Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology / Edition 1

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What is epistemology or "the theory of knowledge?" What is it really about? Why does it matter? What makes theorizing about knowledge "philosophical?" Why do some philosophers argue that epistemology--perhaps even philosophy itself--is dead?
In this succinct, exciting, and original introduction to epistemology, Michael Williams explains and criticizes philosophical theories of the nature, limits, methods, possibility, and value of knowing. A coherent and progressive text, Problems of Knowledge covers both traditional and contemporary approaches to the subject, including foundationalism, the coherence theory, and "naturalistic" theories. As an alternative to these perspectives, Williams defends his own distinctive contextualist approach. Problems of Knowledge provides clear and engaging explanations of the theory of knowledge and why it matters, offering an excellent foundation for students in introductory epistemology courses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192892560
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/23/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Williams is the Charles and Emma Morrison Professor of Humanities, and Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He has previously held positions at Yale and the University of Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Very Idea of a Theory of Knowledge
1. The Standard Analysis
2. Knowledge without Evidence
3. Two Ideals
4. Unstable Knowledge
5. The Agrippan Argument
6. Experience and Reality
7. Foundations
8. The Problem of the Basis
9. Reduction and Inference
10. Coherence
11. The Myth of the System
12. Realism and Truth
13. Evidence and Entitlement
14. Knowledge in Context
15. Seeing and Knowing
16. Scepticism and Epistemic Priority
17. Induction
18. Projection and Conjecture
19. Relativism
20. Objectivity and Progress Conclusion: Epistemology After Skepticism

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2008

    A reviewer

    It is amazing how much one can learn and clarify with this remarkable book. At the same time it delivers a lesson on the historical setting that shape the discussion about knowledge as a problematic issue -thus conveying with accuracy that body of concerns called epistemology- it also manages to establish a lucid position (contextualism) so to iluminate the whole of the discussion in all its relevant angles. More than a mere lesson the reader gets a bright example of critical thinking in action that, at the end, is what western philosophy is all about: a search for a self understanding of our human conundrums. In the same extent the book demanded a lot of writing skills on behalf of the author (which no doubt is quite up to the task) it also requires a careful reading. The latter it is not because the book is not written in a fine clear prose but because the author proceeds as chess player and he seems to be a master of the game. However this does not mean that Williams see the enterprise as a setting of knock-down refutations (nothing more far away of his own philosophy) rather he manage to find a lucid perspective from where to launch critical insights and in order to do so he planned a thoughtful architecture that makes the book a solid one piece of argumentation almost seamless wedded. Williams brightly outlines how scepticism has shaped most of the current epistemological positions. As an overreaction to error -that shadow attached to everything that stems from human action and thinking- scepticism also set up the standards of the discussion to the extent that philosophical enterprises to refute it such as foundationalism or coherentism are doomed efforts insofar they are playing the game under the sceptical terms: looking after what Williams calls a Prior Grounding Requirement (either understood as a sort of an arquimedian point that links human thought with the world or as a perfect fabric where everything is interwoven with everything else in order to make sense) these attempts implicitly commit themselves to a hierarchical structured reasons only conceivable as a metaphysical object. The Cartesian influence on western philosophy didn't help either because the methodological demand it set up front contributed a lot to forget that challenges to knowledge -far from being holistic and wholly abstract- actually came from an interplay of giving reasons and answers, social structured and historically allocated, thus giving way to an overblown demand on certainty that deflect the understanding on the phenomenology of the very human knowledge enterprise and the context that enables a given challenge or refutation to become a meaningful one. Despite this Williams thinking on epistemology doesn't quit to its normative character or suggests it ought to be a mere history of knowledge nor reduces it to a philosophy of science for his position is that knowledge is all about justified belief, thus rejecting the so called externalist approach which only concern is that a statement is linked with the state of affairs of the world no matter how this 'match' was reached. Because knowledge has a propositional content which implies concepts and invites to refutations (the very game of giving questions and answers as Wittgenstein may say) Williams remind us that knowledge is a human activity in a human setting. That's why it cannot also be naturalized in terms of cognitive psychology concerned only with processes described between entities (mind and world). At the end Williams safe the epistemological undertake in showing that is tenable in a more humble but not less sharp and intelligent terms. He truly makes good philosophy by humanizing what at some point became a blind Golem.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

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