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Philosophy > Epistemology

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Ignorance Cover

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Ignorance

(On the Wider Implications of Deficient Knowledge)

Nicholas Rescher

Nicholas Rescher presents a broad-ranging study that examines the manifestations, consequences, and occasional benefits of ignorance in areas of philosophy, scientific endeavor, and ordinary life. Citing philosophers, theologians, and scientists from Socrates to Steven Hawking, Rescher seeks to uncover the factors that hinder our cognition. Rescher categorizes ignorance as ontologically grounded (rooted in acts of nature-erasure, chaos, and chance-that prevent fact determination), or epistemically grounded (the inadequacy of our information-securing resources). He then defines the basis of ignorance: inaccessible data; statistical fogs; secreted information; past data that have left no trace; future discoveries; future contingencies; vagrant predicates; and superior intelligences. Such impediments set limits to inquiry and mean that while we can always extend our existing knowledge-variability here is infinite-there are things that we will never know. Cognitive finitude also hinders our ability to assimilate more than a certain number of facts. We may acquire additional information, but lack the facility to interpret it. More information does not always increase knowledge; it may point us further down the path toward an erroneous conclusion. In light of these deficiencies, Rescher looks to the role of computers in solving problems and expanding our knowledge base, but finds limits to their reasoning capacity. As Rescher's comprehensive study concludes, ignorance itself is a fertile topic for knowledge, and recognizing the boundaries of our comprehension is where wisdom begins.

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Kant and Skepticism

Michael N. Forster

This book puts forward a much-needed reappraisal of Immanuel Kant's conception of and response to skepticism, as set forth principally in the Critique of Pure Reason. It is widely recognized that Kant's theoretical philosophy aims to answer skepticism and reform metaphysics--Michael Forster makes the controversial argument that those aims are closely linked. He distinguishes among three types of skepticism: "veil of perception" skepticism, which concerns the external world; Humean skepticism, which concerns the existence of a priori concepts and synthetic a priori knowledge; and Pyrrhonian skepticism, which concerns the equal balance of opposing arguments. Forster overturns conventional views by showing how the first of these types was of little importance for Kant, but how the second and third held very special importance for him, namely because of their bearing on the fate of metaphysics. He argues that Kant undertook his reform of metaphysics primarily in order to render it defensible against these types of skepticism. Finally, in a critical appraisal of Kant's project, Forster argues that, despite its strengths, it ultimately fails, for reasons that carry interesting broader philosophical lessons. These reasons include inadequate self-reflection and an underestimation of the resources of Pyrrhonian skepticism.

Knowing Full Well Cover

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Knowing Full Well

Ernest Sosa

In this book, Ernest Sosa explains the nature of knowledge through an approach originated by him years ago, known as virtue epistemology. Here he provides the first comprehensive account of his views on epistemic normativity as a form of performance normativity on two levels. On a first level is found the normativity of the apt performance, whose success manifests the performer's competence. On a higher level is found the normativity of the meta-apt performance, which manifests not necessarily first-order skill or competence but rather the reflective good judgment required for proper risk assessment. Sosa develops this bi-level account in multiple ways, by applying it to issues much disputed in recent epistemology: epistemic agency, how knowledge is normatively related to action, the knowledge norm of assertion, and the Meno problem as to how knowledge exceeds merely true belief. A full chapter is devoted to how experience should be understood if it is to figure in the epistemic competence that must be manifest in the truth of any belief apt enough to constitute knowledge. Another takes up the epistemology of testimony from the performance-theoretic perspective. Two other chapters are dedicated to comparisons with ostensibly rival views, such as classical internalist foundationalism, a knowledge-first view, and attributor contextualism. The book concludes with a defense of the epistemic circularity inherent in meta-aptness and thereby in the full aptness of knowing full well.

Knowing Otherwise Cover

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Knowing Otherwise

Race, Gender, and Implicit Understanding

Alexis Shotwell

Prejudice is often not a conscious attitude: because of ingrained habits in relating to the world, one may act in prejudiced ways toward others without explicitly understanding the meaning of one’s actions. Similarly, one may know how to do certain things, like ride a bicycle, without being able to articulate in words what that knowledge is. These are examples of what Alexis Shotwell discusses in Knowing Otherwise as phenomena of “implicit understanding.” Presenting a systematic analysis of this concept, she highlights how this kind of understanding may be used to ground positive political and social change, such as combating racism in its less overt and more deep-rooted forms. Shotwell begins by distinguishing four basic types of implicit understanding: nonpropositional, skill-based, or practical knowledge; embodied knowledge; potentially propositional knowledge; and affective knowledge. She then develops the notion of a racialized and gendered “common sense,” drawing on Gramsci and critical race theorists, and clarifies the idea of embodied knowledge by showing how it operates in the realm of aesthetics. She also examines the role that both negative affects, like shame, and positive affects, like sympathy, can play in moving us away from racism and toward political solidarity and social justice. Finally, Shotwell looks at the politicized experience of one’s body in feminist and transgender theories of liberation in order to elucidate the role of situated sensuous knowledge in bringing about social change and political transformation.

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Knowledge and Computing

Computer Epistemology and Constructive Skepticism

Tibor Vamos

The result of the author’s extensive practical experience: a decade in computer process control using large scale systems, another decade in machine pattern-recognition for vision systems, and nearly a decade dealing with artificial intelligence and expert systems. These real-life projects have taught Vámos a critical appreciation of, and respect for, both abstract theory and the practical methodology that grows out of—and, in turn, shapes—those theories. Machine representation means a level of formalization that can be expressed by the instruments of mathematics, whereas programming is not more and not less than a special linguistic translation of these mathematical formulae. How these all are related and controlled is a most practical philosophical and computation professional task. Wide experience in the practical fields of computer science, and the research of the underlying theoretical issues have led Vámos to the development of the attitude and activity of constructive skepticism.

