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Hegel on Self-Consciousness

Desire and Death in the Phenomenology of Spirit

Robert B. Pippin

In the most influential chapter of his most important philosophical work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel makes the central and disarming assertions that "self-consciousness is desire itself" and that it attains its "satisfaction" only in another self-consciousness. Hegel on Self-Consciousness presents a groundbreaking new interpretation of these revolutionary claims, tracing their roots to Kant's philosophy and demonstrating their continued relevance for contemporary thought.

As Robert Pippin shows, Hegel argues that we must understand Kant's account of the self-conscious nature of consciousness as a claim in practical philosophy, and that therefore we need radically different views of human sentience, the conditions of our knowledge of the world, and the social nature of subjectivity and normativity. Pippin explains why this chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology should be seen as the basis of much later continental philosophy and the Marxist, neo-Marxist, and critical-theory traditions. He also contrasts his own interpretation of Hegel's assertions with influential interpretations of the chapter put forward by philosophers John McDowell and Robert Brandom.

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Hegel's Theory of Imagination

Filling an important gap in post-Kantian philosophy, Hegel’s Theory of Imagination focuses on the role of the imagination, and resolves the question of its apparent absence in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Jennifer Ann Bates discusses Hegel’s theory of the imagination through the early and late Philosophy of Spirit lectures, and reveals that a dialectic between the two sides of the imagination (the “night” of inwardizing consciousness and the “light” of externalizing material) is essential to thought and community. The complexity and depth of Hegel’s insights make this book essential reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding how central the imagination is to our every thought.

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How Do You Know?

The Economics of Ordinary Knowledge

Russell Hardin

How do ordinary people come to know or believe what they do? We need an account of this process to help explain why people act as they do. You might think I am acting irrationally--against my interest or my purpose--until you realize that what you know and what I know differ significantly. My actions, given my knowledge, might make eminently good sense. Of course, this pushes our problem back one stage to assess why someone knows or believes what they do. That is the focus of this book. Russell Hardin supposes that people are not usually going to act knowingly against their interests or other purposes. To try to understand how they have come to their knowledge or beliefs is therefore to be charitable in assessing their rationality. Hardin insists on such a charitable stance in the effort to understand others and their sometimes objectively perverse actions.

Hardin presents an essentially economic account of what an individual can come to know and then applies this account to many areas of ordinary life: political participation, religious beliefs, popular knowledge of science, liberalism, culture, extremism, moral beliefs, and institutional knowledge. All of these can be enlightened by the supposition that people are attempting reasonable actions under the severe constraints of acquiring better knowledge when they face demands that far outstretch their possibilities.

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Human Destinies

Philosophical Essays in Memory of Gerald Hanratty

Frank O'Rourke

From 1968 until his death in 2003, Gerald Hanratty was professor of philosophy at University College Dublin. In this volume to his memory, Fran O'Rourke has assembled twenty-six essays reflecting Hanratty's broad philosophical interests, dealing with central questions of human existence and the ultimate meaning of the universe. Whether engaged in historical investigations into Gnosticism or the Enlightenment, Hanratty was concerned with fundamental themes in the philosophy of religion and philosophical anthropology. Human Destinies brings together a wide range of approaches to central questions of human nature and destiny. Included are historical studies of classical thinkers of the ancient and medieval periods (Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas) and of modern authors (Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Marcel, Adorno, Derrida, Plantinga, Scruton).

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Idea and Ontology

An Essay in Early Modern Metaphysics of Ideas

Marc A. Hight

The prevailing view about the history of early modern philosophy, which the author dubs “the early modern tale” and wants to convince us is really a fairy tale, has it that the focus on ideas as a solution to various epistemological puzzles, first introduced by Descartes, created difficulties for the traditional ontological scheme of substance and mode. The early modern tale depicts the development of “the way of ideas” as abandoning ontology at least by the time of Berkeley. This, in turn, fostered an antimetaphysical bias as modern philosophy developed further, elevating epistemology to its current primary status in the field. Marc Hight challenges this account by showing how, though the conception of ideas changed over time, the ontological status of ideas remained a central part of the discussion about ideas and influenced how even later thinkers like Locke, Berkeley, and Hume thought about them. By his reading of important texts in early modern philosophy, Hight aims not only to provide a more accurate history of philosophy for this period but also to resuscitate the value of metaphysics for philosophical analysis today.

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(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.

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Kant on the Frontier

Philosophy, Politics, and the Ends of the Earth

Geoffrey Bennington

Frontier: the border between two countries; the limits of civilization; the bounds of established knowledge; a new field of activity. At a time when all borders, boundaries, margins, and limits are being—often violently—challenged, erased, or reinforced, we must rethink the concept of frontier itself. But is there even such a concept? Through an original and imaginative reading of Kant, Geoffrey Bennington casts doubt upon the conceptual coherence of borders. The frontier is the very element of Kant’s thought yet the permanent frustration of his conceptuality. Bennington brings out the frontier’s complex, abyssal, fractal structure that leaves a residue of violence in every frontier and complicates Kant’s most rational arguments in the direction of cosmopolitanism and perpetual peace. Neither a critique of Kant nor a return to Kant, this book proposes a new reflection on philosophical reading, for which thinking the frontier is both essential and a recurrent, fruitful, interruption.

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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.

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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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