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Reason as a Source of Knowledge- The Limits of Knowledge
Terms in this set (30)
With reference to the Intuition and Deduction thesis and the Innate knowledge thesis, explain two possible sources of a priori knowledge.
The Innate Knowledge thesis holds that our rational nature is the source of a priori knowledge, and such knowledge is distinct from mere instinct. The Intuition and Deduction thesis holds that a priori knowledge can be gained through the mental operations of rational intuition and deductive reasoning.
How does Descartes' distinguish between intuition and deduction?
A priori intuition or rational intuition is when we just "see" or grasp the truth of a proposition, without having to rely on experience or reasoning. The knowledge gained through rational intuition can then be extended through the use of deduction, such as by using deductive arguments.
What role do these mental powers have in his philosophy?
Descartes is able to use the Intuition and Deduction thesis to create his ontological argument. Each premise is known through rational intuition and he is able to extend his knowledge using a deductive argument.
With examples outline René Descartes' notion of 'clear and distinct ideas'.
Descartes says that the rule for whether something is true is whether his perception is clear and distinct. Whatever is is clearly and distinctly perceived is true. For example, he was able to perceive the cogito clearly and distinctly, meaning it is true.
Outline and illustrate Descartes' sceptical arguments (the three 'waves of doubt').
First wave of doubt: the unreliable witness doubt. We have in the past been deceived by our senses. Therefore, we should not trust something that has deceived him in the past.
Second wave of doubt: the dreaming doubt. There is no sure way of distinguishing between truthful experiences of the world and dream experiences.
Third wave of doubt: we might be being deceived by an evil demon, who is fooling us into thinking there is an external world of material objects.
Explain how Descartes' cogito enables him to respond to scepticism.
The cogito is Descartes' first item of knowledge. From this point of absolute certainty, he can re-build the body of human knowledge.
Outline an empiricist response to Descartes' cogito.
Hume argued that Descartes is only entitled to claim that there are thoughts. Hume denied the existence of an enduring, substantial, single thing that Descartes referred to as the self or I.
With reference to the clarity and distinctness rule, explain how Descartes' moves beyond his knowledge of the cogito?
Descartes got the clarity and distinctness rule from the cogito, arguing that anything that could be perceived clearly and distinctly is true. He can now expand his knowledge beyond the cogito, proving the existence of a non-deceiving God.
With reference to intuition and deduction explain one of Descartes' ontological argument for God's existence.
Descartes' ontological argument:
Premise 1: By definition God is the supremely perfect being.
Premise 2: A supremely perfect being contains all supreme perfections, such as omnipotence.
Premise 3: Existence is a supreme perfection.
Conclusion: Therefore, God, a supremely perfect being, exists.
He is able to rationally intuit these propositions because they are clear and distinct ideas, then use them to deduce God's existence.
Outline Descartes' preservation argument (his argument from his continuing existence).
Descartes asked what preserved him from moment to moment.
Possibility 1: Himself. This could not be the case as he would be aware of this and give himself divine perfections.
Possibility 2: His parents or a being less than God. This could not be the case as he has within him the idea of a perfect being, and only God could have the power to produce such a notion.
Possibility 3: Several things together. This could not be the case as he has a concept of a perfect being whose divine perfections are unified and inseparable, and only God has the power to produce such an idea.
Outline and illustrate Descartes' proof of the external world as an example of an a priori deduction.
There are three possible options for the kind of external thing causing sensations: God, material substances and some other created, non-material substance, such as an angel. It cannot be God or some other substance, as God is not a deceiver and we have a strong tendency to believe that bodies are the cause of sensory ideas and have no faculty to discover the error.
Outline and illustrate Hume's Fork and one criticism of it.
Hume's Fork divides all knowable propositions into two kinds: Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact. Relations of Ideas are a priori, analytic necessary truths and Matters of Fact are a posteriori synthetic contingent truths. One criticism of it is that is is self-refuting as it is neither a Relation of Idea or a Matter of Fact.
Distinguish between two forms of a priori knowledge (intuitive and innate).
The Innate Knowledge thesis holds that our rational nature is the source of our a priori knowledge. The Intuition and Deduction thesis holds that a priori knowledge can be gained through the mental operations of rational intuition and deductive reasoning.
