Précis of tracking truth [Book Review]
Graduate studies at Western
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (1):213-222 (2009)
|Abstract||In Tracking Truth I undertook a broader project than is typical today toward questions about knowledge, evidence, and scientific realism. The range of knowledge phenomena is much wider than the kind of homely examples—such as ‘‘She has a bee in her bonnet’’—that are often the fare in discussions of knowledge. Scientists have knowledge gained in sophisticated and deliberate ways, and non-human animals have reflexive and rudimentary epistemic achievements that we can easily slip into calling ‘‘knowledge.’’ What is it about knowledge that makes it natural for us to use the same word in cases that are so vastly different? How is it possible for knowledge to have evolved? What is it about knowledge that it should enhance our power over nature, as Francis Bacon observed? What is it about evidence and knowledge that makes you more likely to have the latter when you have the former? Specialization is necessary to progress, but the division of labor it requires has allowed such questions to fall through the gaps between discussions. These gaps are opportunities. Sometimes newly discovered problems can bring new and better answers even to old questions. The questions I have asked above are ‘‘Why?’’ questions expressed as (apparently) Socratic ‘‘What is?’’ questions, and that is the approach taken in the first five chapters of this book, to offer explanations of familiar phenomena on the basis of rigorous definitions of knowledge and evidence. One might object that this is an old, not a new, style of answer, and one that I ought to be educated enough to reject. Many have thought the project of giving necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge was in its death rattle long ago. The most common argument for this conclusion is an empirical one, that no such attempt has ever been successful in giving the right answer for all examples. And when one asks, as one must, what the ‘‘right’’ answer would be answering to anyway, the project can look even more depressing. But even if there is a clear....|
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