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Epistemology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Epistemology. Truth. The Truth?. Truth. Philosophers have debated the nature, origin and definition of truth for centuries. Can be considered both a metaphysical and epistemological issue. Question: Do you feel there is such a thing as absolute truth?. Seeking the truth.

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  • Philosophers have debated the nature, origin and definition of truth for centuries.

  • Can be considered both a metaphysical and epistemological issue.

  • Question: Do you feel there is such a thing as absolute truth?

Seeking the truth
Seeking the truth

  • Felipe Fernandez-Armestoidentified 4 stages of seeking truth:

  • Truth that you feel

  • Truth you are told

  • Truth of reason

  • The truth perceived by the senses

Plato vs protagoras
Plato vs. Protagoras

  • Believed truth was fixed, permanent and independent of opinion

  • Disputed Protagora’srelativism embodied in the statement “Man is the measure of all things”

  • Protagoras posited that one person’s opinion was equal in value to that of another. Virtues and values are merely human constructs and therefore not objective, natural or absolute.

Cartesian doubt skepticism and relativism
Cartesian doubt, skepticism and relativism

  • “I think therefore I am” makes it difficult to pursue truth and knowledge outside of one’s own mind.

  • Some content this may have contributed to the relativism and skepticism of 20th century.

  • “[They] found it hard to produce arguments for the existence of anything except themselves”

Follow the evidence
Follow the evidence

  • Roderick M. Chisolmargued that one attains knowledge when opinion is met with adequate evidence

  • Issues with what constitutes “adequate” evidence… who decides and what criteria are used to make that decision?


  • Perception – psychological process of awareness that occurs when senses are stimulated

  • Plato saw perception as rooted in the senses and therefore flawed. Knowledge is independent and objective

Common sense realism
Common sense realism

  • Also known as naïve realism – people perceive objects, experiences as they really are.

  • Cannot account for hallucinations, dreams and optical illusions

  • Cannot explain natural phenomena that cannot be perceived by our senses (infrared)

Representative theory of perception
Representative theory of perception

  • John Locke

  • People perceived external objects as sensations which prompts the mind to create ideas

  • These exist as representations in the mind

  • Critics say representations are unreliable sources of truth

Subjective idealism
Subjective Idealism

  • George Berkeley

  • No one can know anything for sure – can never be sure that anything exists outside of one’s own mind

  • An extreme version of subjective idealism is solipsism (nothing exists unless you think it to be so)


  • Immanuel Kant

  • Phenomena- how things appear to the senses

  • Noumena – things that are thought or known by pure reason

  • Minds have innate conceptual schemes that exist a priori sense experiences (e.g. time, space causation)

  • Allows our minds to organize and analyze sensory information

  • Attempted to reconcile old arguments of empiricism and rationalism

  • Knowledge and truth can never really be known as it is filtered through our conceptual schemes

Correspondence theory of truth
Correspondence Theory of Truth

  • Agreement between thought and reality

  • Supported by Bertrand Russell who felt that both truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs

  • Objective truth exists and is verifiable by facts/evidence

Coherence theory of truth
Coherence Theory of Truth

  • G.W.F. Hegel

  • Emphasizes consistency of ideas in relation to one another

  • Allows for “degrees” of truth that can be re-evaluated or rejected in light of new evidence or shifting beliefs

Pragmatic theory of truth
Pragmatic Theory of Truth

  • “true” and “false” depend on the usefulness of the beliefs, propositions or statements.

  • “If the truth works… don’t fix it”

  • Modern pragmatists not concerned with objective truth. Should only be concerned with beliefs that benefits one’s self-interest

  • Critics say pragmatism ignores serious ethical issues (i.e. slavery, genocide)