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A Certain Ambiguity

A Mathematical Novel

Gaurav Suri

While taking a class on infinity at Stanford in the late 1980s, Ravi Kapoor discovers that he is confronting the same mathematical and philosophical dilemmas that his mathematician grandfather had faced many decades earlier--and that had landed him in jail. Charged under an obscure blasphemy law in a small New Jersey town in 1919, Vijay Sahni is challenged by a skeptical judge to defend his belief that the certainty of mathematics can be extended to all human knowledge--including religion. Together, the two men discover the power--and the fallibility--of what has long been considered the pinnacle of human certainty, Euclidean geometry.

As grandfather and grandson struggle with the question of whether there can ever be absolute certainty in mathematics or life, they are forced to reconsider their fundamental beliefs and choices. Their stories hinge on their explorations of parallel developments in the study of geometry and infinity--and the mathematics throughout is as rigorous and fascinating as the narrative and characters are compelling and complex.

Moving and enlightening, A Certain Ambiguity is a story about what it means to face the extent--and the limits--of human knowledge.

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The Chances of Explanation

Causal Explanation in the Social, Medical, and Physical Sciences

Paul Humphreys

This book provides a post-positivist theory of deterministic and probabilistic causality that supports both quantitative and qualitative explanations. Features of particular interest include the ability to provide true explanations in contexts where our knowledge is incomplete, a systematic interpretation of causal modeling techniques in the social sciences, and a direct realist view of causal relations that is compatible with a liberal empiricism. The book should be of wide interest to both philosophers and scientists.

Originally published in 1992.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Cinema and Counter-History

Marcia Landy

Despite claims about the end of history and the death of cinema, visual media continue to contribute to our understanding of history and history-making. In this book, Marcia Landy argues that rethinking history and memory must take into account shifting conceptions of visual and aural technologies. With the assistance of thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Cinema and Counter-History examines writings and films that challenge prevailing notions of history in order to explore the philosophic, aesthetic, and political stakes of activating the past. Marshaling evidence across European, African, and Asian cinema, Landy engages in a counter-historical project that calls into question the certainty of visual representations and unmoors notions of a history firmly anchored in truth.

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Cognitive Pluralism

Steven Horst

Philosophers have traditionally assumed that the basic units of knowledge and understanding are concepts, beliefs, and argumentative inferences. In Cognitive Pluralism, Steven Horst proposes that another sort of unit -- a mental model of a content domain -- is the fundamental unit of understanding. He argues that understanding comes not in word-sized concepts, sentence-sized beliefs, or argument-sized reasoning but in the form of idealized models and in domain-sized chunks. He argues further that this idea of "cognitive pluralism" -- the claim that we understand the world through many such models of a variety of content domains -- sheds light on a number of problems in philosophy.Horst first presents the "standard view" of cognitive architecture assumed in mainstream epistemology, semantics, truth theory, and theory of reasoning. He then explains the notion of a mental model as an internal surrogate that mirrors features of its target domain, and puts it in the context of ideas in psychology, philosophy of science, artificial intelligence, and theoretical cognitive science. Finally, he argues that the cognitive pluralist view not only helps to explain puzzling disunities of knowledge but also raises doubts about the feasibility of attempts to "unify" the sciences; presents a model-based account of intuitive judgments; and contends that cognitive pluralism favors a reliabilist epistemology and a "molecularist" semantics. Horst suggests that cognitive pluralism allows us to view rival epistemological and semantic theories not as direct competitors but as complementary accounts, each an idealized model of different dimensions of evaluation.

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Cognitivity Paradox

John Lange

While quick to question the claims to knowledge that others make, philosophers have not so readily submitted their own affirmations to the same scrutiny. In fact, it seems to be the common conviction of philosophers that the assertions they make are cognitive, are true or false, and that philosophical disagreement is genuine disagreement. In this stimulating essay Professor Lange confronts this assumption, presents his own view of philosophy as proposal, and then seeks a solution to the paradox that his view poses for philosophy.

