The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

THE problem to be discussed in Part II under the name of Epistemology originates in the situation that is presented whenever any sort of individual apprehends any sort of object. The chief philosophic question that arises in such a situation is as to whether or not the object thus apprehended can retain its existence and character apart from its relation to the apprehending subject. It is obvious that this is a question which cannot be answered by direct experience; for to suppose that the nature and existential status of an unobserved object could be determined by observing it would be self- contradictory. We can only infer the fate of things at times when they are not experienced by studying their character and behaviour at times when they are experienced.

There are four fairly distinct positions that can be taken towards this problem, and they amount to four methods of interpreting the meaning of truth or knowledge. They are: I. The epistemological method of objectivism or " naïve realism"; II. the epistemological method of dualism, sometimes called "the copy theory of knowledge"; III. the epistemological method of subjectivism, sometimes called "idealism"; IV. the epistemological method of relativism, regarded by those who accept it as being not so much a positive solution of the epistemological problem as rather a negative means of evading it altogether. The last-named of these methods of epistemology has been discussed already in our chapter on pragmatism. As was there explained, the close connection between the pragmatist logic with its practicalistic method of attaining and evaluating truth and the pragmatist epistemology with its relativistic method of interpreting the meaning of truth, justified our treating them together. Consequently, in what follows we shall treat the epistemology of relativism only

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