Steve Cooke

measuring the boundaries of our nation by the sun

Epistemology

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This afternoon I’ve been reading A.C. Grayling’s essay on Epistemology from the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. Epistemology deals with defining knowledge, asking how we come to knowledge, and how we justify beliefs. It’s a fascinating area of philosophy, but one that fills many people (myself included) with dread because there’s simply no getting away from the fact that studying it is hard.

Seeing Grayling’s name at the top of the chapter was reassuring because I know that he’s used to communicating complex ideas to non-experts. His task is described as looking at how justification for belief is possible and exploring some responses to the challenge from sceptics (how do I know I’m not dreaming, why should I trust my senses etc.).

I should say now that my purpose with this blog is not so much to provide regurgitated summaries of all of the things I have read – so apologies if you’re expecting to learn anything useful here. Rather, if I’m honest, the blog’s main purpose is to force me to keep reading, and to do so carefully. No no long discussion of epistemology here (check out the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy for that) However, the more I write, the more tempted I’m becoming to post up some more general musing – such as research questions I’m grappling with, or arguments for my own beliefs. Watch this space.

What I can say it that I am a bit less terrified of epistemology thanks to Grayling (also, I’ve learned a lot about how to introduce a paragraph – Grayling is a master of this). Admittedly the reading was a slog, but I was helped out a little by having read half of Feinberg’s chapter Basic Deductive Logic in his brilliant little book Doing Philosophy last night. Epistemology still looks pretty daunting as a subject, but at least I feel a little less ignorant about it now. However, I’ve also spotted that at this point I’m just 77 pages into 965 of this book – this reading project looks like it may end up taking quite some time to complete.

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Author: Steve Cooke

I work in normative ethics, specialising in animal and environmental ethics and political philosophy.

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