Empiricism and Experience

Empiricism and Experience

Empiricism and Experience

Empiricism and Experience

Excerpt

My principal concern in this book is to understand the logical relationship of experience to knowledge. Experience, it appears, makes some contribution to our knowledge of the world. What is this contribution? Say that I look out of my window and see that it is raining. As I look out, I have a visual experience and come thereby to believe that it is raining. My belief is reasonable, and it would appear, it is so in part because of my visual experience. But how does my visual experience contribute to the reasonableness of my belief? This question has no easy answer, and I devote chapter 1 to bringing into clear view the principal obstacle that must be overcome if we are to find a satisfactory answer. It is important to find an answer, for without it, we cannot assess the claims of empiricism. My approach to the problem of experience and knowledge is shaped by three convictions. The first conviction is that the classical empiricist response to the problem deserves respect. I grant that classical empiricism is unacceptable. However, in the process of throwing away its detailed doctrines, we should take care not to throw away the discipline within which it works and the problems that it addresses. Classical empiricism, as I see it, is founded on genuine constraints and a natural idea. It is not a product of some silly little argument from illusion, or of some pathological preoccupation with skepticism. I argue in chapter 2 that classical empiricism is a powerful—and inevitable—development of a natural idea. Hence, a genuine alternative to classical empiricism cannot be . . .

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