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How to Write an Essay on Epistemology

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❶In this situation, the claim would be an empirically testable claim about the external world. Our minds have experiences, experiences of other things, which I will call objects.

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The safer position of Husserl offers a more indubitable foundation, but it seems, to me at any rate, to restrict the scope of any dependent epistemology. In effect, I will be carrying out exactly the same processes as Husserl, only that I will make the further step in claiming, through pragmatic intuition and the arguments for non-skeptical realism [7] , that this epistemology or these observations refer to a real and existent external reality.

William James makes similar observations. The harder we try to avoid error, the more likely it is that we will miss out on truths; and the more strenuous we are in searching for truths, the more likely we are to let in errors. The method of doubt may make sense in the special case where an enormous weight is given to avoiding error, even if that means loss of truth.

Once we recognize that we are making a practical decision about the relative importance of two goods, the Cartesian strategy no longer appears to be the only rational one. What reason is there to give primary weight to reducing the risk of error?

The desire for certainty is part of a perspective that gives little weight to the needs of practice. From this foundation I have set out, I will now look to propose an evidentialist empiricist progression.

I use my cognitive faculties of consciousness mind to assess such phenomena. It appears to me that other people, other minds, have similar experiences [8]. These other minds could or could not exist, but since I have assumed some kind of realism standing behind such phenomena, then it would be using double standards to assume that these other minds did not exist, or assume that their experiences were not as they claimed and were not seemingly coherent with mine.

What we have, then, at least in my own subjective experience, is a world full of entities like myself, all experiencing I assume [9] , since I have no good reason to doubt them other than out of pure philosophical scepticism, and better reason to trust exist a real world of objects that we cannot know in themselves. However, there is similarity of experience; the other entities experience the same objects in similar ways.

From this I can build up a coherent picture of the world. Therefore, what builds up my knowledge is phenomena and the patterns and properties which they exhibit. And some of these phenomena are other experiencing minds which report back to me, as phenomena, their own experiences. I form beliefs about the world which are dependent on these phenomena. These beliefs, however, are justified by the phenomena themselves to a greater or lesser degree. In other words, the phenomena my experience of external objects act as evidence for my beliefs.

Some of my beliefs may have more evidence to support them than other beliefs. For example, if the coffee in your cup tastes sweet to you, then you have evidence for believing that the coffee is sweet.

If you feel a throbbing pain in your head, you have evidence for believing that you have a headache. If you have a memory of having had cereal for breakfast, then you have evidence for a belief about the past: In this view, evidence consists of perceptual, introspective, memorial, and intuitional experiences, and to possess evidence is to have an experience of that kind.

Evidence, then, becomes both something we can know through direct experience, but also something else which we can use in order to justify a belief. As far as using prior evidence past behaviour is concerned, let me take a short diversion into the realms of Hume and the Problem of Induction. Hume claimed that we do not have good reason to form a belief about a future event based on past uniformities. Gravity, as a theory, might be supported by evidence experience up until I drop the pen, but it does not necessarily follow that the pen will adhere to gravity or that gravity exists in the manner we understand.

It is a case of probability: If a horse has won a million races up to now, never having lost one, then betting against it in the next race is probabilistically irrational in simple terms. Given that we make this jump from an internal knowledge of our thinking selves to interpreting our senses as they detect, categorise and theorise external phenomena, we start moving towards the realm of science — which can be seen as a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.

A scientific fact takes on two meanings. Primarily, scientific acts are verifiable observations upon which theories are built. Looking at the pen and gravity, we take the Theory of Gravity as being a scientific fact.

That is not to say it is indubitable: However, that does not appear to be the case, and if we thought like that with every piece of knowledge, we would remain Pyrrhonian Skeptics, intellectually immobilised by eternal doubt.

Thus, for pragmatic purposes, in order to live our lives sensibly involving prediction, estimation and planning, as well as intersubjectivity , we take certain claims i. As such, a common-sense approach is needed in order to determine how to employ such facts and non-facts or theories.

For example, if Thus, as an individual, I can incorporate gravity as a true fact, or piece of knowledge, in order to utilise it and rely on it in planning or carrying out actions successfully. Thus the phenomena of the objects themselves, as well as the scientists as objects and journals as objects can be appraised by the individual and assessed accordingly.

