EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY: MAIN TRENDS AND ENDS. (Эпистемология и Методология)
EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY: MAIN TRENDS AND ENDS. (Эпистемология и Методология)
ICEF, GROUP 3,
ENGLISH GROUP 1.
ESSAY IN PHILOSOPHY
EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY: MAIN TRENDS AND ENDS.
Международный Институт Экономики и Финансов, 1 курс,
Высшая школа экономики.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
3. Epistemology as a discipline
4. TWO EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS
7. Some Mental Activities Common to All Methods.
8. Observation and Experiment.
9. Analysis and Synthesis.
10. Imagination, Supposition and Idealisation.
12. Comparison and Analogy.
14. Inductive and deductive methods.
15. The Deductive-inductive Method.
16. RELATION OF EPISTEMOLOGY TO OTHER BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY
Epistemology is one of the main branches of philosophy; its subject
matter concerns the nature, origin, scope, and limits of human knowledge.
The name is derived from the Greek terms episteme (knowledge) and logos
(theory), and accordingly this branch of philosophy is also referred to as
the theory of knowledge.
It is the branch of philosophy that investigates the basic nature of
knowledge, including its sources and validation. Epistemology is concerned
with the basic relationship between man’s mind and reality, and with the
basic operations of human reason. It therefore sets the standards for the
validation of all knowledge; it is the fundamental arbiter of cognitive
Epistemology as a term in philosophy was probably first applied, by J.
F. Ferrier, to that department of thought whose subject matter is the
nature and validity of knowledge (Gr. epistimum, knowledge, and logos,
theory, account; Ger. Erkenntnistheorie). It is thus contrasted with
metaphysics, which considers the nature of reality, and with psychology,
which deals with the objective part of cognition, and, as Prof. James Ward
said, "is essentially genetic in its method." Epistemology is concerned
rather with the possibility of knowledge in the abstract. In the evolution
of thought epistemological inquiry succeeded the speculations of the early
thinkers, who concerned themselves primarily with attempts to explain
existence. The differences of opinion, which arose on this problem
naturally, led to the inquiry as to whether any universally valid statement
was possible. The Sophists and the Sceptics, Plato and Aristotle, the
Stoics and the Epicureans took up the question and from the time of Locke
and Kant it has been prominent in modern philosophy. It is extremely
difficult, if not impossible, to draw a hard and fast line between
epistemology and other branches of philosophy. If, for example, philosophy
is divided into the theory of knowing and the theory of being, it is
impossible entirely to separate the latter (Ontology) from the analysis of
knowledge (Epistemology), so close is the connection 'between the two.
Again, the relation between logic in its widest sense and the theory of
knowledge is extremely close. Some thinkers have identified the two, while
others regard Epistemology as a subdivision of logic; others demarcate
their relative spheres by confining logic to the science of the laws of
thought, i.e., to formal logic. An attempt has been made by some
philosophers to substitute "Gnosiology" for "Epistemology" as a special
term for that part of Epistemology which is confined to "systematic
analysis of the conceptions employed by ordinary and scientific thought in
interpreting the world, and including an investigation of the art of
knowledge, or the nature of knowledge as such." "Epistemology" would thus
be reserved for the broad questions of "the origin, nature and limits of
knowledge". The term Gnosiology has not come into general use.
Epistemological issues have been discussed throughout the history of
philosophy. Among the ancient Greeks, questions of knowledge were raised by
Plato and Aristotle, as well as by the Sophists and the Sceptics, and many
of the chief issues, positions and arguments were explored at this time. In
the systems of Plato and Aristotle, however, epistemological questions were
largely subordinated to metaphysical ones, and epistemology did not emerge
as a distinct area of inquiry.
The scholastics of the late medieval period were especially concerned
with two epistemological questions: the relationship between reason and
faith, and the nature of concepts and universals. The major positions on
the latter issue—realism, nominalism, and conceptualism—were defined during
The Reformation and the rise of modern science raised questions about
cognitive methodology, and gave rise to a rebirth of sceptical doctrines,
trends that culminated in the writings of Rene Descartes (1596-1650).
During the modern period, from Descartes to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804),
epistemological concerns were at the forefront of philosophy, as thinkers
attempted to understand the implications of the new science. They also
attempted, unsuccessfully, to deal with sceptical attacks on the validity
of sense perception, concepts, and induction. In the 19th and 20th
centuries, epistemological issues continued to receive attention from
philosophers of various schools, including Idealism, Logical Positivism,
and Linguistic Analysis.
A familiarity with the history of philosophy provides the best
introduction to epistemology. The following works are of special importance
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics
Rene Descartes, Meditations
John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding
David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
Epistemology as a discipline.
Why should there be such a subject as epistemology? Aristotle provided
the answer when he said that philosophy begins in wonder, in a kind of
puzzlement about things. Nearly all human beings wish to comprehend the
world they live in, a world that includes the individual as well as other
persons, and most people construct hypotheses of varying degrees of
sophistication to help them make sense of that world. No conjectures would
be necessary if the world were simple; but its features and events defy
easy explanation. The ordinary person is likely to give up somewhere in the
process of trying to develop a coherent account of things and to rest
content with whatever degree of understanding he has managed to achieve.
