Understanding Human Knowledge: Philosophical Essays

Understanding Human Knowledge: Philosophical Essays

Understanding Human Knowledge: Philosophical Essays

Understanding Human Knowledge: Philosophical Essays

Synopsis

Barry Stroud has since the 1970s been one of the most original contributors to the philosophical study of human knowledge; this volume presents the best of his essays in this area. More than half of the essays are concerned with identifying clearly the question or issue that philosophicaltheories of knowledge are meant to answer, and with the role of philosophical scepticism in giving the right kind of sense to that question. Another series of essays explores possibilities within the broadly Kantian or 'transcendental' project of establishing the distinctive status and therefore special invulnerability of certain aspects of our conception of the world. Stroud's discussions of these fundamental questions are essentialreading for anyone interested in the possibility of philosophical theories of knowledge.

Excerpt

I collect here fourteen essays published over twice as many years in a number of different journals and books. In bringing them together in one place I hope to make them more conveniently and so more widely available. Each essay was written to stand on its own, independently of the others, and I have not altered the texts from their original appearance. But I hope that each might gain from being read in connection with others that deal in similar ways with closely related questions. Those written later develop or explore some of the earlier ideas in directions that were not foreseen at the time. I thank the original publishers of the essays for permission to reprint them here.

The essays centre on the task of understanding human knowledge, as it is pursued in philosophy. What has come to be called 'epistemology' is the attempt to explain how we know the things we know. It would seem that any successful explanation of our knowledge should carry the implication that we do in fact know at least many of the things we think we know. That conclusion would be the denial of philosophical scepticism, which says that we know nothing, or (within a certain range) that we know nothing of a certain sort. So it would seem that a serious philosophical interest in human knowledge, either in general or for this or that restricted range of subject-matter, cannot be separated from a concern with the truth or falsity of scepticism for the domain in question.

I say that is how it would seem, but in fact many philosophers declare that they have no interest in scepticism. That is understandable, since many philosophers have no interest in epistemology either, and there is no reason why they should. But many who claim to have no interest in philosophical scepticism also put forward philosophical theories of human knowledge, or of this or that region of it. Those theories are positive answers to some question, and it is presumably the same question to which scepticism gives a conflicting negative answer. Many of the essays in this volume focus on the importance, and the difficulty, of identifying that question or issue, and of arriving at an answer we can find

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