Epistemology and methodology main trends and ends. (Эпистемология и Методология) — страница 3

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anomalies and perplexities, two of these issues will be briefly described in order to illustrate why such difficulties call into question common claims to have knowledge about the world. TWO EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS "Our knowledge of the external world". Most people have noticed that vision can play tricks on them. A straight stick put in water looks bent to them, but they know it is not; railroad tracks are seen to be converging in the distance, yet one knows that they are not; the wheels of wagons on a movie screen appear to be going backward, but one knows that they are not; and the pages of English-language books reflected in mirrors cannot be read from left to right, yet one knows that they were printed to be read that way. Each of these phenomena is thus

misleading in some way. If human beings were to accept the world as being exactly as it looks, they would be mistaken about how things really are. They would think the stick in water really to be bent, the railway tracks really to be convergent, and the writing on pages really to be reversed. These are visual anomalies, and they produce the sorts of epistemological disquietudes referred to above. Though they may seem to the ordinary person to be simple problems, not worth serious notice, for those who ponder them they pose difficult questions. For instance, human beings claim to know that the stick is not really bent and the tracks not really convergent. But how do they know that these things are so? Suppose one says that this is known because, when the stick is removed from the

water, one can see that it is not bent. But does seeing a straight stick out of water provide a good reason for thinking that it is not bent when seen in water? How does one know that, when the stick is put into the water, it does not bend? Suppose one says that the tracks do not really converge because the train passes over them at that point. How does one know that the wheels on the train do not happen to converge at that point? What justifies opposing some beliefs to others, especially when all of them are based upon what is seen? One sees that the stick in water is bent and also that the stick out of the water is not bent. Why is the stick declared really to be straight; why in effect is priority given to one perception over another? One possible response to these queries is

that vision is not sufficient to give knowledge of how things are. One needs to correct vision in some other way in order to arrive at the judgement that the stick is really straight and not bent. Suppose a person asserts that his reason for believing the stick in water is not bent is that he can feel it with his hands to be straight when it is in the water. Feeling or touching is a mode of sense perception, although different from vision. What, however, justifies accepting one mode of perception as more accurate than another? After all, there are good reasons for believing that the tactile sense gives rise to misperception in just the way that vision does. If a person chills one hand and warms the other, for example, and inserts both into a tub of water having a uniform medium

temperature, the same water will feel warm to the cold hand and cold to the warm hand. Thus, the tactile sense cannot be trusted either and surely cannot by itself be counted on to resolve these difficulties. Another possible response is that no mode of perception is sufficient to guarantee that one can discover how things are. Thus, it might be affirmed that one needs to correct all modes of perception by some other form of awareness in order to arrive at the judgement, say, that the stick is really straight. Perhaps that other way is the use of reason. But why should reason be accepted as infallible? It also suffers from various liabilities, such as forgetting, misestimating, or jumping to conclusions. And why should one trust reason if its conclusions run counter to those

gained through perception, since it is obvious that much of what is known about the world derives from perception? Clearly there is a network of difficulties here, and one will have to think hard in order to arrive at a clear and defensible explanation of the apparently simple claim that the stick is really straight. A person who accepts the challenge will, in effect, be developing a theory for grappling with the famous problem called "our knowledge of the external world." That problem turns on two issues, namely, whether there is a reality that exists independently of the individual's perception of it--in other words, if the evidence one has for the existence of anything is what one perceives, how can one know that anything exists unperceived?--and, second, how one can