Presentation on theme: "An Epistemology Update"— Presentation transcript:
1 An Epistemology Update John Rafferty MA MSc PGCESenior Lecturer Social SciencesLangside College GlasgowTel:
2 Philosophical Issues in Epistemology Section 1Philosophical Issues in Epistemology
3 Outcome 1Demonstrate an understanding of the philosophical issues in the area of epistemology:The Tripartite Theory of KnowledgePhilosophical Problems with the Tripartite theoryScepticism, Rationalism and Empiricism
4 Why are knowledge claims a problem in philosophy? Question 1Why are knowledge claims a problem in philosophy?
5 Appearance and Reality Perceptual problemsColour blindness; hallucinationsOptical illusionsThe stick in water isn’t bentAtmospheric effectsMirages as they appear; Stars don’t twinkleTime lapse illusionsSome stars no longer existRadical philosophical doubtDescartes’ Demon; Plato’s Cave; The Matrix; Brain in a Jar
10 Belief, Knowledge & Certainty A proposition that is held to be true but without sufficient evidence to convince othersKnowledgeA proposition that is believed, is true and can be supported by evidenceCertaintyA proposition where there is no doubt about its truth
12 ‘Knowing how’ v ‘knowing that’ A distinction associated with Gilbert Ryle ( )Knowing thatFacts and information; propositional knowledge; “I know that Berlin is in Germany”Knowing howAn ability or skill; a dispositional or operational knowledge; “I know how to bake bread”Most of epistemology has been concerned with knowing that, especially classical debatesCan all cases of ‘knowing how’ be reduced to collections of ‘knowing that’?E.g. Knowing how to drive a carIs knowing that useless without knowing how?Is innatism only tenable as applied to knowing how?
13 The Tripartite Theory of knowledge A classical definition of knowledgeAn agent (A) can be said to know a proposition (P) if:P is true (the truth condition)A believes P (the belief condition)A has sufficient evidence for P (the evidence conditionThis definition of knowledge is called “Justified true belief”Having two of these conditions is not enough to count as knowledge.
14 The Hesitant Student Teacher: Billy, what is 3x7? Billy: Er…(guesses) is it 21?In this case p is true (3x7 is 21) and Billy has evidence for p (he has been to the classes) but he doesn’t believe P.Is this a case of knowledge?
15 The Lucky PunterA gambler finds a four leaf clover so bets on a horse that day believing that his horse will win now that he has this lucky charm. The horse does win.In this case p is true (the horse did win) and the punter believed p (he sincerely thought the horse would win) but his evidence for this belief seems inadequate.Is this a case of knowledge?
16 Santa’s VisitMany children believe in Santa Claus. They leave cookies out for him that are eaten the next morning and as promised the presents arrive every Christmas day. Parents, shopkeepers and teachers all reinforce this belief.In this case the children believe P (they think Santa is real) and have evidence for believing P (teachers and parents confirm it) but P isn’t trueIs this knowledge?
17 Problems with the tripartite theory The Gettier ProblemSmith has applied for a job, but has a justified belief that "Jones will get the job". He also knows that "Jones has 10 coins in his pocket". Smith therefore concludes that "the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket".In fact, Smith gets the job but, as it happens, also has 10 coins in his pocket. So his belief that "the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket" was justified and true but isn’t knowledge.Infinite regress argumentEvery justification in turn requires justification and arguably this demand for justification is never sated.Some justifications are unreliableSense experience is prone to deceptionInnate ideas are controversialAnalytic truths are trivially true
