Epistemic Analysis and the Possibility of Good Informants

Principia 8 (2):193-211 (2004)
The question as to the appropriate method of epistemic analysis has always been an issue for epistemologists. In recent years, the traditional method utilized in epistemology - conceptual analysis - has come under attack from various perspectives. Yet, often no replacement method is given in its place. In two works, "A Practical Explication of Knowledge" and Knowledge and the State of Nature, Edward Craig proposes a new way of doing epistemology. Craig's epistemic method eschews traditional conceptual analysis in favor of what he calls "conceptual synthesis". He proposes we start not from the finding of necessary and sufficient conditions that match our intuitions; rather we start from considerations on what the concept of knowledge does for us. Though there is much to discuss in Craig proposal, in this paper I explore one aspect - the good informant. It is this aspect that is central to Craig's epistemic method and perhaps most problematic. In this essay, I evaluate this concept by first articulating three initial worries that some have had about the concept. I show that each of the initial worries can be quelled by looking deeper into the features of what Craig's proposal is. I then assess Craig's proposal on its own terms. Instead of looking to counterexamples for possible problems, I look at the concept of a good informant in light of the criteria for an adequate explication. What I hope to show is that while there is much to be sympathetic with in Craig's proposal, there are some open questions that need to be solved in order to say that an adequate explication has been reached.
Keywords Epistemology  Edward Craig  Knowledge  State of Nature  Practical Explication
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