If I, as an individual experiencer, am not confident in my cognitive faculties to fully understand such phenomena, I can defer to the experts without critically examining the objects and phenomena myself. This process itself can be based on evidential foundations. If, in the past, I had deferred to experts who almost unanimously defended a truth claim, some fifty times, and each time the claim had been reliable so that my plans or actions could take place with reliable outcomes, then it has shown me that, probabilistically, deferring to experts when I do not have the required faculties to investigate the truth claims myself is itself a reliable mechanism.

Subsequently, we are making a case for evidence and evidentialism, when used this way, to be a mechanism for justifying beliefs which is reliable. There is an overlap here of evidentialism and reliabilism. Reliabilists, then, would agree that the beliefs mentioned in the previous paragraph are justified.

But according to a standard form of reliabilism, what makes them justified is not the possession of evidence, but the fact that the types of processes in which they originate — perception, introspection, memory, and rational intuition — are reliable. The evidences used here, however, are indeed those phenomenological mechanisms of perception, introspection, memory and rational intuition. What we are starting to do is build up an epistemology which is both reliable and coherent to the individual experiencer.

What we have is an understanding that phenomena reflect the real world. These phenomena include other conscious minds who themselves experience. As a result, there is a collection of recorded experiences which constitute a growing body of evidence which can be applied towards finding the truth values of certain propositions. These propositions are ascribed a pragmatic truth if supported by overwhelming evidence. Additionally, the process of gathering experience such as data and information , known as the scientific process, refines the data so that it becomes increasingly more accurate, and is self-correcting.

This is an extremely important idea. Therefore, in practice, I have the ability to test it or to observe testing of the claims and data by another reliable source. This is a process by which knowledge of the world can be gathered. Not only this, it is also a process that can refine the knowledge. The process should lead to a more and more accurate picture of the world, or in other words, should give us a more accurate understanding and knowledge of the world as time passes.

The traditional view of science i. Science is often distinguished from other domains of human culture by its progressive nature: This can be a circular and repeating pattern of acquiring knowledge such that the analysed results influence the forming of another question which can then start the process again. Karl Popper, the famous philosopher of science, espoused the approach of falisfiability.

This is the concept which dictates that if a claim is false, then it can be shown to be so by observation or experiment. As such, Popper would state that only falsifiable claims belong in the realms of science and scientific enquiry. At the heart of this is the notion that truth claims about the universe cannot be verified but only falsified. This refers inextricably to the Problem of Induction as mentioned earlier. The pen, next time, might fall up. We cannot verify the Theory of Gravity and its effects to be absolutely true such as verifying future outcomes of dropping the pen — there is space for doubt.

However, we can falisify such claims. If my pen did fall up ceteris paribus then the theory would be falsified. Where does this leave us? Well, again recapping, we have our internal and absolute truth that we as thinking entities exist.

Then we rely on a pragmatic approach of analysing phenomena. This can be shown to be reliable whether we are a brain in a vat or not within our subjective existence. Evidence and data of the external world can be gathered empirically and collected. This data must be verifiable in order for us to be able to test it for the purposes of calculating whether it is reliable or not since if you cannot test it, you cannot test whether it is true or not.

Thus our knowledge contains a set of data which we have collected both from our own experience and from the experience of reliable others. A note on this: I would not take a truth claim as factual such as a person, who had lied to me before, walking up to me on the street and claiming that a tiger had attacked and eaten someone in the local supermarket.

I would, however, take it as factual if the police told me, and I saw it reported by experts on the television news shown in a nearby shop window and so on. These sources had both proved themselves to be reliable to me before. So the claim that if I drop my pen in the normal surroundings of my living room, it will fall downwards, is something which I would believe as a fact, as a piece of knowledge.

This is built upon a huge amount of experimental data. It is testable, and it is falsifiable it could fall up. As a result, given the past uniformities of such an experiment, I would take this as a reliable piece of knowledge, and I would say that I do have very strong reasons for believing that my pen will fall down when I drop it.

To return to the original question, if I had a false truth claim, could I have very strong reasons for believing it?

First of all, let me ask this with reference to a truth claim that is falsibiable and testable a Falsifiable Claim. In this situation, the claim would be an empirically testable claim about the external world. If I had at t1 a new tentative hypothesis, for example, for a cosmological theory of the way the universe started, would this be taken as a truth claim anyway?

A tentative theory like this which is not defended by overwhelming evidence would not entail having very strong reasons for believing it, but it would also be seen as a theory and not a fact. It is a hypothesis as opposed to strictly being a truth claim. One could believe it, but it would not have the support of such evidence and would require a larger amount of faith with which to believe it as being true.

