The concept of truth criteria appeared while browsing the Wikipedia article on Truth. What is the motivation behind this problem? Why is it important? In addition to the two questions in the title.

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    Before we can know specific facts we must have a criterion for distinguishing knowledge from non-knowledge. Before we can have a criterion for distinguishing knowledge we must know some specific facts. That's the problem. Stoics believed that mind is capable of katalepsis, intuitive knowledge of what is perceived truly, so they denied the second premise. This is not very plausible today, which revived the problem in modern epistemology, as discussed at length by IEP.
    – Conifold
    Nov 27, 2022 at 6:02
  • @Conifold It seems to me that intuitive / unconscious knowledge is the only way reason could avoid a bootstrap problem. Things can only be explained in terms of other things. You can't explain reason with reason.
    – Scott Rowe
    Dec 28, 2022 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


The problem of the criterion, in a nutshell is this (courtesy Roderick Chisholm)

  1. What do we know?
  2. How do we know?

To answer question 1, to get our hands on particular instances of knowledge we must have a criterion for knowledge.

To answer question 2, we need particular instances of knowledge to develop the criterion

In other words, a chicken-and-egg problem. To develop a criterion (the egg) we need particular instances of knowledge (the chicken). To get particular instances of knowledge (the chicken) we need a criterion (the egg). That is to say we can't have either.

There are two ways out of this vicious loop according to the Wikipedia page.

  1. Methodism (criterion comes first)
  2. Particularism (particular instances of knowledge come first)

Records show that no school of philosophy, including the stoics, ever really solved the problem. Stoic catalepsis doesn't offer a solution except if by "solution" we mean stubborn insistence that one is right.

My two drachmas.

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    It appears to me that in general we notice things and then construct a theory to explain them. If we didn't notice something, we wouldn't bother to explain. Constructing explanations first is what people call "a fishing expedition".
    – Scott Rowe
    Dec 29, 2022 at 11:58
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    There's something very a priori about the idea that a/the criterion for knowledge comes first and likewise, something very a posteriori about the inverse, that particular instances of knowledge is what we start with.
    – Hudjefa
    Dec 29, 2022 at 12:04
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    I was always suspicious of a priori: where does it come from? Explanation after the fact is what everyone does, it's just a matter of doing it correctly.
    – Scott Rowe
    Dec 29, 2022 at 13:37
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    Unfortunately, I can no more add anything substantive to the discussion, not that I have.
    – Hudjefa
    Dec 29, 2022 at 14:12

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