Epistemology and Truth

Topics: Epistemology, Logic, Truth Pages: 9 (3441 words) Published: April 11, 2013
How do we know what we know? Is what we believe to be truth really truth? A branch of Philosophy that seeks out to answer these questions and to discover the origin of knowledge is Epistemology. Much of what we believe is based on allegations and generalizations rather than established evidence. That’s way so many people have different beliefs throughout the world. I will be discussing more of these Worldviews in a later paragraph. Right now I’d like to continue to focus on Epistemology, which is the study of knowledge: how we obtain knowledge and how we justify it. These are some of the questions Epistemology attempts to answer: What is mind?; What is knowing?; What is true? Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that claims knowledge occurs from evidence collected via sense experience. It relies solely on experiences and evidence, especially of the senses, as the only source of knowledge. This theory differs from rationalism which relies upon reason and can incorporate innate knowledge. Rationalism is a method "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke 263). Empiricism stresses using scientific data discovered from experiments that is directly related to evidence. It is an essential role of the scientific method that all theories must be tested against observations. John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume are classical representatives of empiricism. This doctrine has problems within it though. For example: what about people who are color-blind? How they perceive the world is much different from a person who can see color. Every single person has different perceptions and in essence, has their own truth. Also this doctrine limits what you can say you know. If I haven’t had a personal experience touching, smelling, or tasting a banana, then how can I attest to knowing what a banana is? One last point I’d like to make concerning problems with Empiricism is that it creates trouble with Ethics. How can one determine right vs. wrong? There are several hunters in the world who kill animals for sport, the pure pleasure of the success of the kill. They may shoot an animal and leave its body without using it as a source of food or as any other benefit. Now if this animal was a cow shot and killed in India, there would be many angry people after that hunter. In their country, Hinduism is the main religion. They believe cows are sacred and are honored as a symbol of life. Yet, most Americans believe that beef is a main source of food and killing them is acceptable. Now a hunter has no feelings of remorse killing a cow, yet in one country it’s considered wrong. Even if something feels good, it can still be wrong. Therefore you have ethical emotivism: I don’t like killing vs. killing is wrong.

Emotivism is a meta-ethical theory, important in the philosophy of logical positivism, which argues that a moral claim is not really a proclamation, either about the action itself or about the person speaking. It is, instead, simply a basic manifestation of emotion. For example an expression of crying might be described as appropriate or inappropriate, but it cannot be determined as either true or false. C.L. Stevenson, who created a highly developed argument of ethical emotivism in his book, Ethics and Language, argues that such moral "statements" are not just expressions of emotion, but are also attempts to get others to share that same emotional response. “Let us be careful to observe, however, that when one man is seeking to alter another's attitudes, he may at the same time be preparing to alter his own attitudes in the light of what the other may say” (Stevenson 4).

Logical positivists created a standard for evaluating the truth, inaccuracy, or insignificance of certain philosophical statements. One of its main criteria is that a statement must be verifiable. To have value, a given statement had to be connected to either empirical facts or analytic...
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