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Epistemology

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-P059-1
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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P059-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 18, 2017, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/overview/epistemology/v-1

2. The naturalistic answers: causes of belief

There is a second general strategy for addressing the Gettier Problem that falls outside of the normative tradition and lies squarely within the naturalistic tradition (see Quine, W.V.). As the name suggests, the naturalistic tradition describes knowledge as a natural phenomenon occurring in a wide range of subjects. Adult humans may employ reasoning to arrive at some of their knowledge, but the naturalists are quick to point out that children and adult humans arrive at knowledge in ways that do not appear to involve any reasoning whatsoever. Roughly, when a true belief has the appropriate causal history, then the belief counts as knowledge (see Knowledge, causal theory of).

Suppose that I am informed by a reliable person that the temperature outside the building is warmer now than it was two hours ago. That certainly looks like a bit of knowledge gained and there could be good reasons provided for the belief. The normativists would appeal to those good reasons to account for the acquisition of knowledge. The naturalists, however, would argue that true belief resulting from testimony from a reliable source is sufficient for knowledge (see Social epistemology; Testimony).

Testimony is just one reliable way of gaining knowledge (see Reliabilism). There are other ways such as sense perception, memory and reasoning. Of course, sometimes these sources are faulty (see Memory, epistemology of). A central task of naturalized epistemology is to characterize conditions in which reliable information is obtained (see Information theory and epistemology). Thus, in some of its forms, naturalized epistemology can be seen as a branch of cognitive psychology, and the issues can be addressed by empirical investigation.

Now let us return to the Gettier Problem. Recall that it arose in response to the recognition that truth might be obtained through a felicitous coincidence. The naturalistic tradition ties together the belief and truth conditions of knowledge in a straightforward way by requiring that the means by which the true belief is produced or maintained should be reliable.

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Citing this article:
Klein, Peter D.. The naturalistic answers: causes of belief. Epistemology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P059-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/overview/epistemology/v-1/sections/the-naturalistic-answers-causes-of-belief-1.
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