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Epistemology Tihamér Margitay – Péter Hartl 7. Naturalized epistemology.

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Presentation on theme: "Epistemology Tihamér Margitay – Péter Hartl 7. Naturalized epistemology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Epistemology Tihamér Margitay – Péter Hartl 7. Naturalized epistemology

2 Conceptual analysis Approach to epistemological problems = conceptual analysis. We have a naive view about knowledge or justification, and we would like to have a proper definition of the notion. Conceptual analysis is usually considered as an a priori enterprise. Presupposition: We don't need to build on empirical sciences in philosophical theories of knowledge. A priori: independent from experience.

3 Is science irrelevant? But is science really irrelevant? It seems very unlikely. Cognitive science deals with human cognition as well. Biological, psychological theories provide important knowledge about us (humans). (Examples: human behaviour, ageing, how our organs work) Knowledge is something what humans have. Cognition is a process which can be examined by means of scientific methods, like other functions of brain.

4 Naturalized epistemology Naturalistic epistemology is an approach to the theory of knowledge that emphasizes the application of methods, results, and theories from the empirical sciences. It is opposed to the (a priori) conceptual analysis of epistemic notions. The „armchair” theorizing is not enough. According to naturalized epistemology we need to build on natural sciences in order to have an adequate and complete theory of human knowledge and cognition.

5 Naturalized epistemology Naturalized epistemology is a collection of philosophic views concerned with the theory of knowledge that emphasize the role of natural scientific methods. There are different types of naturalized epistemology: 1. Replacement (Radical) Naturalism 2. Methodological naturalism 3. Cooperative Naturalism

6 Naturalized epistemology Cooperative naturalism: „Weak” naturalism: Empirical results from cognitve psychology concerning how we actually think and reason are useful for evaluating normative epistemological questions. "... the results from the sciences of cognition may be relevant to, and may be legitimately used in the resolution of traditional epistemological problems" (Susan Haack)‏ Epistemology and science are different from each other, both of them have their own methods and questions. But philosophy should appeal to empirical investigations (mainly biology and cognitve pyschology), and philosophical theories must be coherent with scientific worldview.

7 Naturalized epistemology Methodological naturalism: Scientific method is the only (or the best) way to acquire knowledge. Philosophy and science as engaged in essentially the same enterprise, pursuing similar ends and using similar methods. They focuses on different questions, but they are continuous with each other. The goal is to establish systematic knowledge about the natural world: knowledge of laws and causal mechanisms, and to achieve this by comparing synthetic theories with the empirical data. There are no essential differences between philosophy and science, but some „traditional”, normative philosophical questions are still relevant and meaningful.

8 Naturalized epistemology Replacement naturalism: The most radical view about epistemology. There is no room for traditional epistemology. It should be replaced by methods of empirical science (pyschology, biology or sociology). Epistemology is a part of empirical science. The main epistemological question is descriptive: how do the humans „produce” their beliefs (or knowledge) about the world? Therefore, philosophy is not an autonomous discipline. Science is the only way of acquiring knowledge about the world. A lot of traditional philosophical questions are meaningless. The meaningful (or fruitful) problems can be examined by scientific means.

9 Traditional (Cartesian) view of epistemology Epistemology concerns with foundations of knowledge (science). The task of philosophy (epistemology) is to give a response to sceptical arguments and establish knowledge. Foundationalist project: find an unshakeable basis of our knowledge This enterprise shouldn't rely upon empirical (scientific) knowledge, since this would be beg the question. Do we have knowledge? What is knowledge? Philosophy gives the answer, not science.

10 Goals of „traditional” epistemology Quine: Classical foundationalist enterprise has two goals: 1. Conceptual reduction Meaningful scientific terms need to have a translation to terms which directly refer to sense-data. 2. Doctrinal reduction Scientific truths can be established by basic (atomic) sentences. Basic-sentences (protocoll sentences) are fundamental and evident (unquestionable) and they support the scientific statements. These goals were connected with each other and the logicist program of mathematics (reducing mathematics into logic).

11 Autonomy of epistemology Epistemology (and philosophy) is autonomous disciple, because science cannot establish itself. Philosophy differs essentially from science, its goal differs from empirical science. Philosophy's job is to establish science by conceptual and doctrinal „reduction”. According to Quine, this is the main reason in favour of a conception of epistemology as an autonomous discipline.

12 Quine's critique The traditional project of epistemology has failed in both ways. There are no fundamental, unquestionable truths. The scientific terms cannot be translated into sense-data, since there aren't exact translation rules. (The logicist program of mathematics has problems also.)‏ Therefore, we have no good reasons to accept the traditional conception of epistemology. Epistemology has failed by its own standards. It's not a fruitful enterprise. Therefore, the autonomy of epistemology is unsupported.

