Friday, 1 April 2011
CASE 251 - Epistemology
Epistemology is the study of knowledge. Epistemologists concern themselves with a number of tasks, which we might sort into two categories.
First, we must determine the nature of knowledge; that is, what does it mean to say that someone knows, or fails to know, something? This is a matter of understanding what knowledge is, and how to distinguish between cases in which someone knows something and cases in which someone does not know something. While there is some general agreement about some aspects of this issue, we shall see that this question is much more difficult than one might imagine.
Second, we must determine the extent of human knowledge; that is, how much do we, or can we, know? How can we use our reason, our senses, the testimony of others, and other resources to acquire knowledge? Are there limits to what we can know? For instance, are some things unknowable? Is it possible that we do not know nearly as much as we think we do? Should we have a legitimate worry about skepticism, the view that we do not or cannot know anything at all?
The second question that will be dealt with is the question of how knowledge is acquired. This area of epistemology covers:
1) Issues concerning epistemic distinctions such as that between experience and apriori as means of creating knowledge.
2) Distinguish between synthesis and analysis used as means of proof
3) Debates such as the one between empiricists and rationalists.
4) What is called "the regress problem"
Far from being purely academic, the study of epistemology is useful for a great many applications. It is particularly commonly employed in issues of law where proof of guilt or innocence may be required, or when it must be determined whether a person knew a particular fact before taking a specific action (e.g., whether an action was premeditated). Another practical application is to the design of computer interfaces. For example, the skills, rules, and knowledge taxonomy of human behavior has been used by designers to develop systems that are compatible with multiple "ways of knowing": abstract analytic reasoning, experience-based 'gut feelings', and 'craft' sensorimotor skills.
Other common applications of epistemology include:
Cultural Anthropology (Do different cultures have different systems of knowledge?)
History and archaeology
Intelligence (information) gathering
Mathematics and science
Medicine (diagnosis of disease)
Product testing (How can we know that the product will not fail?)
Religion and Apologetics
More and deep info