II. Epistemology

II. Epistemology - How do you know whats real?...

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How do you know what’s real? (Epistemology) Epistemology: the theory of knowledge Not asking what the world is like, rather how we know what the world is like Questions about belief, knowledge, justification, objectively/subjectivity For example, why is diversity good? why want a diverse faculty or cabinet? Some things I can’t know because I’m not a woman At least that’s what some feminists claim Like being color blind: some colors I will never see What exactly is mauve , anyway? NB: What do you think about that? Can’t I learn to see the problems that feminists want me to see? Could I teach effectively in a black studies department? I.e., could I master the issues sufficiently well to teach them, or would I always be missing something? All these are questions in epistemology We all have beliefs But do we have knowledge Do we know anything about the world or do we just have a lot of opinions? Skeptic: you don’t know anything All locked behind our own little world of experience No guarantee that any of my beliefs are true All beliefs are fallible and ultimately untrustworthy Two traditional approaches to answering the skeptic: Rationalism : There are some things we know a priori Prior to any experience whatsoever E.g., a chalk figure cannot be both a triangle and a square at the same time Don’t need to go out and do a scientific study of triangles to know that’s true many contemporary linguists think that we’re born with the building blocks of language Kind of internal thought language that we map to English If this proto-thought language weren’t already in place, we couldn’t learn natural languages Empiricism : All knowledge comes a posteriori Mind is blank slate ( tabula rasa) before experience Knowledge comes through experience E.g., I know that I am standing in front of a class at this time I didn’t know anything about triangles and squares innately Had to be taught these things, contra the rationalist But I do now have knowledge about these things, contra the skeptic How do I know that I have knowledge?
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ANS: can make successful predictions and navigate through life I know where the trees are in my back yard This knowledge allows me cut grass without wrecking lawn mower Allow build a playset so my kids can play in shade In short, it works! If these beliefs were false, they wouldn’t work Skeptic’s reply: consider skepticism about the external world We have experience of trees, people, chairs, etc. Skeptic not claiming all beliefs are false but that for any given belief, it could well be false and you can’t tell which How do we know that our experience is a good copy of what’s out there?
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This note was uploaded on 07/06/2010 for the course PHIL 220 taught by Professor Koperski during the Winter '09 term at Saginaw Valley.

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II. Epistemology - How do you know whats real?...

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