18 Can knowledge claims be justified? Question 3Can knowledge claims be justified?
19 Rationalism and Empiricism Reason is the source of all knowledgeMind contains innate ideasMaths is a model for knowledgeKnowledge can be gained a prioriKnowledge can be certainThe senses are easily fooledExamples: Plato, Augustine; Descartes; LeibnizEmpiricismThe senses are the source of all knowledgeMind is a ‘tabula rasa’Biology is a model for knowledgeKnowledge is only gained a posterioriKnowledge can only ever be probableReason only gives us access to uninformative tautologiesExamples: Aristotle (?) Locke; Berkeley; Hume
20 Classic Texts in Epistemology Section 2Classic Texts in Epistemology
21 Outcomes 2 & 3Critically analyse a standard philosophical position in the area of epistemology:Describe the epistemology of Descartes or HumeExplain the reasoning and assumptions on which this account is basedCite specific extractsCritically evaluate a standard philosophical position in the area of epistemology:Explain the strengths and weaknesses of Descartes or HumePresent a conclusion on the persuasiveness of this accountGive reasons in support of this conclusion
23 Meditations on First Philosophy René DescartesMeditationson First Philosophy
24 Historical Context The Renaissance The end of Scholasticism Rebirth in knowledgeFlourishing in the artsArchitecturePaintingScience
25 Historical Context The Reformation Split in the church Birth of ProtestantismCatholic dominance endsEurope dividedMartin Luther
26 Historical Context Discovery of the New World New cultures and peoples New world view
27 Meditation 1 The Sceptical Method René DescartesMeditation 1The Sceptical Method
28 Method Assume nothing Start afresh Re-examine his beliefs Focus on foundational beliefsReject obvious falsehoodsBut also reject even slightly doubtful beliefsLooking for 1 certainty to base his knowledge onArchitectural metaphorBarrel of apples analogy
29 Attacking Sense Experience Objects in the distanceSmall objectsOther arguments from illusion are possibleBut surely apart from these the senses are reliable?
30 Dreaming Argument A stronger argument against sense experience Any given sense experience can be replicated in dreamsHence sense experience is unreliableIn fact, there is never any sure way of distinguishing dreams from reality
31 A Priori truths Dreams are like paintings They must be based on realityOr at least the colours and shapes must be realWhether awake or asleep a square still has 4 sidesHence maths and geometry escape the dream argument and may be reliable
33 The Demon Hypothesis An argument against a priori knowledge The ultimate in scepticismA test which any candidate for certainty must passImagine a demon were fooling us in everything we see and thinkIf this scenario were true, could anything still be certain?This idea has reappeared in different forms
34 Meditation 2 Finding Certainty René DescartesMeditation 2Finding Certainty
35 The Search for Certainty Restates his sceptical approachLike Archimedes he is looking for 1 fixed pointAssumes he has no bodyAssumes everything revealed by the senses is a lieAssumes the Demon fools him at every turnCan anything be known if we assume all this?
36 The Cogito Cogito ergo sum Defeats the Dreaming Argument I am, I exist (Meditations)I think therefore I am (Discourse)Defeats the Dreaming Argumentyou must exist to dreamDefeats the Demon HypothesisYou must exist to be fooledA self-authenticating statementYou affirm its truth each time you think itBut surely we know external objects better than we know the mind?
37 Rationalism and Empiricism A major dispute running through the entire history of philosophy has to do with the source(s) of human knowledge. There are two major schools: rationalism and empiricism.The empiricists hold that knowledge is derived from sense perception and experience.The rationalists (such as Descartes) hold that knowledge is derived from clear logical thinking, from the intellect (i.e., from "reason").
38 The Wax Example Wax has one set of properties when cold But all its properties change when heatedYet we still think it’s the same wax. Why?It can’t be the senses that tells us this - they give conflicting reportsCan’t be imagination either - wax can change more ways than we can imagineSo it must be pure mental scrutiny that reveals the true nature of the waxHence Rationalism should be adopted over Empiricism
39 Perception In fact all perception is really a case of mental judgement We say we see a man crossing the squareYet all we see are a hat and cloak which could conceal an automatonOur judgements go beyond what we strictly have sense experience for
40 Meditation 3 Rebuilding knowledge René DescartesMeditation 3 Rebuilding knowledge
41 Rebuilding KnowledgeDescartes’ strategy in rebuilding knowledge rests on 2 central claims:The clear and distinct ruleThe existence of a benevolent God
42 The Clear and Distinct Rule What is it that convinces us of the truth of the Cogito?It is a “clear and distinct” perceptionA psychological state which gives rise to irresistible certaintyHence anything else which is clear and distinct must also be certainThis rule can now be used to rebuild knowledge by identifying other truthsGod’s existence, for example, can be known clearly and distinctly
43 The Trademark Argument This argument in Meditation 3 helps support the clear and distinct ruleWe have an idea of God in our mindThis idea must have a causeThere must be as much reality in the cause as in its effectThe cause of the idea is GodThe idea is like a trademark left in our minds by GodThe idea of God includes the notion that he is benevolentHence God is no deceiverHence whatever we perceive distinctly must be true since a benevolent God wouldn’t allow this level of deception
44 Meditation 6 Resolution of Earlier Doubts René DescartesMeditation 6Resolution of Earlier Doubts
45 Naïve Realism The simplistic view that unreflective people have External objects present themselves to the senses unbiddenThey are more distinct than those presented by memory or imaginationThey can’t come from within so must come from withoutIt seems that the sense comes first and the intellect laterSo nothing is present to the mind that was not first present to the senses
46 Rejection of Naïve Realism Descartes refers to arguments from Meditation 1Objects at a distancePhantom limbsDemonstrate the fact that senses don’t always report the truthDreaming argumentI don’t believe the objects in dreams are located outside of me so why make this assumption when awake?But must we resort to scepticism?