Philosophers, in contrast, are struck by, even obsessed by, matters that
are not immediately comprehensible. Philosophers are, of course, ordinary
persons in all respects except perhaps one. They aim to construct theories
about the world and its inhabitants that are consistent, synoptic, true to
the facts and that possess explanatory power. They thus carry the process
of inquiry further than people generally tend to do, and this is what
saying that they have developed a philosophy about these matters means.
Epistemologists, in particular, are philosophers whose theories deal with
puzzles about the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge.
Like ordinary persons, epistemologists usually start from the assumption
that they have plenty of knowledge about the world and its multifarious
features. Yet, as they reflect upon what is presumably known,
epistemologists begin to discover that commonly accepted convictions are
less secure than originally assumed and that many of man's firmest beliefs
are dubious or possibly even chimerical. Anomalous features of the world
that most people notice but tend to minimise or ignore cause such doubts
and hesitations. Epistemologists notice these things too, but, in wondering
about them, they come to realise that they provide profound challenges to
the knowledge claims that most individuals blithely and unreflectingly
accept as true.
What then are these puzzling issues? While there is a vast array of
anomalies and perplexities, two of these issues will be briefly described
in order to illustrate why such difficulties call into question common
claims to have knowledge about the world.
TWO EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS
"Our knowledge of the external world".
Most people have noticed that vision can play tricks on them. A straight
stick put in water looks bent to them, but they know it is not; railroad
tracks are seen to be converging in the distance, yet one knows that they
are not; the wheels of wagons on a movie screen appear to be going
backward, but one knows that they are not; and the pages of English-
language books reflected in mirrors cannot be read from left to right, yet
one knows that they were printed to be read that way. Each of these
phenomena is thus misleading in some way. If human beings were to accept
the world as being exactly as it looks, they would be mistaken about how
things really are. They would think the stick in water really to be bent,
the railway tracks really to be convergent, and the writing on pages really
to be reversed. These are visual anomalies, and they produce the sorts of
epistemological disquietudes referred to above. Though they may seem to the
ordinary person to be simple problems, not worth serious notice, for those
who ponder them they pose difficult questions. For instance, human beings
claim to know that the stick is not really bent and the tracks not really
convergent. But how do they know that these things are so?
Suppose one says that this is known because, when the stick is removed
from the water, one can see that it is not bent. But does seeing a straight
stick out of water provide a good reason for thinking that it is not bent
when seen in water? How does one know that, when the stick is put into the
water, it does not bend? Suppose one says that the tracks do not really
converge because the train passes over them at that point. How does one
know that the wheels on the train do not happen to converge at that point?
What justifies opposing some beliefs to others, especially when all of them
are based upon what is seen? One sees that the stick in water is bent and
also that the stick out of the water is not bent. Why is the stick declared
really to be straight; why in effect is priority given to one perception
One possible response to these queries is that vision is not sufficient
to give knowledge of how things are. One needs to correct vision in some
other way in order to arrive at the judgement that the stick is really
straight and not bent. Suppose a person asserts that his reason for
believing the stick in water is not bent is that he can feel it with his
hands to be straight when it is in the water. Feeling or touching is a mode
of sense perception, although different from vision. What, however,
justifies accepting one mode of perception as more accurate than another?
After all, there are good reasons for believing that the tactile sense
gives rise to misperception in just the way that vision does. If a person
chills one hand and warms the other, for example, and inserts both into a
tub of water having a uniform medium temperature, the same water will feel
warm to the cold hand and cold to the warm hand. Thus, the tactile sense
cannot be trusted either and surely cannot by itself be counted on to
resolve these difficulties.
Another possible response is that no mode of perception is sufficient to
guarantee that one can discover how things are. Thus, it might be affirmed
that one needs to correct all modes of perception by some other form of
awareness in order to arrive at the judgement, say, that the stick is
really straight. Perhaps that other way is the use of reason. But why
should reason be accepted as infallible? It also suffers from various
liabilities, such as forgetting, misestimating, or jumping to conclusions.
And why should one trust reason if its conclusions run counter to those
gained through perception, since it is obvious that much of what is known
about the world derives from perception?
Clearly there is a network of difficulties here, and one will have to
think hard in order to arrive at a clear and defensible explanation of the
apparently simple claim that the stick is really straight. A person who
accepts the challenge will, in effect, be developing a theory for grappling
with the famous problem called "our knowledge of the external world." That
problem turns on two issues, namely, whether there is a reality that exists
independently of the individual's perception of it--in other words, if the
evidence one has for the existence of anything is what one perceives, how
can one know that anything exists unperceived?--and, second, how one can
know what anything is really like, if the perceptual evidence one has is
The "other minds" problem."
The second problem also involves seeing but in a somewhat unusual way. It
deals with that which one cannot see, namely the mind of another. Suppose a
woman is scheduled to have an operation on her right knee and her surgeon
tells her that when she wakes up she will feel a sharp pain in her knee.
