universe in the present was “the effect of its past and the cause of its future.”

The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology

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The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology contains nineteen previously unpublished chapters by today’s leading figures in the field. These chapters function not only as a survey of key areas, but as original scholarship on a range of vital topics. Written accessibly for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional philosophers, the Handbook explains the main ideas and problems of contemporary epistemology while avoiding overly technical detail. “This is an extensive collection of well-chosen papers on a wide range of topics in current mainstream epistemology, all of which are written by international experts and published here for the first time. Most papers do not require any specialist knowledge in epistemology, although there are exceptions to this general rule. As my own teaching confirms, this book is ideal as an introductory text for a wide range of graduate students in epistemology, philosophy of science, and the epistemology of ethics.” ~ Erik J. Olsson, Theoria

True to Life

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Why does truth matter, when politicians so easily sidestep it and intellectuals scorn it as irrelevant? Why be concerned over an abstract idea like truth when something that isn’t true — for example, a report of Iraq’s attempting to buy materials for nuclear weapons—gets the desired result — the invasion of Iraq? In this engaging and spirited book, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. Lynch explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is. “We need to think our way past our confusion and shed our cynicism about the value of truth,” he writes. “Otherwise, we will be unable to act with integrity, to live authentically, and to speak truth to power.” True to Life defends four simple claims: that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of inquiry; and that truth can be worth caring about for its own sake—not just because it gets us other things we want. In defense of these “truisms about truth,” Lynch diagnoses the sources of our cynicism and argues that many contemporary theories of truth cannot adequately account for its value. He explains why we should care about truth, arguing that truth and its pursuit are part of living a happy life, important in our personal relationships and for our political values. ~ Product Description (Gold Award Winner for Philosophy in the 2004 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards)

Introspection Vindicated

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In a naive sense it seems that there could be nothing simpler than to "know thyself" yet a philosophical elucidation of the process by which one comes to know oneself is quite elusive. In this book Gregg Ten Elshof deals with the epistemology of introspection; whether and to what extent self-knowledge can appropriately be thought of as a species of perception. Assessing the suggestion that we, at least sometimes, come to acquire significant knowledge about ourselves, by observation, in very much the same way that we sometimes come to know things about the external world; this book explains the perceptual/observational model of introspection and contrasts it with its more prominent competitors. Ten Elshof examines in detail rival conceptions of the epistemology of self-knowledge such as those proposed by Searle, Dennett and Lyons yet concludes by insisting that the arguments levelled against the perceptual/observational view have not been decisive and that it deserves to be taken seriously as a viable competing model. ~ Product Description

The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding

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Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology, namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts.Taking Platos’ Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, the book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology.

Human Knowledge

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Offering a unique and wide-ranging examination of the theory of knowledge, the new edition of this comprehensive collection deftly blends readings from the foremost classical sources with the work of important contemporary philosophical thinkers. Human Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Approaches offers philosophical examinations of epistemology from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus); medieval philosophy (Augustine, Aquinas); early modern philosophy (Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Kant); classical pragmatism and Anglo-American empiricism (James, Russell, Ayer, Lewis, Carnap, Quine, Rorty); and other influential Anglo-American philosophers (Chisholm, Kripke, Moore, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Putnam). Organized chronologically and thematically, Human Knowledge features exceptionally broad coverage and nontechnical selections that are easily accessible to students. An ideal text for both undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology, it is enhanced by the editors’ substantial general introduction, section overviews, and up-to-date bibliographies. The third edition offers expanded selections on contemporary epistemology and adds selections by Thomas Reid, Richard Rorty, David B. Annis, Richard Feldman and Earl Conee, Ernest Sosa, Barry Stroud, and Louise M. Antony. Human Knowledge offers an unparalleled introduction to our ancient struggle to understand our own intellectual experience. ~ Product Description

Naturalism Defeated?

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Almost a decade ago, Alvin Plantinga articulated his bold and controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism. This intriguing line of argument raises issues of importance to epistemologists and to philosophers of mind, of religion, and of science. In this, the first book to address the ongoing debate, Plantinga presents his influential thesis and responds to critiques by distinguished philosophers from a variety of subfields. Plantinga’s argument is aimed at metaphysical naturalism or roughly the view that no supernatural beings exist. Naturalism is typically conjoined with evolution as an explanation of the existence and diversity of life. Plantinga’s claim is that one who holds to the truth of both naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so. More specifically, because the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a "defeater" for every belief he/she holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution. Following Plantinga’s brief summary of his thesis are eleven original pieces by his critics. The book concludes with a new essay by Plantinga in which he defends and extends his view that metaphysical naturalism is self-defeating. ~ Book Description

Dallas Willard on Defining Knowledge

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I take knowledge in the dispositional sense to be identical with the capacity to represent a respective subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and/or experience. In the occurrent sense it consists in actually representing, at a point in time, the respective subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and/or experience. This is not intended as an analysis or definition of knowledge, but as an initial description of cases which count as knowledge or knowing.

