This book presents an attempt to develop a theory of knowledge and a philosophy of mind using ideas derived from the mathematical theory of communication developed by Claude Shannon. Information is seen as an objective commodity defined by the dependency relations between distinct events. Knowledge is then analyzed as information caused belief. Perception is the delivery of information in analog form for conceptual utilization by cognitive mechanisms. The final chapters attempt to develop a theory of meaning by viewing meaning as (...) a certain kind of information-carrying role. (shrink)
It is a traditional empiricist doctrine that natural laws are universal truths. In order to overcome the obvious difficulties with this equation most empiricists qualify it by proposing to equate laws with universal truths that play a certain role, or have a certain function, within the larger scientific enterprise. This view is examined in detail and rejected; it fails to account for a variety of features that laws are acknowledged to have. An alternative view is advanced in which laws are (...) expressed by singular statements of fact describing the relationship between universal properties and magnitudes. (shrink)
This collection of essays by eminent philosopher Fred Dretske brings together work on the theory of knowledge and philosophy of mind spanning thirty years. The two areas combine to lay the groundwork for a naturalistic philosophy of mind. The fifteen essays focus on perception, knowledge, and consciousness. Together, they show the interconnectedness of Dretske's work in epistemology and his more contemporary ideas on philosophy of mind, shedding light on the links which can be made between the two. The first section (...) of the book argues the point that knowledge consists of beliefs with the right objective connection to facts; two essays discuss this conception of knowledge's implications for naturalism. The next section articulates a view of perception, attempting to distinguish conceptual states from phenomenal states. A naturalized philosophy of mind, and thus a naturalized epistemology, is articulated in the third section. This collection will be a valuable resource for a wide range of philosophers and their students, and will also be of interest to cognitive scientists, psychologists, and philosophers of biology. (shrink)
A theory of information is developed in which the informational content of a signal (structure, event) can be specified. This content is expressed by a sentence describing the condition at a source on which the properties of a signal depend in some lawful way. Information, as so defined, though perfectly objective, has the kind of semantic property (intentionality) that seems to be needed for an analysis of cognition. Perceptual knowledge is an information-dependent internal state with a content corresponding to the (...) information producing it. This picture of knowledge captures most of what makes knowledge an important cpistcmological notion. It also avoids many of the problems infecting traditional justificational accounts of knowledge (knowledge as [justified, true belief those (unlike knowledge) having a content that can be either true or false (e.g., belief) – are described in terms of the way internal (presumably neural) structures acquire during learning a certain information-carrying role. The content of these structures (whether true or false) is identified with the kind of information they were developed to carry. (shrink)
The debate between externalists and internalists in epistemology can be viewed as a disagreement about whether there are epistemic rights without corresponding duties or obligations. Taking an epistemic right to believe P as an authorization to not only accept P as true but to use P as a positive reason for accepting other propositions, the debate is about whether there are unjustified justifiers. It is about whether there are propositions that provide for others what nothing need provide for them—viz., reasons (...) for thinking them true. (shrink)
Aware that the representational thesis is more plausible for the attitudinal than for the phenomenal, Dretske courageously focuses on sensory experience, where progress in our philosophical understanding of the mental has lagged. His view, essentially, is that what makes any mental state what it is is not so much what it's like as what it's about.
We ordinarily speak of being able to see that there are people on the bus, Students in the class, And children playing in the street. If human beings are understood to be conscious entities, Then one of our ways of knowing that there are other conscious entities in the world besides ourselves is by seeing that there are. We also speak of seeing that he is angry, She is depressed, And so on. It is argued that this is, Indeed, One (...) way of knowing that there are other minds (and, Hence, That the problem of other minds is not a special epistemological problem). What helps to obscure this fact is the confusion between visibility and knowability--The confusion between seeing his pain and seeing that he is in pain. (shrink)
Externalism about knowledge commits one to a modest form of contextualism: whether one knows depends (or may depend) on circumstances (context) of which one has no knowledge. Such modest contextualism requires the rejection of the KK Principle (If S knows that P, then S knows that S knows that P) - something most people would want to reject anyway - but it does not require (though it is compatible with) a rejection of closure. Radical contextualism, on the other hand, goes (...) a step farther and relativizes knowledge not just to the circumstances of the knower, but to the circumstances of the person attributing knowledge. I reject this more radical form of contextualism and suggest that it confuses (or that it can, at least, be avoided by carefully distinguishing) the relativity in what S is said to know from the relativity in whether S knows what S is said to know. (shrink)
By examining the general conditions in which a structure could come to represent another state of affairs, it is argued that beliefs, a special class of representations, have their contents limited by the sort of information the system in which they occur can pick up and process. If a system — measuring instrument, animal or human being — cannot process information to the effect that something is Q, it cannot represent something as Q. From this it follows (for simple, ostensively (...) acquired concepts at least) that if an organism has the concept Q, if it can believe that things are Q, then it is the kind of organism that has the information-processing capabilities for knowing that something is Q. (shrink)
Peter Baumann and Nicholas Shackel defend me against a serious criticism by Christoph Jäger. They argue that my account of information is consistent with my denial of closure for knowledge. Information isn’t closed under known entailment either. I think that, technically speaking, they are right. But the way they are right doesn’t help me much in my effort to answer the skeptic. I describe a way in which information, like knowledge, fails to be closed in a way that makes an (...) information-based account of knowledge an effective tool in answering the skeptic. (shrink)
Materialist explanations of cause and effect tend to embrace epiphenomenalism. Those who try to avoid epiphenomenalism tend to deny either the extrinsicness of meaning or the intrinsicness of causality. I argue that to deny one or the other is equally implausible. Rather, I prefer a different strategy: accept both premises, but deny that epiphenomenalism is necessarily the conclusion. This strategy is available because the premises do not imply the conclusion without the help of an additional premise—namely, that behavior explained by (...) reasons is caused by the reasons that explain it—and this premise is false. (shrink)
There is a terminological matter that should be settled before getting down to business. Lopes himself is not confused about this, but a reader—especially one who doesn't pay much attention to footnotes —might easily be.
In this anthology, distinguished editors Sven Bernecker and Fred Dretske offer the most comprehensive review available of contemporary epistemology. They bring together the most important and influential writings in the field, including selections that cover frequently neglected topics such as dominant responses to skepticism, introspection, memory, and testimony. Knowledge is divided into fifteen subject areas and includes forty-one readings by eminent contributors. An accessible introduction to each subject area outlines the problems discussed in the essays that follow so that students (...) can focus on analyzing them. (shrink)