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Title:Varieties of Naturalized Epistemology: Criticisms and Alternatives
Author(s):Bayer, Benjamin John
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Waskan, Jonathan
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:Naturalized epistemology---the recent attempt to transform the theory of knowledge into a branch of natural science---is often criticized for dispensing with the distinctively philosophical content of epistemology. In this dissertation, I argue that epistemologists are correct to reject naturalism, but that new arguments are needed to show why this is so. I establish my thesis first by evaluating two prominent varieties of naturalism---optimistic and pessimistic---and then by offering a proposal for how a new version of non-naturalistic epistemology must move forward. Optimistic naturalism attempts to use scientific methods to give positive answers to traditional epistemological questions. Epistemologists, for example, are urged to draw on psychology and evolutionary biology in order to show our beliefs are justified. I argue that this project fails. First, the naturalist's thesis that theory is underdetermined by evidence poses difficulties for the optimist's attempt to show that our beliefs are justified, even according to naturalized standards. Second, while critics usually contest naturalists' logical right to use the concept of normative justification, I suggest that a deeper problem is with the naturalists' use of the concept of belief. Naturalistic philosophy of mind, while perhaps acceptable for other purposes, does not deliver a concept of "belief" consistent with the constraints and needs of naturalized epistemology. Pessimistic naturalism---Quine's project---takes it for granted that "belief" is problematic and logical justification elusive, and instead offers a pragmatic account of the development of our theory of the world. This project, while deeply unsatisfactory to the traditional epistemologist, also faces the challenge of privileging scientific discourse over other pragmatically successful modes of discourse. Whatever its merits, we can undermine its motivation by challenging the underdetermination thesis it rests on. We can do this by appealing to facts about scientific practice that undermine the conception of confirmation driving the thesis, by appealing to other facts about scientific practice, and by challenging some philosophical preconceptions, in order to make room for a new brand of inductivist foundationalism.
Issue Date:2007
Description:270 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3290175
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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