Pathways to Knowledge: Private and Public

Pathways to Knowledge: Private and Public

Pathways to Knowledge: Private and Public

Pathways to Knowledge: Private and Public

Synopsis

How can we know? How can we attain justified belief? These traditional questions in epistemology have inspired philosophers for centuries. Now, in this exceptional work, Alvin Goldman, distinguished scholar and leader in the fields of epistemology and mind, approaches such inquiries as legitimate methods or "pathways" to knowledge. He examines the notion of private and public knowledge, arguing for the epistemic legitimacy of private and introspective methods of gaining knowledge, yet acknowledging the equal importance of social and public mechanisms in the quest for truth. Throughout, he addresses this opposition but proposes a rigorous framework that resolves such tensions, making this collection of papers one of the most important contributions to the theory of knowledge in recent years.

Excerpt

From its beginnings epistemology has been concerned with two questions about knowledge: “What is it?” and “How do you get it?” Plato's answer to the first was that knowledge is true belief that is securely “tied down. ” His answer to the second was that knowledge is attainable by intellectual apprehension of the Forms. Subsequent epistemology centered more on the second question than the first, often quarreling over the feasibility, legitimacy, or reliability of proposed methods for gaining knowledge. Plato's theory of intellectual apprehension is a good example of a controversial method. the organizing theme of this collection of essays similarly centers around candidate methods, or “pathways, ” to knowledge. What are the available pathways, and which are the best ones, or acceptable ones, to follow? the question is not restricted, however, to knowledge. a close cousin of knowledge is warranted or justified belief, and many epistemologists are as interested in identifying proper pathways to justified belief as good pathways to knowledge. That question gets at least equal attention in this volume.

On the current epistemological scene the hottest debate about justification is the internalism/externalism debate. Chapter 1 enters that fray with a sustained critique of internalism. Externalism characteristically holds that beliefs acquire justificational status if they are produced by methods with certain “external” properties, properties that need not be known — and perhaps need not be knowable, or at any rate “directly” knowable — by the agent him- or herself. Internalism takes issue with this claim about proper methods or pathways. It holds that all justification-conferring properties (“justifiers, ” for short) must be accessible to the agent. Chapter 1 examines the most popular defense of internalism and finds it wanting.

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