47 Rejection of Scepticism Although we shouldn’t heedlessly accept sense reports, neither should we heedlessly reject themWe have a passive faculty for receiving ideas of objects but there must be an external cause to the ideas we receiveThese causes can only be:External objectsGodThe demonGod is not a deceiver so wouldn’t allow us to think that these ideas were caused by external objects when they weren’t
48 Sense Experience There is an outside world There is an outside worldHowever it may not exist in the way it is presented by my sensesEverything I am taught by nature contains some truthGod equips us with a number of faculties:ReasonThe SensesMemoryIt is impossible that there could be any falsity in my opinions which couldn’t be corrected by some faculty supplied by God
49 How is Error Possible?Some things which my senses appear to be telling me are in fact a misjudgement of reason“Grass is green”Grass stimulates sensations of green in us“The tower is small”The tower simply appears small and my memory and other senses can confirm its true size“My amputated foot causes pain”Feelings of pain from a distant body part could equally be caused by stimulating parts in betweenWith the judicial use of clear reasoning we can correct the errors of the senses
50 The Dream ArgumentDreams have no consistency between one dream and the next.Life picks up from where it left off but dreams do notThe laws of nature are broken in dreamsPeople can fly or talk to dead peopleBy the application of reason we can distinguish the two states when we are awake
51 The Demon HypothesisIf there were a demon, a benevolent God would not allow him to interfere with our perceptionsThe hypothetical possibility of the demon is therefore no longer a threat
53 Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding David HumeEnquiry Concerning Human Understanding
54 Background Empiricist Philosopher and Historian A pivotal figure of the Scottish Enlightenment along with Adam Smith ( ) and Thomas Reid ( )Key Works:A Treatise of Human Nature (1740)An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779)
55 InfluencesHeavily influenced by John Locke ( ), Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) and Bishop George Berkeley ( ).Hume gets his notions of Empiricism, Representative Realism, and Scientific Method from them.
56 Hume’s EnquiryInspired by the empirical successes of Isaac Newton wants to do the same for the human mind.He is undertaking a psychological study of man.Trying to uncover the fundamental principles of human reasoning.His method is one of empirical observation.Usually this involves introspection on his own thoughts and feelings.
57 Impressions and Ideas Idea of apple Impression of apple The Outside World?
58 Supporting ArgumentsIt is impossible to have an idea without first having had a prior impressionHume challenges us to find counter examplesEven God is just a complex ideaBlind men can’t imagine coloursLaplanders can’t imagine the taste of wineSelfish people can’t imagine generositySome animals have additional senses hence can access additional ideas
59 Simple and Complex Ideas ImpressionsOur imagination seems unlimited in its powersHowever all complex ideas must be based on on simple ideas we have previously copied from an impressionGolden MountainVirtuous HorseGodWe do this by taking simple ideas and:AugmentingDiminishingTransposingCompoundingThis supports the empiricist doctrine that “all ideas are ultimately based on sense experience”.
60 Critical Comment Are all impressions more vivid than their ideas? Faint impressions when drunk; morning after embarrassmentAre all ideas more faint than their impressions?Nightmares or traumatic memoriesIs Hume’s account of perception too simplistic?Cocktail conversationsDo all ideas have a prior impression?Ultraviolet; Infrared; gravityCan you ever conceive of simple ideas on their own without thinking of other ideas?E.g. StripesHume provides no ‘grammar’ to tell us how to link these ideas up.watch + pocket; zebra + crossing.Can we ever compare an impression with an idea in practice? (Barrier of Ideas)Can we ever compare impressions with the outside world? (Barrier of Impressions)
61 The Missing Shade of Blue Hume’s own counter example!Imagine You had seen every shade of blue but oneThen all shades of blue were arranged on a scale from darkest to lightestHume asks if we could imagine the missing shade without a prior impressionHume surprisingly says yes but “…it’s so singular and obscure an example it should not alter our general maxim…”
62 Comments on the Missing Shade of Blue The example is not “singular and obscure”.Missing shade of red; missing note on a scale; missing type of architecture.If not based on impressions the idea must be innate!Threatens to undermine the whole of Empiricism!The example is not insuperable.Hume could say that the missing shade is a complex idea based on simpler ideas.But doesn’t see the solution because he thinks colours must be simple ideas.Demonstrates Hume’s rather cavalier attitude.