13 Quine's naturalised epistemology Quine's conclusion: Since traditional philosophical analysis of knowledge fails, those who wish to study knowledge ought to employ natural scientific methods. Scientific study of knowledge differs from philosophic study by focusing on how humans actually acquire knowledge rather than speculative analysis of knowledge. Traditional epistemology should be abandoned and replaced with the methodologies of the natural sciences (psychology). This is the replacement (radical) naturalism.

14 Epistemology as a part of psychology The efforts in order to show that we do in fact have knowledge are useless. We must instead study the ways in which we form beliefs, i. e study the psychological processes that take us from sensory stimulations to beliefs about the world. Knowledge is a natural phenomenon, the outcome of a natural process whereby sensory stimulation leads to theories about the world. Inputs: sensory stimulations ; Output: beliefs The scientist does the same: she has empirical observations and forms a theory. The main question of epistemology: How can we form beliefs from sensory stimulations? What is the relation between empirical evidence (stimulation) and theory?

15 Epistemology as a part of pyschology „Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject. This human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input -- certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance -- and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three- dimensional external world and its history. The relation between the meager input and the torrential output is a relation that we are prompted to study for somewhat the same reasons that always prompted epistemology: namely, in order to see how evidence relates to theory, and in what ways one's theory of nature transcends any available evidence...But a conspicuous difference between old epistemology and the epistemological enterprise in this new psychological setting is that we can now make free use of empirical psychology.„ (Quine: Epistemology Naturalized)‏

16 Pyschology and science Naturalistic epistemology is thus “contained” in psychology as a subdiscipline. But there is a sense in which naturalistic epistemology “contains” the rest of science: our theories and beliefs about the world, which constitute our science, are part of „epistemology”. Realation between epistemology and science is not: the „fundament” and „building”, but a mutual connection. Our epistemological theories must fit appropriately with the rest of our scientific worldview. (see: holism)‏

17 The problem of circularity 1. The problem of circularity emerges at least at two levels. General problem: Using scientific methods in epistemology is question begging. Our scientific theories are based on perceptual experience and inductive (hypothetical) reasoning. The reliability of these cognitive mechanisms is taken for granted. But the epistemological question is: Are the perception and inductive reasoning reliable (justified)? We cannot legitimately appeal to psychological theories in explaining perceptual knowledge.

18 Quine's response This objection is dangerous only if we accept the foundationalist program. But according to the naturalist, we don't need establish our knowledge (we can't). Naturalist refuses sceptic's demand for an external validation of scientific knowledge. To understand what knowledge is and how it is possible, it is necessary to show how the phenomenon of knowledge fits into the rest of our understanding of things. The result will not be certainty that our scientific theories are correct, but we do not need that sort of certainty.

19 The problem of circularity 2. The psychologist's theories about cognition comes from a cognitive process. The psychologist use scientific methodology, he doesn't follow the epistemic rules of the people whom he examines. (members of a native tribe)‏ Question: Why the scientist follow these methodological rules, instead of others? (for instance, telepathy or astrology)‏ Why scientific norms are favoured? This answer begs the question: We use science, because if we apply scientific methodology we can attain an adequate understanding of human knowledge /cognition.

20 The problem of circularity The real problem is not the global scepticism, but: why do we use a certain kind of methodology and theory in the naturalist project. Even if we presume that we have knowledge about the world, it is legitimate to ask questions about the proper methodology. Why science and not telepathy? Why psychology and not history? And which psychological theory? (Behaviourism? Psychoanalysis?)‏ From the viewpoint of replacement naturalist we couldn't have answers.

21 The problem of circularity Possible responses: Scientific claim are justified, reliable, because science can make good predictions / scientific claims are falsifiable / scientific theories „works”, confirmed by empirical evidence / best available explanation of the observation, etc. But these claims are not scientific! These answers presuppose an extra-scientific viewpoint from which the scientific methods and practice can be judged. Problem is: naturalists know that science is the best way for acquiring knowledge. But how can we know this? An extra-scientific (a philosophical) reflection of science cannot be eliminated.

22 Replacement thesis is inconsistent Another objection: Replacement thesis is not a scientific claim. The premises of the argument cannot be tested by empirical sciences. If epistemology is part of science, then every epistemological claim must be a scientific hypothesis, which can be confirmed or disconfirmed by empirical observations. R. T. itself doesn't describe any observable regularity nor explain a cause-seeking why question of observable phenomena. R. T. doesn't make predictions. But in this case, R.T is not scientific, therefore we build naturalism on a presupposition which is not scientific.

