Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Jonathan Kvanvig, Friedrich Jacobi and Elliott Sober

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13 ideas

7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
All scientific tests will verify mathematics, so it is a background, not something being tested [Sober]
     Full Idea: If mathematical statements are part of every competing hypothesis, then no matter which hypothesis comes out best in the light of observations, they will be part of the best hypothesis. They are not tested, but are a background assumption.
     From: Elliott Sober (Mathematics and Indispensibility [1993], 45), quoted by Charles Chihara - A Structural Account of Mathematics
     A reaction: This is a very nice objection to the Quine-Putnam thesis that mathematics is confirmed by the ongoing successes of science.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 1. Knowledge
Epistemology does not just concern knowledge; all aspects of cognitive activity are involved [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: Epistemology is not just knowledge. There is enquiring, reasoning, changes of view, beliefs, assumptions, presuppositions, hypotheses, true beliefs, making sense, adequacy, understanding, wisdom, responsible enquiry, and so on.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Truth is not the Primary Epistemic Goal [2005], 'What')
     A reaction: [abridged] Stop! I give in. His topic is whether truth is central to epistemology. Rivals seem to be knowledge-first, belief-first, and justification-first. I'm inclined to take justification as the central issue. Does it matter?
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 2. Understanding
Understanding is seeing coherent relationships in the relevant information [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: What is distinctive about understanding (after truth is satisfied) is the internal seeing or appreciating of explanatory and other coherence-inducing relationships in a body of information that is crucial for understanding.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding [2003], 198), quoted by Anand Vaidya - Understanding and Essence 'Distinction'
     A reaction: For me this ticks exactly the right boxes. Coherent explanations are what we want. The hardest part is the ensure their truth. Kvanvig claims this is internal, so we can understand even if, Gettier-style, our external connections are lucky.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 5. Aiming at Truth
Making sense of things, or finding a good theory, are non-truth-related cognitive successes [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: There are cognitive successes that are not obviously truth related, such as the concepts of making sense of the course of experience, and having found an empirically adequate theory.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Truth is not the Primary Epistemic Goal [2005], 'Epistemic')
     A reaction: He is claiming that truth is not the main aim of epistemology. He quotes Marian David for the rival view. Personally I doubt whether the concepts of 'making sense' or 'empirical adequacy' can be explicated without mentioning truth.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 1. Justification / c. Defeasibility
The 'defeasibility' approach says true justified belief is knowledge if no undermining facts could be known [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: The 'defeasibility' approach says that having knowledge requires, in addition to justified true belief, there being no true information which, if learned, would result in the person in question no longer being justified in believing the claim.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Truth is not the Primary Epistemic Goal [2005], 'Epistemic')
     A reaction: I take this to be an externalist view, since it depends on information of which the cognizer may be unaware. A defeater may yet have an undiscovered counter-defeater. The only real defeater is the falsehood of the proposition.
13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 3. Internal or External / a. Pro-internalism
'Access' internalism says responsibility needs access; weaker 'mentalism' needs mental justification [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: Strong 'access' internalism says the justification must be accessible to the person holding the belief (for cognitive duty, or blame), and weaker 'mentalist' internalism just says the justification must supervene on mental features of the individual.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Epistemic Justification [2011], III)
     A reaction: [compressed] I think I'm a strong access internalist. I doubt whether there is a correct answer to any of this, but my conception of someone knowing something involves being able to invoke their reasons for it. Even if they forget the source.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 1. Epistemic virtues
Epistemic virtues: love of knowledge, courage, caution, autonomy, practical wisdom... [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: Virtue theorists may focus on the particular habits or virtues of successful cognizers, such as love of knowledge, firmness, courage and caution, humility, autonomy, generosity, and practical wisdom.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Virtue Epistemology [2011], III)
     A reaction: [He cites Roberts and Wood 2007] It is interesting that most of these virtues do not merely concern cognition. How about diligence, self-criticism, flexibility...?
If epistemic virtues are faculties or powers, that doesn't explain propositional knowledge [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: Conceiving of the virtues in terms of faculties or powers doesn't help at all with the problem of accounting for propositional knowledge.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Virtue Epistemology [2011], IV B)
     A reaction: It always looks as if epistemic virtues are a little peripheral to the main business of knowledge, which is getting beliefs to be correct and well-founded. Given that epistemic saints make occasional mistakes, talk of virtues can't be enough.
The value of good means of attaining truth are swamped by the value of the truth itself [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: The Swamping Problem is that the value of truth swamps the value of additional features of true beliefs which are only instrumentally related to them. True belief is no more valuable if one adds a feature valuable for getting one to the truth.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Virtue Epistemology [2011], IV B)
     A reaction: His targets here are reliabilism and epistemic virtues. Kvanvig's implication is that the key to understanding the nature of knowledge is to pinpoint why we value it so much.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / a. Foundationalism
Strong foundationalism needs strict inferences; weak version has induction, explanation, probability [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: Strong foundationalists require truth-preserving inferential links between the foundations and what the foundations support, while weaker versions allow weaker connections, such as inductive support, or best explanation, or probabilistic support.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Epistemic Justification [2011], II)
     A reaction: [He cites Alston 1989] Personally I'm a coherentist about justification, but I'm a fan of best explanation, so I'd vote for that. It's just that best explanation is not a very foundationalist sort of concept. Actually, the strong version is absurd.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 3. Reliabilism / b. Anti-reliabilism
Reliabilism cannot assess the justification for propositions we don't believe [Kvanvig]
     Full Idea: The most serious problem for reliabilism is that it cannot explain adequately the concept of propositional justification, the kind of justification one might have for a proposition one does not believe, or which one disbelieves.
     From: Jonathan Kvanvig (Truth is not the Primary Epistemic Goal [2005], Notes 2)
     A reaction: I don't understand this (though I pass it on anyway). Why can't the reliabilist just offer a critique of the reliability of the justification available for the dubious proposition?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / g. Contemplation
Life and rationality are pointless if we can only contemplate the freedom of our own ego [Jacobi]
     Full Idea: If the highest upon which I can reflect, what I can contemplate, is my empty and pure, naked and mere ego, with its autonomy and freedom: then rational self-contemplation, then rationality is for me a curse - I deplore my existence.
     From: Friedrich Jacobi (Letters to Fichte [1799], Ch.2), quoted by Simon Critchley - Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro
     A reaction: This is a rebellion against Fichte's interpretation of Kant. It is a lovely cry from the heart on behalf of everyone who resents lines of philosophical thinking that seem to imprison the mind and cut us off from the ordinary world and real life.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 2. Nihilism
Jacobi was the first philosopher to talk of nihilism [Jacobi, by Critchley]
     Full Idea: Jacobi was the first to philosophically employ the concept of nihilism.
     From: report of Friedrich Jacobi (Letters to Fichte [1799]) by Simon Critchley - Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro Ch.2
     A reaction: Critchley explains that it was Jacobi's fear that Fichte was drawing nihilist conclusions from Kant's philosophy. This fear may be seen as the beginning of what is loosely called 'continental philosophy'. A worthy subject for thinkers...