Epistemology In Western Philosophy

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In Western philosophy, epistemology is the most important branch. It reevaluated the previous philosophy branches (mainly metaphysics and moral philosophy) and dominated the following philosophy trends – the trend of introspection.

Epistemology has it unique position in all subjects as it tries to tell us about the possibility of the knowledge of ultimate reality. It is unlike the inquiries in science which trying to know about things that are observable, as the question in philosophy are mainly metaphysical, which cannot be proved by empirical studies. In this sense, we need a way to justified our metaphysical beliefs, a method of knowledge.

The development of epistemology starts as early as Plato’s age, as he proposed knowledge as ‘justified
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The source of knowledge comes from innate ideas and deduction, there is no posteriori knowledge.

On the contrary, empiricism regards experience is the primary source of knowledge.

Descartes’ universal skepticism and rationalism
The key of Descartes’ epistemology is ‘universal skepticism’, unlike tradition skepticism, universal skepticism aims to find a first principle, which in Descartes’ epistemology is ‘The Cogito’. In order to look for a solid ground for knowledge, Descartes has to eliminate any unreliable knowledge, or source of knowledge, which the first will be sensory representations.

In the first of the Meditations, Descartes questioned the reliability on delivery of senses:

What I have so far accepted as true par excellence, I have got either from the senses or by means of the senses. Now I have sometime caught the senses deceiving me; and a wise man never entirely trusts those who have once cheated him. (AT VII.19; CSMK II.13)

Sense experience are open to doubt as they can deceive us. If senses are not true, we cannot different ourselves from dreaming, as what we are perceiving cannot be
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This skepticism gives no foundation on knowledge, as not only knowledge cannot be derived by reason, but also senses experiences are not reliable – it often deceives us.

Kant’s Transcendental Philosophy
The mention of Kant’s epistemology is necessary as his idea is revolutionary. Since Descartes’ “Cogito, Ergo Sum”, modern philosophy has shifted its approach to subjectivity, and the trend reaches its peak in Kant’s philosophy. To what he called “Copernican Revolution” – from concerning the objectivity of knowledge to subject’s cognitive ability.

In Kant’s view, human are not born as blank sheet, but was given the concept of time, space, causality, etc. The acquisition of knowledge is then possible under such a framework, where those concepts are stated under 4 categories of pure understanding.

Kant attempted to look for a type of proposition that is informative and universal – to respond Hume’s view that what is universal is uninformative, and what is informative is not universal. In his work “critique of pure reason”, Kant made distinctions of two kinds of knowledge and judgements. The former is epistemological and the latter is
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