Epistemology: Scientific Method and Knowledge

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Epistemology: Scientific Method and Knowledge

Epistemology can be difficult to understand and maybe even harder to say. The short answer is that epistemology is the theory of knowledge. Perhaps that is too short of an answer, allow me expand. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with questions concerning the nature, scope, and sources of knowledge. Even these concepts can be foreign to the common public. The nature of knowledge is basically the qualities that constitute knowledge. One would find this answer by asking “What is knowledge?

” The scope of knowledge sets the limits on what is knowledge and is a belief, hypothesis, or guess. A person must prove knowledge. Suppose I generated a completely random number and I asked you what number I was thinking of. If you stated the correct number, does that mean you knew what I was thinking? The source of knowledge covers how we attain our knowledge. Now that we have established a basic understanding of epistemology, we can cover a few of the major schools of thought.

When you think about a persons reasoning process, some people divide a persons thoughts into rational and irrational. If you are one of these people, you would use a deductive method of reasoning. You would also be considered a rationalist. As a rationalist, you believe that you can know things for certain even if you have never experienced it yourself. If you wanted to know which object would hit the ground first, when given two objects with different masses, you could take what you know about physics and figure it out without ever having to actually perform the experiment.

There is another group that uses deductive reasoning but argue “all ideas trace ultimately back to experiences, such as perceptions and emotions. “(IEP, par. 2) These are the empiricists. These individuals claimed that if we didn’t have any experiences, we would have nothing to base our ideas off of. Taking a look back at the example above, you can see that we must know something about gravity. Our ideas on gravity stemmed from the observations of people like Newton. You can now see, through a little bit of deductive reasoning, how they believe everything is inductive.

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who attempted to combine rationalism and empiricism. It is called the “form and matter” epistemology. (Quine par 5) The idea is that you need to take into account your experiences and use deductive reasoning. Quine uses a metaphor involving the statue of Abraham Lincoln. Quine says “A statue can have a form such as Abraham Lincoln and a matter such as marble; you need both a form and a matter to have a statue. So in knowledge you need a form, which are categories of the mind, and matter which are the data of sensations.

” What I understand of this is that you cannot experience everything in life so you must use deductive reasoning, but you must experience some things to have a basis for your knowledge. Skepticism is just as it sounds, to doubt. You may be familiar with the statement “I think, therefore I am” but may not know what it means, who stated it, and why it was ever said, and how it relates to skepticism. Descartes was looking for a way to prove truths by disproving everything else. He used two conjectures, the dream conjecture and the evil demon conjecture.

The dream conjecture utilized the fact that the truth could be a figment of the imagination. The evil demon conjecture posed the idea that a malevolent force was distorting reality. Descartes used these two as tools. If a truth could pass these two filters, then indeed it was the truth. What he discovered was that a person could doubt everything except one truth: “I think, therefore I am” Here’s how it passed the test. A person must exist to be able to think. To doubt something requires thought. So the act of doubting your own existence proves that you exist.

This was a great discovery but Descartes was troubled with other questions. Descartes found it difficult to make the mind-body connection. That is, the mind is immaterial and the body is physical, how can something immaterial move something that is material. Parallelism was proposed as a solution. Simply put, the mind does not move the arm, the act of willing the arm to move only appears to make the arm move. Two events happen in parallel, the act of willing the arm to move and the arm actually moving.

How does it just so happen that these to events happen at precisely the same time? Occasionalism, a variant of parallelism, was offered. A person wills their arm to move and on that occasion a divine power causes the arm to move. Many theories have been set forth, some a little harder to grasp or understand than the others. From the examples above you may begin to understand what epistemology is. You can grasp parts from the short stories above that help explain the nature, scope, and sources of knowledge.

Depending on your position, all of this information presented could not even be true. You may not really be reading this. You may not even exist, do you doubt it? Works Cited http://pantheon. yale. edu http://www. london-oratory. org/philosophy W. V. O. Quine. Epistemology. 23 Mar 2004 The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Continental Rationalism. 23 Mar 2004 Chapter 6-Philosophy-The Rise of Modern Metaphysics and Epistemology Chapter 7-Philosophy-The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries Epistemology-University of Phoenix Faculty Material.


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