Dallas Willard on Knowledge Sans Belief

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The absence of any reference to belief in my statements on knowledge and knowing will be immediately noticed. The absence is intended, and though rare today in discussions of knowledge it is by no means unique in the history of the theory of knowledge. … Belief I understand to be some degree of readiness to act as if such and such (the content believed) were the case. Everyone concedes that one can believe where one does not know. But it is now widely assumed that you cannot know what you do not believe. Hence the well-known analysis of knowledge as “justified, true belief.” But this seems to me, as it has to numerous others, to be a mistake. Belief is, as Hume correctly held, a passion. It is something that happens to us. Thought, observation and testing, even knowledge itself, an be sources of belief, and indeed should be. But one may actually know (dispositionally, occurrently) without believing what one knows.

Dallas Willard on Methodological Naturalism

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One could retreat to a mere methodological naturalism and say that scientific method is our only hope as human beings. Whether or not we can adequately specify naturalism or know it to be true, one might say, the “scientific method” must be exclusively followed for human well-being. Naturalism would then be a humane proposal, not a philosophical claim. The proposal would be to assume in our inquiries that only the physical (or the empirical) exists and to see if inquiry based upon that assumption is not more successful in promoting human ends than any other type of inquiry.

Skepticism and the Veil of Perception

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Since Descartes, one of the central questions of Western philosophy has
been that of how we know that the objects we seem to perceive are real. Philosophical skeptics claim that we know no such thing. Representationalists claim that we can gain such knowledge only by inference, by showing that the hypothesis of a real world is the best explanation for the kind of sensations and mental images we experience. Both accept the doctrine of a ‘veil of perception’: that perception can only give us direct awareness of images or representations of objects, not the external objects themselves. In contrast, Huemer develops a theory of perceptual awareness in which perception gives us direct
awareness of real objects, not mental representations, and we have non-inferential knowledge of the properties of these objects. Further, Huemer confronts the four main arguments for philosophical skepticism, showing that they are powerless against this kind of theory of perceptual knowledge.

Edna Ullmann-Margalit on Presumptions and Defeasability

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Given my focus on practical rather than theoretical reasoning, I may at this point consider weakening the principle of total evidence and examining a presumption instead. The presumption to be examined establishes, for purposes of rational action, a generic bias in favor of more knowledge rather than on less. To defend the adoption of the presumption in favor of being maximally informed amounts to defending the belief that following it will lead, in the long run, to better overall results, in terms of goal fulfillment, than the results of following its antithesis (i.e., a presumption establishing a generic bias in favor of acting on the basis of less knowledge rather than on more), or indeed better than the results of a case-by-case balancing (i.e., of following no rule or presumption at all).

Phillip E. Johnson on Rationality, or the Lack Thereof

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We all like to believe we are more rational than we really are. The painful truth is that we are naturally inclined to believe what we want to believe, and we may adopt some fashionable intellectual scheme because it allows us to feel superior to other people, especially those unenlightened masses who need the crutch or the discipline of religion. Of course people may also adopt a religious creed in order to justify themselves, especially in times or places where religion is fashionable. Everybody is subject to the temptation to rationalize. The temptation is probably greatest for those with the most intelligence because the more intelligent we are, the easier we will find it to invent convenient rationalizations for what we want to believe and to decorate them with high-sounding claptrap. Unless we take the greatest precautions, we will use our reasoning powers to convince ourselves to believe reassuring lies rather than the uncomfortable truths that reality may be trying to tell us.

Faith of the Fatherless

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Starting with Freud’s “projection theory” of religion-that belief in God is merely a product of man’s desire for security. Vitz argues that psychoanalysis actually provides a more satisfying explanation for atheism. Disappointment in one’s earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to a rejection of God. A biographical survey of influential atheists of the past four centuries shows that this “defective father hypothesis” provides a consistent explanation of the “intense atheism” of these thinkers. A survey of the leading intellectual defenders of Christianity over the same period confirms the hypothesis, finding few defective fathers. Professor Vitz concludes with an intriguing comparison of male and female atheists and a consideration of other psychological factors that can contribute to atheism. Professor Vitz does not argue that atheism is psychologically determined. Each man, whatever his experiences, ultimately chooses to accept God or reject him. Yet the cavalier attribution of religious faith to irrational, psychological needs is so prevalent that an exposition of the psychological factors predisposing one to atheism is necessary. ~ Book Description