23 Naturalist's response The R. T. is not testable by scientific methods, but R. T. is a good inductive generalisation. From the fact that in philosophical epistemology we don't have a non-controversial solution of the epistemological problems (and it is probable, that in the future we will never have). On the other hand, we have non-controversial solutions of scientific problems, therefore we have a good, inductive argument in favour of scientific approach of epistemological problems.

24 Problems with this response 1. There may not many, but there are some consensual claims in philosophy. Is there anybody, who sincerely believes in solipsism? (I'm the only existed thing in the world.)‏ 2. In science, we had had universally accepted theories, which turned to be false later. Phlogiston-theory, geocentric world-view? We have good inductive reasons to think some of our current theories will turn to be false. How do you distinguish the current non-controversial and allegedly correct theories which will turn to be false from other confirmed theories which will not?

25 The problem of normativity The ideas of knowledge and justified belief are normative in the sense that they include notions about what is right or wrong for a person to believe. Though science might be able to tell us about how people do come to believe as they do, it cannot tell us about how people should come by their beliefs. Moreover, scientist has normative presuppositions in her descriptive enterprise. Without some normative commitments, the scientific practice would be impossible.

26 Epistemology and evolutionary psychology A reductionist evolutionary view of rationality: Our cognitive mechanisms are justified /”reliable”, because they were adapted to world. If the cognitive processes of humans wouldn't be „reliable”, (for instance our perceptual beliefs were all false), then humans would have become extinct. „Rationality” can be explained by purely evolutionary terms. We have knowledge, because knowledge increases our capacity to survival

27 Adaptation and rationality Problem: If merely adaptive value explains rationality, and irrational beliefs can be adaptive as well, then we don't have a criterion to distinguish rational / irrational, justified /unjustified. Superstitions, animistic religious faith of a native tribe are explained by evolutionary theory. People believe in irrational things, because believing in such things has an adaptive benefit (increases the cohesion of society, etc.). But „rational” cognitive methods, and mechanisms might have the same kind of evolutionary explanation also. „Evolution” produced both rational and irrational (justified and unjustified) beliefs. How do you know that science is rational and animism is not? From evolutionary perspective we haven't sufficient reasons to think that scientific theories are reliable, and animistic faith is not.

28 Philosophy and science Replecement naturalist thesis has serious problems: circularity problem, normativity problem, inconsistency. Methodological naturalism: philosophy and science have the same aims and methods. This view can be criticised as well. The debate about naturalized epistemology is connected with the relation between philosophy and science.

29 „Paradigmatic” thinking Science: scientists accept the same methods, theories, problems, concepts, use the same instruments, etc. In science, we don't ask certain questions. The norms and the universally accepted statements of science are not being criticised by anybody. Kuhn: in „normal science” the scientists accept a paradigm Why do we use fMRi, instead of telepathy? How do know that statistical methods are reliable? Do the neurons really exist? What biology? What is the goal of biology? Is it worth to deal with cognitive psychology? These questions are strange and not typical scientific questions.

30 Critical thinking, „unrestricted” thinking In philosophy there aren't universally accepted claims or methods. Theoretically everything (even the meaning of philosophy) can be and have been criticised. Philosophy is an unrestricted discourse. What is philosophy? What is philosophy good for? What is proper method of philosophy? - these are important questions of philosophy. Essential feature of philosophy: critical reflection to our presumptions, and a critical reflection on philosophy itself. If we adopt a certain kind of methodology as unquestionable, then philosophy will be „dogmatic”. If it cannot be criticised, then it couldn't be turned out that it is false.

31 Philosophy and science Critical reflection of science is inevitable. If the naturalist argues for naturalised epistemology, or defends it from the objections, she makes philosophical claims. It doesn't mean that philosophy is „better” then science, because „paradigmatic” thinking is necessary for science. Philosophy and science have different tasks and methods. The point of philosophy is not to demonstrate non- controversial truths about nature, but critically examine our concepts, presuppositions, commitments and arguments.

32 Conclusion: weak naturalism Cooperative (weak) naturalism is a plausible thesis: Empirical results from cognitive psychology concerning how we actually think and reason are useful for evaluating normative epistemological questions. Philosophy and science have different aims and methods, but they should participate in a dialogue with each other. Philosophy should appeal to empirical investigations (mainly biology and cognitive psychology), and philosophical theories must be coherent with scientific world-view An epistemological (normative) reflection of methods and the theoretical presuppositions of science is inevitable and useful for science as well.

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