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Introduction to Western Epistemology

Categories: Natural Philosophy
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About Course

Western philosophy comprises many broad areas such as epistemology, ontology, ethics, and aesthetics. This course focuses on epistemology. We begin by discussing two prominent theories called Rationalism and Empiricism. Since both theories failed in different ways, we will then discuss the attempts to combine them in Foundationalism and Coherentism, and why those combinations also did not work. Finally, we will discuss how the above failures led 20th-century philosophy to doctrines called Pragmatism, Operationalism, and Instrumentalism, which make knowledge a pathway to developing technology, solving the day-to-day problems of life, but not necessarily true. We take a historical approach to epistemology discussing the sequence of problems, their proposed solutions, and their collapse.

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Course Content

The Problem of Knowledge
Can reality be known? How can reality be known? A close examination of these questions reveals that reality can only be known under conditions that are either rejected or neglected in Western philosophy, making knowledge impossible..

  • Truth vs. Evidence
  • Western vs. Indian Epistemology Differences
  • Assumptions of Western Epistemology
  • The Theory of Consciousness

Epistemology: Rationalism and Its Failures
Western epistemology recognizes two dominant methods of knowing called reason and observation, which lead to rationalism and empiricism. In this lesson, we will explore the method of reasoning, or rationalism, and its flaws.

Epistemology: Empiricism and Its Failures
The method of empiricism suffers from the problem of interpreting the observations. Given multiple possible interpretations of the same observation, empiricism never produces certainty of knowledge. This lesson explores the history of problems empiricism has suffered from.

Offshoots of Reason and Experience
After the demise of empricism and rationalism, there were attempts to create new doctrines of truth, all of which failed. Epistemology then took the bold step of cynically rejecting its preoccupation with truth, beauty, and morality, and replacing them with pragmatic economic success.

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