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L'ancien et le Nouveau

La production du savoir dans líAfrique díaujourdíhui

How are the ëoldí and the ënew' expressed in the field of knowledge and know-how? What did we know yesterday, and what do we know today? What was, yesterday, and what is, today, the mythical part in what we believe we know? And how do we define, in each case, the core of concrete and universally valid knowledges? What rights and duties do we acclaim as human beings, as women, as children, as peoples or nations, and what understanding do we today have of these rights and duties? What is the impact, of what we today call globalisation, on the evolution of knowledge, know-how, and the awareness of such rights and duties? To these questions, and to other related ones, this book provides some answers. It is the result of a conference held in Cotonou in October 2006, on the theme ìTraditional knowledges and modern scienceî. It is dedicated to the memory of Georg Elwert, a German Africanist who passed away in 2005, and whose work on Benin, Africa and the Third World remains a source of inspiration for many.

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Learning to Unlearn

Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas

Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas is a complex, multisided rethinking of the epistemic matrix of Western modernity and coloniality from the position of border epistemology. Colonial and imperial differences are the two key concepts to understanding how the logic of coloniality creates ontological and epistemic exteriorities. Being at once an enactment of decolonial thinking and an attempt to define its main grounds, mechanisms, and concepts, the book shifts the politics of knowledge from “studying the other” (culture, society, economy, politics) toward “the thinking other” (the authors). Addressing areas as diverse as the philosophy of higher education, gender, citizenship, human rights, and indigenous agency, and providing fascinating and little-known examples of decolonial thinking, education, and art, Madina V. Tlostanova and Walter D. Mignolo deconstruct the modern architecture of knowledge—its production and distribution as manifested in the corporate university. In addition, the authors dwell on and define the echoing global decolonial sensibilities as expressed in the Americas and in peripheral Eurasia. The book is an important addition to the emerging transoceanic inquiries that introduce decolonial thought and non-Western border epistemologies not only to update or transform disciplines but also to act and think decolonially in the global futures to come.

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Liberal Faith

Essays in Honor of Philip Quinn

Edited by Paul J. Weithman

Philip Quinn, John A. O’Brien Professor at the University of Notre Dame from 1985 until his death in 2004, was well known for his work in the philosophy of religion, political philosophy, and core areas of analytic philosophy. Although the breadth of his interests was so great that it would be virtually impossible to identify any subset of them as representative, the contributors to this volume provide an excellent introduction to, and advance the discussion of, some of the questions of central importance to Quinn in the last years of his working life. Paul J. Weithman argues in his introduction that Quinn’s interest and analyses in many areas grew out of a distinctive and underlying sensibility that we might call “liberal faith.” It included belief in the value of a liberal education and in rigorous intellectual inquiry, the acceptance of enduring religious, cultural, and political pluralism, along with a keen awareness of problems posed by pluralism, and a deeply held but non-utopian faith in liberal democratic politics. These provocative essays, at the cutting edge of epistemology, the philosophy of religion, philosophical theology, and political philosophy, explore the tenets of liberal faith and invite continuing engagement with the philosophical issues.

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Michael Oakeshott's Skepticism

Aryeh Botwinick

The English philosopher Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) is known as a conservative who rejected philosophically ambitious rationalism and the grand political ideologies of the twentieth century on the grounds that no human ideas have ultimately reliable foundations. Instead, he embraced tradition and habit as the guides to moral and political life. In this book, Aryeh Botwinick presents an original account of Oakeshott's skepticism about foundations, an account that newly reveals the unity of his thought.

Botwinick argues that, despite Oakeshott's pragmatic conservatism, his rejection of all-embracing intellectual projects made him a friend to liberal individualism and an ally of what would become postmodern antifoundationalism. Oakeshott's skepticism even extended paradoxically to skepticism about skepticism itself and is better described as a "generalized agnosticism." Properly conceived and translated, this agnosticism ultimately evolves into mysticism, which becomes a bridge linking philosophy and religion. Botwinick explains and develops this strategy of interpretation and then shows how it illuminates and unifies the diverse strands of Oakeshott's thought in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, epistemology, political theory, philosophy of personal identity, philosophy of law, and philosophy of history.

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Moral Perception

Robert Audi

We can see a theft, hear a lie, and feel a stabbing. These are morally important perceptions. But are they also moral perceptions--distinctively moral responses? In this book, Robert Audi develops an original account of moral perceptions, shows how they figure in human experience, and argues that they provide moral knowledge. He offers a theory of perception as an informative representational relation to objects and events. He describes the experiential elements in perception, illustrates moral perception in relation to everyday observations, and explains how moral perception justifies moral judgments and contributes to objectivity in ethics.

Moral perception does not occur in isolation. Intuition and emotion may facilitate it, influence it, and be elicited by it. Audi explores the nature and variety of intuitions and their relation to both moral perception and emotion, providing the broadest and most refined statement to date of his widely discussed intuitionist view in ethics. He also distinguishes several kinds of moral disagreement and assesses the challenge it poses for ethical objectivism.

Philosophically argued but interdisciplinary in scope and interest, Moral Perception advances our understanding of central problems in ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and the theory of the emotions.

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