Description of Situations: An Essay in Contextualist Epistemology

Cham: Springer Verlag (2018)
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This book approaches classic epistemological problems from a contextualist perspective. The author takes as his point of departure the fact that we are situated beings, more specifically that every single moment in our lives is already given within the framework of a specific context in the midst of which we understand ourselves and what surrounds us. In the process of his investigation, the author explores, in a fresh way, the works of key thinkers in epistemology. These include Bernard Bolzano, René Descartes, Gottlob Frege, Edmund Husserl, Immanuel Kant and Ludwig Wittgenstein, but also contemporary authors such as Stewart Cohen, Keith DeRose, David Lewis, Duncan Pritchard, Ernest Sosa and Charles Travis. Some of the topics covered are attributions of knowledge, the correspondence theory of truth, objectivity and subjectivity, possible worlds, primary and secondary evidence, scepticism, transcendentalism and relativism. The book also introduces a new contextualist thought-experiment for dealing with moral questions. Contextualism has received a great deal of attention in contemporary epistemology. It has the potential to resolve a number of issues that traditional epistemological approaches cannot address. In particular, a contextualist view opens the way to an understanding of those cognitive processes that require situational information to be fully grasped. However, contextualism poses serious difficulties in regard to epistemic invariance. This book offers readers an innovative approach to some fundamental questions in this field.



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Social Dependency

11.1 The outer world as an ingredient of the inner world—Reconsideration of what must be naturally assumed: levels of [aut] Husserl, E.,[aut] Leibniz, G. W., concept of “monad”—A plain admission: monadic otherness—[aut] Heidegger, M., philosophical anthropology—Limitations of the Husserlian idea of ... see more

What the World Is Made of

2.1 The external and the internal world—There is more in the universe than objects and states of consciousness—Animal and human certitudes—Sosa[aut] Sosa, E., on “animal knowledge” and “reflective knowledge”—What is peculiar to man: cultural historicity as a meta-competence. 2.2 History as science v... see more

Bracketing Modality

10.1 Husserl’s[aut] Husserl, E., version of transcendental subjectivism—Challenging the self-evidence of Descartes’[aut] Descartes, R.,ego—Factual recognitions and ontological claims: suspending all non-self-evident claims, including modal ones—Being as an appearance of validity—The decisive mainten... see more

Moral Matters

12.1. Ricœur[aut] Ricœur, P., and the distinction between ethical goodness and moral normativity: how one does not imply the other—The intimacy of ethics contrasts with the publicity of morality—Acquiring moral norms and ethical principles: both work in a context-sensitive way—Ethical formality as e... see more

Reality in Itself

4.1 [aut] Bolzano, B., and Frege—The rejection of psychologism in logic—Can there be just “signs of signs”?—Frege’s notions of “sense”, “reference” and “representation”—Our images of things as psychological—Relativity of any representations: their problematic subjectivity. 4.2 The objectivity of Fre... see more

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

3.1 [aut] Bolzano, B., understanding of the matter—Some [aut] Aquinas, St. T.,, [aut] Kant, I., and [aut] Wittgenstein, L.,—[aut] Lewis, D.,’ criticism—Rapports between our cognition and the world: a question of justification—Rejection of an anthropocentric position—Varieties of intelligence. 3.2 Th... see more


9.1 [aut] Kant, I., correspondence theory: the sensitive nature of cognitions that must be assumed—Space and time as fundamental intuitions—Our spatial and temporal representations do not come about by the sum of the different spaces and times we experience: their apriority—Why this does not mean, f... see more

Determinism and Possible Worlds

6.1 There is an apparent freedom of the will—Our actions presuppose free decisions—Is there a natural necessity in the world?—Feldman[aut] Feldman, R.,’s rejection of a contextualist solution to the problem of free will: determinism and scepticism—Wright[aut] Wright, C., on even-handedness and facti... see more

Radical Scepticism

8.1 Cartesian foundations: the role of doubt—The assumption of the ego cogito as minimal evidence—Why our faculties, including the sensitive one, can be reduced to mental faculties—Descartes’[aut] Descartes, R., goal: justifying the internal experience through an external order—God’s qualities: sign... see more

Unthought Thoughts

5.1 Why a thought is invisible for Frege: Travis[aut] Travis, C., on the abstractedness that can be extracted from our “representing-as”—Thoughts and concepts: the “conceptual” as a referential domain, which does not possess the objectivity of the “non-conceptual”—The intermediation made by the “rep... see more

Language and Reasoning

1.1 Interrelatedness of words—The pronoun “I”: its systematicity—Personal identity and otherness as proto-beliefs. 1.2 Affirmative and negative sentences—The infinity that is abstractly excluded when we affirm something—Impossibility of a representational vacuum—What context allows us to conceive as... see more

Seeking Evidence

7.1 Theoretical fragility and natural solidity of our situation—Evidence as immediate—Does it make sense to seek for a justification of evidence?—Wittgenstein[aut] Wittgenstein, L., and the indefeasibility of our “system of evidence”—Two kinds of doubt: their local and global epistemological effects... see more

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Nuno Venturinha
New University of Lisbon

Citations of this work

Non-sceptical Infallibilism.Nuno Venturinha - 2020 - Analysis 80 (1):186-195.
Replies to Commentators.Nuno Venturinha - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (5):1713-1724.
The Indispensability of Knowledge.Michael Williams - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (5):1691-1697.
Précis of Description of Situations.Nuno Venturinha - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (5):1683-1690.

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