Epistemology and methodology: main trends and ends

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Anton Matyukhin

ICEF, GROUP 3,

ENGLISH GROUP 1.

ESSAY IN PHILOSOPHY

EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY: MAIN TRENDS AND ENDS.

Международный Институт Экономики и Финансов, 1 курс,

Высшая школа экономики.

30.03.1999.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Epistemology.

History.

Epistemology as a discipline

TWO EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS

Implications.

Methodology.

Some Mental Activities Common to All Methods.

Observation and Experiment.

Analysis and Synthesis.

Imagination, Supposition and Idealisation.

Inference.

Comparison and Analogy.

Classification.

Inductive and deductive methods.

The Deductive-inductive Method.

RELATION OF EPISTEMOLOGY TO OTHER BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY

Bibliography.

Epistemology.

Epistemology is one of the main branches of philosophy; its subject matter concerns the nature, origin, scope, and limits of human knowledge. The name is derived from the Greek terms episteme (knowledge) and logos (theory), and accordingly this branch of philosophy is also referred to as the theory of knowledge.

It is the branch of philosophy that investigates the basic nature of knowledge, including its sources and validation. Epistemology is concerned with the basic relationship between man’s mind and reality, and with the basic operations of human reason. It therefore sets the standards for the validation of all knowledge; it is the fundamental arbiter of cognitive method.

Epistemology as a term in philosophy was prob​ably first applied, by J. F. Ferrier, to that department of thought whose subject matter is the nature and validity of knowledge (Gr. epistimum, knowledge, and logos, theory, account; Ger. Erkenntnistheorie). It is thus contrasted with metaphysics, which considers the nature of reality, and with psychology, which deals with the objective part of cognition, and, as Prof. James Ward said, "is essentially genetic in its method." Epistemology is con​cerned rather with the possibility of knowledge in the abstract. In the evolution of thought epistemological inquiry succeeded the speculations of the early thinkers, who concerned themselves primarily with attempts to explain existence. The differences of opinion, which arose on this problem naturally, led to the inquiry as to whether any universally valid statement was possible. The Sophists and the Sceptics, Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics and the Epicureans took up the question and from the time of Locke and Kant it has been prominent in modern philosophy. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to draw a hard and fast line between epistemology and other branches of philosophy. If, for example, philosophy is divided into the theory of knowing and the theory of being, it is impossible entirely to separate the latter (Ontology) from the analysis of knowledge (Epistemology), so close is the connection 'between the two. Again, the relation between logic in its widest sense and the theory of knowledge is extremely close. Some thinkers have identified the two, while others regard Epistemology as a subdivision of logic; others de​marcate their relative spheres by confining logic to the science of the laws of thought, i.e., to formal logic. An attempt has been made by some philosophers to substitute "Gnosiology" for "Epistemology" as a special term for that part of Epistemology which is confined to "systematic analysis of the conceptions employed by ordinary and scientific thought in inter​preting the world, and including an investigation of the art of knowledge, or the nature of knowledge as such." "Epistemology" would thus be reserved for the broad questions of "the origin, nature and limits of knowledge". The term Gnosiology has not come into general use.

History.

Epistemological issues have been discussed throughout the history of philosophy. Among the ancient Greeks, questions of knowledge were raised by Plato and Aristotle, as well as by the Sophists and the Sceptics, and many of the chief issues, positions and arguments were explored at this time. In the systems of Plato and Aristotle, however, epistemological questions were largely subordinated to metaphysical ones, and epistemology did not emerge as a distinct area of inquiry.