The majority of classically ordered philosophy curriculums begin with the course on Epistemology. Quite simply, Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do we know? What do we know? Are men capable of knowing the truth? If so, can they know all of the truth or just some of the truth? We explore these concepts in this lesson.Preview This Lesson
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At this point, we will begin taking a closer look at Epistemology itself by outlining some fundamental teachings.
Nature, Scope, and Limitations
We have already seen that there are those who undervalue the power of the intellect and those who overvalue the power of the intellect. There are many Protestant schools of thought arguing that sin has so corrupted the mind that we cannot reason to any truth. This is a form of Skepticism that denies the possibility of knowledge and refuses to accept the first principle of understanding and existence of self as evident and knowable.
Conversely, there are many Rationalist or Scientific schools of thought arguing that the mind can understand everything that is able to be understood. Some may call this a “Secular Humanist” philosophy as well. For them, everything is discoverable by reason, and if it can't be discovered, it does not exist.
In an honest assessment of the power of the human intellect, we want to maintain that the intellect is powerful yet weakened by original sin. In simple language, the intellect is “really good, but, not great.”
What is the nature of ideas? From where do they come, and where do they exist? How is the idea of a thing that we have in our mind related to an actual thing in the world? Traditionally, there have been four solutions to these question.
Plato first argued for a solution called “Absolute realism.” Basically, ideas are “absolutely real” in the mind. The universal idea of “apple” that you have in your head when you think of an apple is really existing by itself. There is another world where our ideas actually exist.
William of Ockham
depicted in a stained glass window, in Surrey
Another theory is known as “Conceptualism.” This school of thought, primarily identified by Immanuel Kant, says that universals exist only in the mind as a category, and they do not exist in the world at all. The idea that you have in your mind of an apple does not represent the apple that exists in the world: it represents a reality that has been recast and filtered in the mind.
The “Nominalist” school denies that there exist universal ideas at all. Ideas are just names that stand for nothing. William of Ockham in the 14th century argued for this understanding.
The most important school of thought regarding ideas, that of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, is called “Moderate Realism.”<... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
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