63 The Association of Ideas Why does the thought of one idea lead on to the thought of another?Ideas don’t come randomly they follow an order or pattern and are always relatedThere are 3 principles of the association of ideas:ResemblanceContiguity (In time or space)Cause and EffectSo every idea is always related to the next for one of these three reasons
64 Comments and Criticisms What is the difference between contiguity and cause and effect in Hume’s analysis?Is there really no such thing as a truly random chain of thought?What about people with “Butterfly Brains”?What about people with dementia or Tourettes’?Is the subconscious mind available to us?(Freud)Seems incapable of proof or disproof.Hume says that even if we can’t see the connection in people’s thought it will be apparent to them.What if we ourselves are not even aware of the connection?
66 Comments on Hume’s Fork Hume confuses An epistemological distinction with a semantic distinctionA Priori AnalyticA Posteriori SyntheticKant claimed that there were synthetic a priori beliefs which tell us about the world but aren’t derived from experienceE.g. Every event has a cause.Hume’s fork itself falls foul of the distinction. Is it a matter of fact or a relation of ideas?Hume can’t just say we should disregard all exceptions as nonsense.If he is right exceptions shouldn’t even occur. If they occur at all then his distinction is nonsense
67 Matters of FactMany knowledge claims concern unobserved matters of fact.Statements about the future (Physics)Statements about the past (History)Statements about far away places (Geography)Even day to day knowledge claimsThe basis of all our reasoning concerning matters of fact is “cause and effect”But where does our idea of cause and effect come from?An analysis of causes reveal that they have three features:PriorityContiguityNecessity
68 CausationWe all have an idea of necessary connection but where does this idea come from?Is it a ‘matter of fact’ or is it a ‘relation of ideas’?Is it acquired by experience a posteriori?No. We have no impression of the ‘necessity’ or ‘power’ transferring between causes and their effects.Is it acquired a priori by reason?No. It’s not true by definition that apples must fall to the ground. Causes don’t resemble effects so we can’t know a priori what the effects of any cause will be.
69 The Origin of our Belief in Causation Hume provides a psychological justification for our belief in necessary connectionsOur belief in causes connection is based on ‘custom and habit’We don’t observe necessary connections, we only actually observe ‘constant conjunctions’.But once we see them often enough we develop an expectation that the future will resemble the past.But this belief is actually irrational. It’s just a fact about human psychology that our brains work this way. It’s basis is simply “custom and habit”.The only reasoning here is the “reason of animals”.
71 CommentsDoes Hume’s analysis of causation undermine the whole of science?Does Hume’s analysis of causation undermine his whole project?Is Hume claiming that there is no difference between causation and correlation?E.g. Tiredness and the 10 O’Clock NewsIs temporal priority the only way to distinguish causes from their effects?What about contemporaneous causes?Is Hume’s psychological account a sufficiently complex psychology?E.g. Compulsive gamblers; Alcoholics; abusive partners?Do we need constant conjunction to infer causal connections?E.g. food poisoning or electrocutionHow significant is contiguity in leading us to infer causal connections?
72 Hume’s ScepticismAfter rigorously applying his “fork”, Hume admits that his position is in many respects a sceptical oneThe Outside World:Impressions come “unbidden into the mind…we know not from where”. There may be no world out there.God:Is neither true by definition nor observed.The self:We have no constant impression of a unified self. We are just a bundle of impressions.Moral Values:These aren’t revealed by reason or experience. Just a fact of psychology that we approve of some acts and disapprove of others.
73 Comments on Hume’s Scepticism A surprising outcome for an empiricist philosopher.“Hume developed empiricism to its logical conclusion and more or less destroyed it by doing so” Richard OsborneLeaves us knowing not very much for certain.Descends into SolipsismMust we accept Representative Realism?Must we accept foundationalism?