Epistemology Without History is Blind

Erkenntnis 75 (3):505-524 (2011)
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In the spirit of James and Dewey, I ask what one might want from a theory of knowledge. Much Anglophone epistemology is centered on questions that were once highly pertinent, but are no longer central to broader human and scientific concerns. The first sense in which epistemology without history is blind lies in the tendency of philosophers to ignore the history of philosophical problems. A second sense consists in the perennial attraction of approaches to knowledge that divorce knowing subjects from their societies and from the tradition of socially assembling a body of transmitted knowledge. When epistemology fails to use the history of inquiry as a laboratory in which methodological claims can be tested, there is a third way in which it becomes blind. Finally, lack of attention to the growth of knowledge in various domains leaves us with puzzles about the character of the knowledge we have. I illustrate this last theme by showing how reflections on the history of mathematics can expand our options for understanding mathematical knowledge



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Philip Kitcher
Columbia University

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1965 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Knowledge in a social world.Alvin I. Goldman - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The ethical project.Philip Kitcher - 2011 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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