Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Knowledge and Epistemology

It is one thing to know something and another to know what knowledge is. Some make do with one and not the other. Some know a great deal about their area of expertise but don't have a well-developed epistemology. Others have an over-developed epistemology that tells them that they don't, finally, know anything at all. (This was arguably the Socratic position, but I think he said it with no little irony.) I think the healthiest approach is to have an epistemology that grants you a practical basis for knowing things, and then proceed to know a great many things on precisely that basis. Your epistemology should demand that you do some work, but it should not demand an unreasonable amount of labor or outright drudgery.

Let's say that epistemology tells you what it is possible to know. It guides you away from projects that seek impossible knowledge. Somewhere between the too-easily possible and the impossibly difficult lie our subjects of careful study. An epistemology should also, therefore, give you some indication of when to give up the search, at least for now. That is, after putting in the amount of effort your epistemology demands, you should either be in the possession of a "justified, true belief" or looking elsewhere for truth. Of course, you may return to try again for "the one that got away", but you should at some point call it a day, pack it in, get some rest, and take up a new topic.

No comments: