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The formula for truth and the empirical problems of the continental rationalist philosophies of desc

  • Therefore Z is a Y This logical structure is something that we know independently of experience;
  • It is, however, still the case that the being true of every truth is explained in terms of correspondence to a fact or non-correspondence to any fact together with in the case of molecular truths logical notions detailing the logical structure of complex truthbearers;
  • I can't claim to know that Elvis Presley is alive, for example, if he is in fact dead;
  • This characterization reappears early in the Prior Analytics 24a;
  • By using rational principles of physics, for example, one can analyze a situation and predict the outcome of all the masses and forces, even without ever having experienced a similar situation or outcome.

Therefore Z is a Y This logical structure is something that we know independently of experience. In addition to math and logic, there are other truths that we know non-experientially, such as these: In each of the above cases, the truth depends entirely on the concepts within these statements. In the first, "unmarried men" is part of the definition of "bachelor"; the statement is thus true by definition, irrespective of our experiences.

Two concepts have been important in fleshing out the notion of non-experiential knowledge. Even if no human being ever existed, it would still be true that "All bachelors are unmarried men" based on the meaning of the words themselves. Experiential knowledge, though, is different in that it is contingent, as opposed to necessary: Take the statement "George Washington was the first U.

It is of course true as things stand now.

  1. Scientific theories will always face some irregularities — such as with an experiment that seems to contradict an accepted theory.
  2. We've thus saved the JTB definition of knowledge, although cluttering it a little with a fourth condition. The Kantian moral subject, which prized autonomy above all else, radically devalued habit, custom, and tradition—what Hegel described as substantial ethical life, or Sittlichkeit.
  3. In the 20th century, Leibniz has been widely studied by Anglo-American "analytic" philosophy as a great logician who made significant contributions to, for example, the theory of identity and modal logic.

But we can imagine a thousand different things that might have prevented Washington from becoming president. What if he was sent to an orphanage for chopping down the family cherry tree? What if he choked to death on his wooden teeth prior to his inauguration? The truth of all experiential knowledge hinges on the precise construction of the world as it currently is. The other concept embedded in the notion of non-experiential knowledge is that of an analytic statement: Take, for example, the statement "All bachelors are unmarried men.

It is not the case that all bachelors are unmarried men. This is clearly self-contradictory since it would be like claiming that there exists some bachelor who is married, which is impossible. Many traditional philosophers have held that non-experiential knowledge is analytic in the above sense.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

Denying math or logic would produce a self-contradiction. Experiential knowledge, on the other hand, is synthetic rather than analytic: Take again the statement "George Washington was the first U. Its denial would be this: It is not the case that George Washington was the first U. While this statement is false as things actually stand, it is not self-contradictory since, if the world had unfolded differently, the U. Rationalism and Empiricism An important philosophical war took place in the 17th and 18th centuries between two schools of thought.

  • One step up from this is a scientific theory, which is a well confirmed hypothesis;
  • The problem of logically complex truthbearers;
  • Moreover, it equally contains competitors of the correspondence theory as further ingredients;
  • More precisely, we can add a fourth condition to the definition of knowledge in this way;
  • These paradigms are webs of belief that are held by the scientific community at the time;
  • First, our ground-level basic beliefs are self-evident, or self-justifying, and thus require no further justification.

Most briefly, first there were rationalists from continental Europe who were critical of sense experience and felt that genuine knowledge was acquired non-experientially through reason. Second there were empiricists from the British Isles who felt that non-experiential reasoning would give us nothing, and experience was the only path to knowledge. The war finally ended when Immanuel Kant proposed a compromise: We need both, Kant argued, otherwise our whole mental system will not operate properly.

Let's return to the rationalist position, particularly the version championed by Descartes. Sense experience, he argued, is seriously flawed and cannot be the source of important ideas that we have.

Take, for example, the idea of a triangle. Look around the world and you'll never see a perfect triangle, whether it is a shape that we draw on a piece of paper or the side of a pyramid in Egypt. On close inspection, they'll all have irregular lines. The fact remains, though, that we do have conceptions of perfectly-shaped triangles.

Rationalism, according to Descartes, offers the best explanation of how we get those perfect ideas. There are two central components to the rationalist position: Innate ideas, according to Descartes, are concepts that we have from birth that serve as a foundation for all of our other ideas.

While they are inborn, we only become aware of them later in life — when we reach the "age of reason" as one philosopher called it. Innate ideas are in a special class of their own: While rationalists were reluctant to offer a complete list of innate ideas, the most important ones include the ideas of God, infinity, substance and causality.

Regarding deductive reasoning, Descartes held that from our innate ideas we deduce other ideas. It is like in geometry where we begin with foundational concepts of points and lines, and deduce elaborate propositions from these about all kinds of geometrical shapes.