Originally published in 1970.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Communities of Informed Judgment

Newman's Illative Sense and Accounts of Rationality

Frederick D. Aquino

An original contribution to Newman studies, the book has an interdisciplinary focus, drawing from recent work in social epistemology, virtue epistemology, and cognitive science. It also takes up issues relevant to the philosophy of religion, epistemology of religious belief, systematic theology, ecumenical dialogue, and studies in John Henry Newman.

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Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge

Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology

Allan Gotthelf, editor, James G. Lennox, associate editor

The philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than twenty-eight million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. Despite her popularity, Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has received little serious attention from academic philosophers. Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge offers scholarly analysis of key elements of Ayn Rand’s radically new approach to epistemology. The four essays, by contributors intimately familiar with this area of her work, discuss Rand’s theory of concepts—including its new account of abstraction and essence—and its central role in her epistemology; how that view leads to a distinctive conception of the justification of knowledge; her realist account of perceptual awareness and its role in the acquisition of knowledge; and finally, the implications of that theory for understanding the growth of scientific knowledge. The volume concludes with critical commentary on the essays by distinguished philosophers with differing philosophical viewpoints and the author’s responses to those commentaries. This is the second book published in Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, which was developed in conjunction with the Ayn Rand Society to offer a fuller scholarly understanding of this highly original and influential thinker. The Ayn Rand Society, an affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, seeks to foster scholarly study by philosophers of the philosophical thought and writings of Ayn Rand.

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Considered Judgment

Catherine Z. Elgin

Philosophy long sought to set knowledge on a firm foundation, through derivation of indubitable truths by infallible rules. For want of such truths and rules, the enterprise foundered. Nevertheless, foundationalism's heirs continue their forbears' quest, seeking security against epistemic misfortune, while their detractors typically espouse unbridled coherentism or facile relativism. Maintaining that neither stance is tenable, Catherine Elgin devises a via media between the absolute and the arbitrary, reconceiving the nature, goals, and methods of epistemology. In Considered Judgment, she argues for a reconception that takes reflective equilibrium as the standard of rational acceptability. A system of thought is in reflective equilibrium when its components are reasonable in light of one another, and the account they comprise is reasonable in light of our antecedent convictions about the subject it concerns.

Many epistemologists now concede that certainty is a chimerical goal. But they continue to accept the traditional conception of epistemology's problematic. Elgin suggests that in abandoning the quest for certainty we gain opportunities for a broader epistemological purview--one that comprehends the arts and does justice to the sciences. She contends that metaphor, fiction, emotion, and exemplification often advance understanding in science as well as in art. The range of epistemology is broader and more variegated than is usually recognized. Tenable systems of thought are neither absolute nor arbitrary. Although they afford no guarantees, they are good in the way of belief.

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The Demise of the Inhuman

Afrocentricity, Modernism, and Postmodernism

Ana Monteiro-Ferreira

Employs a critical Afrocentric reading of Western constructions of knowledge so as to overcome the dehumanizing tendencies of modernity.

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Descartes's Changing Mind

Peter Machamer

Descartes's works are often treated as a unified, unchanging whole. But in Descartes's Changing Mind, Peter Machamer and J. E. McGuire argue that the philosopher's views, particularly in natural philosophy, actually change radically between his early and later works--and that any interpretation of Descartes must take account of these changes. The first comprehensive study of the most significant of these shifts, this book also provides a new picture of the development of Cartesian science, epistemology, and metaphysics.

No changes in Descartes's thought are more significant than those that occur between the major works The World (1633) and Principles of Philosophy (1644). Often seen as two versions of the same natural philosophy, these works are in fact profoundly different, containing distinct conceptions of causality and epistemology. Machamer and McGuire trace the implications of these changes and others that follow from them, including Descartes's rejection of the method of abstraction as a means of acquiring knowledge, his insistence on the infinitude of God's power, and his claim that human knowledge is limited to that which enables us to grasp the workings of the world and develop scientific theories.

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