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SS4031 - Week 4 - Block 2

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Jessie B

on 21 October 2014

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Transcript of SS4031 - Week 4 - Block 2

SS4031 - Week 4 - Block 2
Epistemology? What counts as knowledge? By Jessie Bustillos

Other two broad approaches to knowing are positivism and interpretivism
Let us consider some of these ways of knowing...
What can we know? Is knowledge relative or absolute?

'Wittgenstein says that everything is absolutely relative; and Popper, that everything is relatively absolute'
Key readings:
Atherton, (1999) the Empiricists: Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley and Hume. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge Flamer.

Kuhn, T (1964) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Online pdf version of Kuhn’s book: http://turkpsikiyatri.org/arsiv/kuhn-ssr-2nded.pdf

Munz, P. (1985) our Knowledge of the Growth of Knowledge: Popper or Wittgenstein. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Recapping...
In the previous weeks we have been exploring the following themes:

'Culture' - we have asked the questions, what is culture?
High culture or low culture?
Cultural practices?
And we have been exploring the understandings behind material and non-material notions of culture and making sense of them through the consideration of examples

In this new block we will be exploring:
What counts as knowledge?
Epistemology and approaches that account for how we know
How these ideas are relevant for understanding the curriculum
Epistemology?
epistēmē, meaning "knowledge, understanding", and - logos, meaning "study of")

Epistemology is one of the core areas of philosophy. It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits of knowledge. Epistemology has been primarily concerned with propositional knowledge, that is, knowledge that such-and-such is true, rather than other forms of knowledge, for example, knowledge how to such-and-such.

KLEIN, P. (2005). Epistemology. In E. Craig (Ed.), London: Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Epistemology will ask questions such as...


What can we know?
What can we be sure of?
How do we know what we know?

Understanding epistemology and its debates
Epistemology can be talked about within two main thinking opposing traditions:

Rationalism and empiricism
The dispute between rationalism and empiricism concerns
the extent to which we are dependent upon sense experience in our effort to gain knowledge.
Rationalists
Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience.

Descartes, Leibniz and Espinoza
Empiricists
Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.

John Locke
George Berkeley
David Hume

Let's take a closer look at how they have thought about this.
Descartes
Leibniz
Espinoza
It is important to mention that these positions cannot be understood solely as being either rationalist or empirical, there are some points of convergence between many of these philosophies; however, they can be positioned within one or the other because of some of their fervent theorisations on human understanding.
These thinkers all share a general view in common which can be understood as empiricist. Let's consider Locke's essay Concerning Human Understanding in which he emphasises his statement that our minds are blank paper, furnished by experience:
'Our observation, explored either about external sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves, is that which supplies our understanding with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring'

Compare this with Berkeley's opening statement of The Principles of Human Knowledge:
'It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are ideas imprinted on the senses'


And finally Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature:
'The first ideas are supposed to be derived from impressions, it remains true that all our simple ideas proceed either mediately or immediately from their corresponding impressions'


(Atherton, 1999: vii)
Atherton, (1999) the Empiricists: Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley and Hume. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
(Atherton, 1999: viii)
Atherton, (1999) the Empiricists: Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley and Hume. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

(Atherton, 1999: viii)
Atherton, (1999) the Empiricists: Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley and Hume. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Interpretivism
- Truth is not absolute, but decided by human judgment
- About understanding “meaning” of action from an actor's perspective
Positivism
'The term positivism is used by philosophers and social scientists to denote the the acceptance of natural science as the paradigm of human knowledge'
And this image?
Beliefs
knowledge
The woodchopper is chopping wood - How can we understand this?
[1] Observational understanding: putting it into context 
[2] Explanatory understanding: understanding motive 
[1+2] Understanding the complete act

Weber's interpretivism
Cohen et al, 2007:8)
Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge Flamer.
What meanings does this image convey?
A rabbit or a duck?
Kuhn said that “what were ducks in the scientists’ world before the revolution are rabbits afterwards”
(Kuhn 1970: 111).
Another example Kuhn gives is the discovery of the planet Uranus:
 
‘On at least seventeen different occasions between 1690 and 1781, a number of astronomers had seen a star in position… we now know must have been occupied by Uranus. Herschel… was able to notice an apparent disk-size that was at least unusual for stars… Herschel therefore announced that he had seen a new comet! Only several months later, after fruitless attempts to fit the observed motion to a cometary orbit, did Lexell suggest the orbit was probably planetary. When that suggestion was accepted, there were several fewer stars and one more planet in the world…’
(Kuhn 1970: 115)

For Kuhn, it was the ‘consequences’ of this discovery which were ‘more far-reaching’.
For it was no accident that Astronomers right after this event would go on to find many other planets or asteroids, in the same places they had been looking for years (See Kuhn 1970 for many other “paradigm-induced changes in scientific perception”).

Kuhn, T (1964) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Online pdf version of Kuhn’s book: http://turkpsikiyatri.org/arsiv/kuhn-ssr-2nded.pdf

(Munz, 1985:18)
Munz, P. (1985) our Knowledge of the Growth of Knowledge: Popper or Wittgenstein. London: routledge and Kegan Paul.
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