Learning From Our Mistakes: Epistemology for the Real World

Oxford University Press (2021)
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Abstract

"In Learning from Our Mistakes: Epistemology for the Real World, Talbott provides a new framework for understanding the history of Western epistemology and uses that framework to propose a new way of understanding rational belief. His proposal makes epistemology relevant to the real world, which he illustrates with a new theory of racial, gender and other kinds of prejudice, a new diagnosis of the sources of the inequity in the U.S. criminal justice system, and insight into the proliferation of tribal and fascist epistemologies based on alt-facts and alt-truth. Talbott's new model of rational belief is not a model of a theorem prover in mathematics. It is a model of a good learner. Being a good learner requires sensitivity to clues, the maginative ability to generate alternative explanatory narratives that fit the clues, and the ability to select the most coherent explanatory narrative. Sensitivity to clues requires sensitivity not only to evidence that supports one's own beliefs, but also to evidence that casts doubt on them. One of the most important characteristics of a good learner is the ability to correct mistakes. Talbott articulates nine principles that help to explain the difference between rational and irrational belief. Talbott contrasts his approach with the approach of historically important philosophers, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. He also contrasts his approach with a variety of contemporary approaches, including pragmatism, Bayesianism, and naturalism. He responds to the main criticisms of his method from the experimental philosophy literature"--

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William J. Talbott
University of Washington

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