It might be both coherent mathematically, etc. On the other hand, one could believe at t1 in the Standard Big Bang model my example is irrelevant per se, so there is no need to think about trying to disprove it — it serves as an example which is coherent, falsifiable and defended and evidenced by the consensus of experts in the relevant fields. Thus one would, in my opinion, have very strong reasons for believing it. The Standard Big Bang model could be proved wrong as more and different evidence is added into the mix, and as other newer and related theories are expounded at, say, t2.

However, at the point of believing it t1 , one would indeed have very strong reasons for doing believing it. Therefore, one could have overwhelming evidence to support a false Falsifiable Claim if the overwhelming evidence to hand supported that claim, and there was incomplete evidence available to the believer to support its falsification. In this way, justified beliefs beliefs with very strong reasons to believe them are dependent upon the evidence for them.

Incomplete or incorrect evidence can lead to false beliefs. However, it can be difficult to know whether, in a given situation, we ever have sufficient or complete information.

Therefore, the best we can hope for is to make judgements with the most complete information available. With regards to claims which are made of unfalsifiable truths Unfalisifiable Claim , things are a little different.

If one cannot falsify a claim, then I would posit that one cannot have very strong reasons to believe it. One must do so based on faith. Normal, empirical evidence is full of consistent patterns, without which i. This framework of evidence is vital for making reliable and falsifiable claims. This is where a claim is unfalsifiable.

The claim involves both the empirical testable and the untestable. We can test, and have tested, prayer and its effects, using double blind experiments and so on. However, when the experiments and they have [11] have shown no positive results for intercessory prayer when God intervenes for someone on the behest of someone else defenders of the truth claim move the untestable, unfalsifiable agent God outside of the normal causal bounds.

This means that the agent, or the claim, is effectively unfalsifiable. We have seemingly empirically falsified the belief that God answers prayer using an evidential procedure. Thus such a belief is not, in my opinion, supported by very strong reasons, but by unevidenced faith.

It would rely more on evidence, and less on faith. In this way a defender of an unfalsifiable claim can move the causal factors of the claim around like a pea in the shell game, defrauding the tester of any ability to test the agent in this case, God. For this expistemic method, I posit that reliability is contingent on the ability to test and falsify the claim. Claims which deny one the ability to do this are not supported by very strong reason. Therefore, let me finally recap the method for reliably finding truth:.

Therefore, very strong reasons fits within the context of the best available evidence. The criticisms, as I see them, to this epistemology are twofold.

Firstly, if one has incomplete evidence, then one can claim that one does not have very strong reasons. This criticism can be dismissed on the basis of a paradox of knowledge.

One cannot know if one knows everything since, by definition, one does not know something that one does not know. Choose an area of particular interest to you and one which you would like to learn more about since it will likely require you to read the works of others on the topic.

Consider a specific way that knowledge is created or disseminated, such as discussing an ontological argument, cosmological or design-oriented argument for the existence of God, which falls under the category of religious epistemology.

Further refine your epistemological essay topic by selecting something specific that you can write about. For example, if writing an essay about religious epistemology, consider how a particular religion generates beliefs about God, or how it communicates those beliefs to its adherents once they have already been generated.

Create an outline for your essay that includes an introduction, three or four main points, a conclusion and a bibliography. For each main point, identify which authors' works you will present to illustrate your point. Write your essay, covering all of the points in your outline. Organize your bibliography alphabetically according to the style standards chosen by your instructor. Edit your essay for spelling, grammar and consistency. Give your essay to a classmate and ask him to review your essay.

Review your paper a final time, checking it for errors before turning it in.


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Epistemology is the explanation of how we think and is required in order to determine the true from the false. It is needed in order to obtain knowledge of the world around us. Epistemology can be explained through rationalism and imperialism.

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- Epistemology Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is one of several categories related to the broader heading, Philosophy. Plato was one of many Philosophers to practice the ideas related to Epistemology, as evident in his "Republic". Descartes’ Epistemology This essay attempts to explain Descartes’ epistemology of his knowledge, his “Cogito, Ergo Sum” concept (found in the Meditations), and why he used it [the cogito concept] as a foundation when building.

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Epistemology provides a broad and rich topic about which to write an essay. Indeed, it's easy to argue that an essay about anything which requires the author to broaden or refine his knowledge about a given topic, is itself an example of epistemology. Free Essay: Epistemology Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is one of several categories related to the broader heading, Philosophy. Plato was one of.