Saturday, March 11, 2006

Review of Pears' What is Knowledge?

To see how much the field of epistemology has changed since the 1960’s one need only read an introductory book written some 35 years ago. David Pears’ What is Knowledge? is such a book. Pears once remarked to me about the book that when he wrote it he had not yet known of the Gettier paper. (The Gettier piece was 8 years old when Pears’ book was published, though back then this is excusable perhaps.) Thus the book was obsolete as it was being written.

Since the Gettier piece epistemology has redrawn its priorities. While the problem of perception is still an issue, much of the field has been co-opted by cognitive science. The question of what "knowing" is has been clarified by Gettier, and thus much of the writing and analysis done before him (or in Pears’ case after him) looks like epistemologists flailing about trying to come up with clear definitions. Like Ayer who spoke of "the right to be sure" many of this period spoke of "confidence" and the like. The fact that they didn’t have the benefit of Kripke’s clearing up a prioricity, certainty, analyticity, and necessity, didn’t help either.

It was an interesting look at epistemology in the 60’s though. Locke, Hume and Berkeley still held center stage; while much else was questions that epistemologist did not quite know how to ask.

On a technical side, why didn’t they all give names to the chapters back then? "I" and "VI" are not at all informative. An index would have been nice too.

No comments: