The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding

Epistemology has for a long time focused on the concept of knowledge and tried to answer questions such as whether knowledge is possible and how much of it there is. Often missing from this inquiry, however, is a discussion on the value of knowledge. In The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding, Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology properly conceived 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 Plato’s’ 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, this 2003 book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology.

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The Analysis of Knowledge

For any person, there are some things they know, and some things they don’t. What exactly is the difference? What does it take to know something? It’s not enough just to believe it—we don’t know the things were wrong about. Knowledge seems to be more like a way of getting at the truth. The analysis of knowledge concerns the attempt to articulate in what exactly this kind of “getting at the truth” consists.

More particularly, the project of analyzing knowledge is to state conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for propositional knowledge, thoroughly answering the question, what does it take to know something? By “propositional knowledge”, we mean knowledge of a proposition—for example, if Susan knows that Alyssa is a musician, she has knowledge of the proposition that Alyssa is a musician. Propositional knowledge should be distinguished from knowledge of “acquaintance”, as obtains when Susan knows Alyssa. The relation between propositional knowledge and the knowledge at issue in other “knowledge” locutions in English, such as knowledge-where (“Susan knows where she is”) and especially knowledge-how (“Susan knows how to ride a bicycle”) is subject to some debate (see Stanley 2011 and his opponents discussed therein).

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Self-Knowledge and Knowledge of the Self

In philosophy, “self-knowledge” standardly refers to knowledge of one’s own sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and other mental states. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that our knowledge of our own mental states differs markedly from our knowledge of the external world (where this includes our knowledge of others’ thoughts). But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for a broad range of philosophical issues, especially issues in epistemology and the philosophy of mind.

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Epistemology

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry. This article will provide a systematic overview of the problems that the questions above raise and focus in some depth on issues relating to the structure and the limits of knowledge and justification.

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German Idealism and the philosophy of music

German Idealism began with Leibniz and lasted until Schopenhauer, with a few central European after-shocks in the work of Husserl and his followers. That great epoch in German philosophy coincided with a great epoch in German music. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that Idealist philosophers should have paid special attention to this art form. Looking back on it, is there anything of this prolonged encounter between music and philosophy that we can consider to be a real advance, and one that we should draw on? Many have thought so, not least because Idealism, as it matured in the post-Kantian period, inherited the adulation for art in general, and music in particular, that we find in the writings of the German Romantics, notably in Schiller, Tieck and Wackenroder. The post-Kantian Idealists connected aesthetic experience with their claims to reveal the secret meaning of things, in the infinite, the absolute, the transcendental, the ineffable or some other such object of a quasi-religious devotion. Such we find in the writings of Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, and Schopenhauer, the last of whom made music not only an object of philosophy but a prime example of it. Music, Schopenhauer wrote, is not unconscious arithmetic, as Leibniz had claimed, but unconscious philosophy, since in music the inner essence of the world, which is will, is made directly present to the intellect.

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A Neuro-Philosophy of History: “Sustainable History”; with Dignity, and without Directionality

Philosophies of history tend to assume one form or another of directionality. For an important number of philosophers, History has been understood to have a definite trajectory, moving forward to some specified end-state. These end-states have varied, from idealized conceptions of social and political harmony to dystopian visions of anarchism. The remarkable fact is that many such theories shared a common assumption: the seeds of future stages of history already existed in the present arrangement of things, and with the right “science” of history, we could predict “off the page” what comes next. When this prediction fails to manifest, “historical determinism” is strongly criticized. These reactions leave out two important points. First, any deterministic characterization of history is at odds with effective human agency. Second, and partly for these reasons, the idea of historical determinism denies the crucial role of dignity in History—a central tenet of what I have elsewhere defined as Sustainable History. The quest for dignity in public life can lead to seismic changes in national and global politics, overturning established regimes, sometimes more rapidly than expected. Dignity very often underlies the call for political change. When a directional interpretation of history is abandoned, greater clarity emerges with regard to the relationship between individual dignity and political stability.

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A Neuro-Philosophy of Dignity-Based Governance

The duality mind-body has ancient roots in philosophy, most notably with Plato, Descartes, and others. In dualism, the mind and body are contrasted as two are different realms. However, the interaction between them has been approached from different philosophical perspectives. The main views through which this relationship has been explored are: interactionism (the view that mind and body, or mental and physical events, influence each other), epiphenomenalism (the theory that mental events are caused by physical events, but without influence on the physical – this theory has encountered a lot of criticism, however), and parallelism (the view that there is no causal interaction between the two realms).

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A Neuro-Philosophy of Human Nature: Emotional Amoral Egoism and the Five Motivators of Humankind

In 1893, at an event in Oxford, biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (and staunch supporter of Darwin’s ideas – support which earned him the nickname “Darwin’s bulldog”) laid out his theory of human nature and morality. His theory posited that the laws of nature were unalterable but if humans managed to keep their nature under some control, the impact of these laws could be eventually softened. He depiction this metaphorically, paralleling humanity to a gardener who struggles to stave off the growth of weeds in his garden. Human ethics was a victory over a nasty, at times unruly and vicious, evolutionary process. Therefore, despite his strong affinity for Darwin’s ideas, Huxley essentially argued that it was not an evolutionary theory that explained our morality but rather the opposite: we developed morality by opposing our nature. An obvious omission here, according to primatologist Frans de Waal, was why and how humanity unearthed the will power and ability to defeat the conditioning of its own nature.

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Problems, philosophy and politics of climate science

This book is a critical appraisal of the status of the so-called Climate Sciences (CS). These are contributed by many other basic sciences like physics, geology, chemistry and as such employ theoretical and experimental methods. In the last few decades, most of the CS has been identified with the global warming problem and numerical models have been used as the main tool for their investigations. The produced predictions can only be partially tested against experimental data and may represent one of the reasons CS are drifting away from the route of the scientific method. On the other hand, the study of climate faces many other interesting and mostly unsolved problems (think about ice ages) whose solution could clarify how the climatic…

The book argues that the knowledge gained so far on the specific GW problem is enough for the relevant political decisions to be taken and that Climate Science should resume the study of the climate system with appropriate means and methods. The book introduces the most relevant concepts needed for the discussion in the text or inappropriate appendices and it is directed to the general public with the upper-undergraduate background. Each chapter closes with a debate between a climate scientist and a humanist to reflect the discussions between climate science and philosophy or climate scientists and society.

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Philosophers and Climate Change

Philosophers are uniquely positioned to help stop the worst effects of climate change. Most teachers have the ear of large numbers of students, whose interests and priorities we help to shape. Many teachers at the college and university level decide what large numbers of people will read. Many writers take part in larger conversations that have the potential to reach a much wider audience. Philosophers have many of these opportunities, and the skills to use them. We have many years of specific training in assessing arguments, drawing connections between seemingly disparate topics, and articulating a compelling rationale when there is one to be articulated.

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