Modern Philosophers Rationalists Empiricists – Descartes – Locke – Spinoza – Berkeley – Leibniz – Hume Epistemology - the theory of knowledge (what and how we know)
EpistemologyEpistemology is one of the core areas of philosophy. It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits of knowledge. Epistemology has been primarily concerned with propositional knowledge, that is, knowledge that such-and-such is true, rather than other forms of knowledge, for example, knowledge how to such-and-such. There is a vast array of views about propositional knowledge, but one virtually universal presupposition is that knowledge is true belief, but not mere true belief. For example, lucky guesses or true beliefs resulting from wishful thinking are not knowledge. Thus, a central question in epistemology is: How do we know what we know is true, and what is the difference(s) between knowledge, belief and truth?
Rene Descartes Rationalist fixated on figuring out how to know truth. Through deconstruction/reduction, he eliminates everything to get to a CRITERION OF TRUTH – a kernel of absolutely true knowledge from which an entire world can be constructed
Phases Doubt EVERYTHING that can be doubted Find the criterion of truth Expand from that point to find what is knowable and true This is a rational exercise – the senses cannot be trusted.
David Hume Empiricist – Believes all knowledge comes through experimentation and observation or experience of the world – When we are born, we are “Tabula Rasa” • Locke coins the term, Hume refines it
Hume’s Method First we experience IMPRESSIONS – Ideas form, which are fainter copies of impressions – Psychology now calls these impressions “Sense Data” – Both impressions and ideas can be simple or complex. • Simple = individual traits • Complex = of the whole THE MIND HAS THE ABILITY TO CREATE
Examples Hume claims we have angels and a God because of the “cut and paste” method the mind employs. By breaking down to simple ideas, then original impressions, we can know that our ideas to correspond to reality and not just make believe. Hume is a skeptical Agnostic.
Hume deconstructs Descartes God is an infinite, perfect being. Omniscient and Omnipotent. • Descartes No one has experienced infinity, it is imaginary. Perfection cannot even be defined for everybody. We focus on limited, imperfect reality and remove realistic constraints.
Where Hume succeeded Found Descartes’ subjectivity and biases, then tore them apart. We want God and heaven because there is a psychological need or an indoctrination that has not been analyzed. Hume did not believe in cause in effect. – Something did something, causing something else. We are perceiving “constant conjunction”; we see a sequence of events.
EXERCISE "IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST AND NO ONE IS AROUND, IS THERE SOUND?" – Upon what philosophical assumption does the question depend? – What should you do next? – What does the phrase "I never heard of that before" really mean? – As you read these words, do you know what else I am doing? • What does that imply? Solve the riddle, and you have a "major" clue to the novels progression.
Berkeley Also an empiricist, but is an immaterialist or idealist. Material substance does not exist; all that exists is spiritual (minds and ideas) God is an infinite spirit, humans are finite spirits. Says we cannot perceive tangible reality, everything perceived is in our mind. We all DIRECTLY perceive ideas in our mind, and what we perceive is reality.
THEREFORE - what is real is only ideas and minds. The material world is the same as our reality, but on a higher plane. All material objects are ideas in God’s mind This answers the first cause of how God can create a world out of nothing, but not how God came about.
Immanuel Kant Synthesized rationalism and empiricism – Said both are partly right and partly wrong, took the “right” parts from each All knowledge comes from experience, but reason determines how we perceive reality. We need to keep in mind HUMAN PERCEPTION - a “think in itself” vs. a “thing for us” We cannot evade our humanistic filter
Disagrees with Hume on causation and says that is the rational structure of the mind at work. We apply meaning. Kant’s ETHICS - based on the “Categorical Imperative” – ACT AS IF THE MAXIM OF YOUR ACTION, THROUGH YOUR WILL, WOULD BECOME THE LAW OF NATURE”
IN OTHER WORDS: if I did something, would I want this action to become the universal standard action for everyone else in my position, every time? This is a call to leave the INDIVIDUAL perspective and to use the UNIVERSAL perspective.
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