Explain Plato's 'slave boy' argument for innate knowledge.
In his dialogue the Meno, a slave boy is able to discover a version of Pythagoras' theorem just by being asked the right questions. It therefore seems that the slave boy has innate knowledge.
Distinguish between necessary and contingent truths.
Necessary truths must be the case and their denial involves a contradiction. They are known a priori. Contingent truths need not be the case and their denial does not involve a contradiction. They are known a posteriori.
Outline Gottfried Leibniz's argument based on necessary truths.
Premise 1: If necessary truths exist, then these must be innate. This is because sensory experiences cannot guarantee their necessity.
Premise 2: Necessary truths do exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, necessary truths are innate.
What is Leibniz's dispositional account of innate knowledge?
Leibniz holds that truths such as "whatever is, is" exists as "a disposition, a preformation" in the mind. Everyone has an innate potential or capacity to form certain ideas or propositions.
Outline two of Locke's arguments against innatism.
1. If innate ideas existed, then they would be universally assented to.
2. The dispositional view of innatism makes all knowledge innate, not just necessary truths.
Explain the empiricist view that the mind is a tabula rasa.
Locke argued that prior to any experience, the mind is "a white paper, void of all characters". There are two sources of all our ideas, sensation (our experience of objects outside the mind, perceived through the senses) and reflection (our experience of "the internal operations of our mind", gained through introspection).
How does Hume distinguish between impressions and ideas?
Hume divides perceptions into two subclasses: impressions and ideas. Impressions relate roughly to feeling and ideas relate to thinking.
What is Locke's (and Hume's) distinction between simple and complex concepts?
Simple concepts cannot be broken down into smaller parts, such as the concept of pain or blue. Complex concepts can be broken down further, such as the concept of a unicorn or an apple.
Explain two problems with Hume's account of ideas and impressions.
1. We can argue that we can form some ideas without experience. For example, we can imagine a shade of blue that you have never experienced before.
2. Not all complex concepts are made up of simple concepts. For example, attempts to analyse concepts such as knowledge have failed to produce agreement.
With reference to the acronym GETT, distinguish between philosophical scepticism and ordinary incredulity (doubt).
Philosophical scepticism, in contrast with ordinary incredulity, is:
General, as it applies to all beliefs in a particular are, not just some of them.
Extreme, because it engages in doubts about things we never usually question.
Theoretical, as it typically has little bearing on the practicalities of everyday life.
Tests the extent and nature of our knowledge.
Identify two of the roles/functions that philosophical scepticism has within epistemology.
Philosophical scepticism is used in two ways: to test the extent of our knowledge and to test the nature of our knowledge.
Distinguish between local and global scepticism.
Local scepticism involves denying that we do or can have knowledge in some particular area, such as religion or ethics. Global scepticism denies we can have any or virtually any knowledge at all.
Summarize Descartes' response to scepticism.
Descartes used scepticism to discover what is absolutely certain then use it to reconstruct the whole of human knowledge based on firm, unshakable foundations. v
Identify Locke's empiricist responses to scepticism.
Locke rejected the need for infallible justification. He argued that an indirect realist can still "know" that there is a world beyond their minds, even if they cannot know this with absolute certainty.
Outline and explain Berkeley's response to scepticism.
Berkeley rejected indirect realism and instead held that ideas and material object are identical. There are no longer room for sceptical doubts about the existence of objects as we are immediately aware of them.
Explain Russell's response to scepticism and one problem with this approach.
Russell argued that an external world is the best explanation for our sense-impressions. This is a simple explanation as it shows how all our different sense-data fit together. One counter to this is that our belief in the external world is not based on abductive reasoning, we instead are hardwired in such a way that a belief in objects naturally arises when faced sensory stimulus.
Identify the reliabilist response to the sceptic and one issue for reliabilism.
Knowledge reliabilism holds that as long as a belief in the external world turns out to be true and the senses reliably formed this belief, then one can have knowledge of the world. No justification is needed. One counter to this is that one does not know that their beliefs are reliably formed. We may have to know that we know, in order to know.
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