When she wakes up, she does feel the pain the surgeon alluded to. He can
hear her groaning and see certain contortions on her face. But he cannot
feel what she is feeling. There is thus a sense in which he cannot know
what she knows. What he claims to know, he knows because of what others who
have undergone operations tell him they have experienced. But, unless he
has had a similar operation, he cannot know what it is that she feels.
Indeed, the situation is still more complicated; for, even if the doctor
has had such a surgical intervention, he cannot know that what he is
feeling after his operation is exactly the same sensation that the woman is
feeling. Because each person's sensation is private, the surgeon cannot
really know that what the woman is describing as a pain and what he is
describing as a pain are really the same thing. For all he knows, she could
be referring to a sensation that is wholly different from the one to which
he is alluding.
In short, though another person can perceive the physical manifestations
the woman exhibits, such as facial grimaces and various sorts of behaviour,
it seems that only she can have knowledge of the contents of her mind. If
this assessment of the situation is correct, it follows that it is
impossible for one person to know what is going on in another person's
mind. One can conjecture that a person is experiencing a certain sensation,
but one cannot, in a strict sense of the term, know it to be the case.
If this analysis is correct, one can conclude that each human being is
inevitably and even in principle cut off from having knowledge of the mind
of another. Most people, conditioned by the great advances of modern
technology, believe that in principle there is nothing in the world of fact
about which science cannot obtain knowledge. But the "other-minds problem"
suggests the contrary--namely, that there is a whole domain of private
human experience that is resistant to any sort of external inquiry. Thus,
one is faced with a profound puzzle, one of whose implications is that
there can never be a science of the human mind.
These two problems resemble each other in certain ways and differ in
others, but both have important implications for epistemology.
First, as the divergent perceptions about the stick indicate, things cannot
just be, as they appear to be. People believe that the stick, which looks
bent when it is in the water, is really straight, and they also believe
that the stick, which looks straight when it is out of the water, is really
straight. But, if the belief that the stick in water is really straight is
correct, then it follows that the perception human beings have when they
see the stick in water cannot be correct. That particular perception is
misleading with respect to the real shape of the stick. Hence, one has to
conclude that things are not always, as they appear to be.
It is possible to derive a similar conclusion with respect to the mind
of another. A person can exhibit all the signs of being in pain, but he may
not be. He may be pretending. On the basis of what can be observed, it
cannot be known with certitude that he is or that he is not in pain. The
way he appears to be may be misleading with respect to the way he actually
is. Once again vision can be misleading.
Both problems thus force one to distinguish between the way things
appear and the way they really are. This is the famous philosophical
distinction between appearance and reality. But, once that distinction is
drawn, profound difficulties arise about how to distinguish reality from
mere appearance. As will be shown, innumerable theories have been presented
by philosophers attempting to answer this question since time immemorial.
Second, there is the question of what is meant by "knowledge." People claim
to know that the stick is really straight even when it is half-submerged in
water. But, as indicated earlier, if this claim is correct, then knowledge
cannot simply be identical with perception. For whatever theory about the
nature of knowledge one develops, the theory cannot have as a consequence
that knowing something to be the case can sometimes be mistaken or
Third, even if knowledge is not simply to be identified with perception,
there nevertheless must be some important relationship between knowledge
and perception. After all, how could one know that the stick is really
straight unless under some conditions it looked straight? And sometimes a
person who is in pain exhibits that pain by his behaviour; thus there are
conditions that genuinely involve the behaviour of pain. But what are those
conditions? It seems evident that the knowledge that a stick is straight or
that one is in great pain must come from what is seen in certain
circumstances: perception must somehow be a fundamental element in the
knowledge human beings have. It is evident that one needs a theory to
explain what the relationship is--and a theory of this sort, as the history
of the subject all too well indicates, is extraordinarily difficult to
The two problems also differ in certain respects. The problem of man's
knowledge of the external world raises a unique difficulty that some of the
best philosophical minds of the 20th century (among them, Bertrand Russell,
H.H. Price, C.D. Broad, and G.E. Moore) spent their careers trying to
solve. The perplexity arises with respect to the status of the entity one
sees when one sees a bent stick in water. In such a case, there exists an
entity--a bent stick in water--that one perceives and that appears to be
exactly where the genuinely straight stick is. But clearly it cannot be;
for the entity that exists exactly where the straight stick is is the stick
itself, an entity that is not bent. Thus, the question arises as to what
kind of a thing this bent-stick-in-water is and where it exists.
The responses to these questions have been innumerable, and nearly all of
them raise further difficulties. Some theorists have denied that what one
sees in such a case is an existent entity at all but have found it
difficult to explain why one seems to see such an entity. Still others have
suggested that the image seen in such a case is in one's mind and not
really in space. But then what is it for something to be in one's mind,
Страницы: 1, 2
Рефераты бесплатно, курсовые, дипломы, научные работы, реферат бесплатно, сочинения, курсовые работы, реферат, доклады, рефераты, рефераты скачать, рефераты на тему и многое другое.
При использовании материалов - ссылка на сайт обязательна.