Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology

Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology

Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology

Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology


Despite the problems students often have with the theory of knowledge, it remains, necessarily, at the core of the philosophical enterprise. As experienced teachers know, teaching epistemology requires a text that is not only clear and accessible, but also capable of successfully motivating the abstract problems that arise. In Knowledge Puzzles, Stephen Hetherington presents an informal survey of epistemology based on the use of puzzles to illuminate problems of knowledge. Each topic is introduced through a puzzle, and readers are invited to work their own ways toward a solution. Hetherington's light and undogmatic style encourages class discussion and independent thought rather than the memorization of "book" answers. Covering all of the most important epistemological issues, informed by classical and contemporaryliterature, and rich in probing questions and suggestions for further readings, Knowledge Puzzles is a pedagogical breakthrough. Whether it is used as a main text or supplement, this lucid and engaging text will be welcomed by both teachers and students.


Epistemology is an intriguing area of an intriguing subject--philosophy. But epistemology is also one of the more difficult areas of one of the more difficult subjects--philosophy. Students should therefore welcome whatever assistance they can get in understanding the concepts and methods of inquiry important to the discipline. My motivation for writing this book is to provide that assistance.

The book is not intended to replace or to compete with the central primary writings in epistemology. Rather, it presents many of epistemology's main ideas in a way that will help you understand those primary writings. In each chapter I introduce one main theme by way of a few puzzles (examples, questions, and issues). I have aimed to stimulate and suggest, not to exhaust (either readers or a topic). Capturing the spirit--the flavor--of a given idea is the point of each chapter.

I have tried not to favor any one epistemological theory, but instead to find questions and puzzles about each. My goal is to present as many views as I can--certainly most of the major ones--as fairly as possible, regardless of whether I agree with them. By discussing each theory or idea nondogmatically and questioningly, I seek not only to convey epistemology's questioning nature but also to remind you time after time of that nature--and of your chance to take advantage of it. Approach each idea or theory with the aim of deciding what you think about it.

0.2 The Book's Structure

Those who read straight through the book should find its organization clear as they proceed, one chapter leading thematically into the next. But that is not the only way to use the book, as I shall explain. Before that, though, it might be helpful if I say something about which chapters "belong" together.

Chapter 1 introduces the basic epistemological project--the attempt to understand the nature of knowledge. Chapters 2 through 4 assemble three concepts (truth, belief, and justification) fundamental to that project. So begins our attempt to understand knowledge; should we end there, too? By understanding . . .

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