Knowledge and Its Place in Nature

Knowledge and Its Place in Nature

Knowledge and Its Place in Nature

Knowledge and Its Place in Nature

Synopsis

Philosophers have traditionally used conceptual analysis to investigate knowledge. Hilary Kornblith argues that this is misguided: it is not the concept of knowledge that we should be investigating, but knowledge itself, a robust natural phenomenon, suitable for scientific study. Cognitiveethologists not only attribute intentional states to non-human animals, they also speak of such animals as having knowledge; and this talk of knowledge does causal and explanatory work within their theories. The account of knowledge which emerges from this literature is a version of reliabilism:knowledge is reliably produced true belief. This account of knowledge is not meant merely to provide an elucidation of an important scientific category. Rather, Kornblith argues that knowledge, in this very sense, is what philosophers have been talking about all along. Rival accounts are examined in detail and it is argued that they areinadequate to the phenomenon of knowledge (even of human knowledge). One traditional objection to this sort of naturalistic approach to epistemology is that, in providing a descriptive account of the nature of important epistemic categories, it must inevitably deprive these categories of their normative force. But Kornblith argues that a proper account of epistemicnormativity flows directly from the account of knowledge which is found in cognitive ethology. Knowledge may be properly understood as a real feature of the world which makes normative demands upon us. This controversial and refreshingly original book offers philosophers a new way to do epistemology.

Excerpt

Accounts of knowledge in the recent philosophical literature may be divided into two broad types: there are those that require nothing more than a certain responsiveness to features of the environment, such as reliability accounts, tracking accounts, and the like; and there are those that require a high degree of sophisticated metacognitive processing. The second sort may in turn be divided into two sub-types: those that require some kind of individual metacognition, i.e. some sort of reflection on the epistemic status of one's beliefs; and those that require some kind of social metacognition, typically in the form of engagement in the social practice of giving and asking for reasons. If metacognitive processing is to be required for the possession of knowledge, whether the mandated metacognitive processes are seen as individual or social, accounts of this sort are quickly seen to have the consequence that young children and non-human animals, and often many adults as well, are incapable of achieving knowledge. And this is a result that most people find highly counterintuitive. As a result, a number of philosophers now draw a distinction. There is 'mere animal knowledge', which

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