Descartes was in fact inspired by the deductive method of geometry and maintained that we deduce ideas in the same way. Through deduction, the certainty that we have of innate ideas transfers to the other ideas that we derive from these. Mistakes creep in only when our deductions become so long that they rest on memory. All knowledge, he argued, including scientific knowledge, proceeds from innate ideas and deductive demonstration.

  1. By contrast, unreliable processes might be if I believed my car was white because of mere wishful thinking, or through ESP, or from indoctrination by the Society for the Advancement of White Cars.
  2. Every other belief I have rests on this. Four points should be kept in mind.
  3. The objection that many facts are not observable would invite the rejoinder that many objects are not observable either.
  4. Rationalism and Empiricism An important philosophical war took place in the 17th and 18th centuries between two schools of thought.

Turn now to empiricism, particularly Locke's version. Locke's first task was to challenge the theory of innate ideas: Our mind is from birth like a blank sheet of paper, and it is only through experience that we write anything on it. One problem with innate ideas is that we can explain the origin of each one of them through experience.

The idea of God, for example, is not innate as Descartes supposed, but comes from our perceptions of the world around us. There is thus no reason to put forward the theory of innate ideas when experience explains these notions just fine. Locke also found fault with the rationalist position that we do not become aware of innate ideas until later in life. It's not clear how such ideas can linger in our minds for so many years before we can be conscious of them. And by that time our minds have been flooded with experience, and a late-blooming innate idea wouldn't contribute anything to our knowledge of the world.

Empiricists also challenged the rationalists' emphasis on deductive demonstration. We don't expand our knowledge by deducing new concepts from foundational ones, as mathematicians do. Geometry is the wrong model to follow. Instead, we acquire new knowledge through induction, such as making generalizations from our experiences. I hit ten light bulbs with a hammer and each breaks; I generalize from this that all similar light bulbs that I hit with a hammer will also break.

We first perceive, then we generalize. We perceive some more, then generalize some more. That is how we push knowledge forward. And then comes along Kant, the great mediator in the rationalism-empiricism debate. Kant was sympathetic with empiricism but thought that it suffered from a serious problem: Complex mathematical formulas in particular could not come from sense perception. There is a quality of self-evidence and certainty that they have, which fallible experience could never produce.

Kant's solution was not to resurrect the old theory of innate ideas. Instead, he argued that there are innate organizing structures in our minds that automatically systematize our raw experiences — sort of like a skeleton that gives shape to flesh. For example, as I watch someone hit a light bulb with a hammer, raw sensory information rushes in through my eyes.

My mind immediately reconstructs this information into a three-dimensional image and puts it on a timeline.

  • The latter account would admit complex facts, offering an ontological analysis of their structure, and would thus be compatible with the basic forms presented in Section 3, because it would be compatible with the claim that for every truth there is a corresponding fact;
  • Mulligan, Simons, and Smith 1984;
  • A simple, fact-based correspondence theory, applied to propositions understood in the Russellian way, thus reduces to an identity theory of truth, on which a proposition is true iff it is a fact, and false, iff it is not a fact.

My mind then imposes other organizational schemes on the sensory information. It makes me see the hammer and light bulb as separate things, rather than just a single blob of stuff. It then makes me see the hammer as the cause of the light bulb breaking. My experience of the world, then, is a fusion of innate structures and raw experience.

The innate part is a concession to rationalism, and the experience part a concession to empiricism. Nevertheless, they still are useful for depicting two fundamentally different ways in which we assess the sources of knowledge. Rationalism will continue to be attractive whenever we have knowledge that cannot be easily explained by experience. Empiricism will be attractive whenever the claims of innateness look fishy.

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There's the question of the truth of a claim. There is also the matter of our personal belief conviction for a claim. There are also issues about the evidence or justification that we have for a claim. Tradition has it that these are the three key elements to knowledge: I believe that Paris is the capital of France. I am justified in believing that Paris is the capital of France. For short, contemporary philosophers call this definition of knowledge justified true belief — often abbreviating it "JTB".

The crucial point about this definition is that all three components must be present: Justified True Belief To better understand the JTB definition of knowledge, let's go through each of the three elements. First is that the statement must be true. I can't claim to know that Elvis Presley is alive, for example, if he is in fact dead. Knowledge goes beyond my personal feelings on the matter and involves the truth of things as they actually are. Some critics of the JTB definition of knowledge question whether truth is always necessary in our claim to know something.

The retreat from reason

For example, based on the available evidence of the time, scientists in the middle ages claimed to know that the earth was flat.

Even though we understand now that it isn't, at the time they had knowledge of something that was false. In response, it may have been reasonable for scientists back then to believe the world was flat, but they really didn't know that it was. Their knowledge claims were premature in spite of how strong their convictions were. This is a trap that we fall into all the time. While talking with someone I may say insistently, "I know that Joe's car is blue!