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Questions tagged [epistemology]

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, acquisition thereof, and the justification of belief in a given claim.

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How does one know one is not dreaming?

How could one logically demonstrate to someone skeptical that one is "really" there, and awake, and not just dreaming about the entire world around them? Which philosophers or philosophies ...
wizlog's user avatar
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97 votes
31 answers
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What would it take in a book to convince a rational person that it had been written by or directly inspired by a god?

Many of the world's religions are based on a book or text that adherents claim to have been written by or directly inspired by a god, perhaps omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. My question is ...
JDH's user avatar
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91 votes
22 answers
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Could 'cogito ergo sum' possibly be false?

I've heard it postulated by some people that "we can't truly know anything". While that does seem to apply to the vast majority of things, I can't see how 'cogito ergo sum' can possibly be false. ...
Jez's user avatar
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75 votes
11 answers
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How can an uneducated but rational person differentiate between science and religion? [closed]

I recently found myself unable to respond to the statement "But the big bang theory is just another creation myth!" during a science vs. religion argument. I found it very difficult to explain the ...
Alexander S King's user avatar
57 votes
18 answers
15k views

Why aren't creationism and natural science on the same intellectual level?

In the infamous creation museum a strategically very shrewd exhibit, where a scientist and a biblical scholar both study the same fossils, is being presented: The sign says “different scientists ...
vonjd's user avatar
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49 votes
10 answers
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Why should one accept trivial claims without evidence?

There are certain claims that I accept as obviously true without (much) evidence. For example: Most people don't like to be hit on the head with a hammer. Donald Trump ate dinner some time last week. ...
Rebecca J. Stones's user avatar
45 votes
9 answers
3k views

What basis do we have for certainty in current scientific theories?

Given there is much past scientific belief that we now know NOT to be true, what basis do we have for the seemingly increasing certainty in our scientific beliefs held today being true? On the one ...
James Tauber's user avatar
44 votes
12 answers
19k views

Fallacy by Sherlock Holmes 'Eliminate the impossible, and what remains must be the truth'

In The Sign of Four, Holmes asks Watson: "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" This may be ...
Mogli's user avatar
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40 votes
11 answers
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What should philosophers know about math and natural sciences?

My question is whether a lack of knowledge about formal mathematics or theoretical science in general would have an impact on a philosopher's ability to think and make judgments. Why should a ...
35 votes
16 answers
17k views

Fundamental idea on proving God's existence with science

I think that proving God's existence or any deity from any culture with the rigors of science is fundamentally absurd. The popular arguments usually involve space-time and the big bang theory. (I ...
TheLast Cipher's user avatar
35 votes
9 answers
7k views

To what extent do we choose our beliefs?

Are we free to choose our beliefs? Or is our belief in a proposition something that is thrust upon us by the weight of the evidence we have in favor and against the truth of it? For example, is it ...
JDH's user avatar
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33 votes
9 answers
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When is absence of evidence not evidence of absence?

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." I think this statement raises some kind of epistemic problem. Like, how are we supposed to conclude the potential non-existence of something, like ...
vorpal professor's user avatar
33 votes
7 answers
2k views

Are Methodological Assumptions of StackExchange Fundamentally Flawed?

I looked here for an answer while writing a paper on evidence and scientific inference. I then saw the bold claims made by the website that the process goes as follows: Anybody can ask a question ...
KKell's user avatar
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32 votes
4 answers
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What are the philosophical implications of Gödel's First Incompleteness Theorem?

Gödel's First Incompleteness Theorem states Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any ...
Joseph Weissman's user avatar
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27 votes
12 answers
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Are there any philosophical arguments to disprove or weaken solipsism?

My philosophy professor once told our class: The only people who believe in solipsism are infants and madmen. I was inclined to agree at the time. Yet years later, I have still not encountered any ...
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26 votes
14 answers
5k views

Is mathematics founded on beliefs and assumptions?

Note: I originally posted the question in meta.math.stackexchange.com but I reckon this would suit a more philosophical audience so I am posting it here. Background: I am a 28 year old ...
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24 votes
5 answers
6k views

Is Skepticism the most rational standpoint?

Is Philosophical Skepticism - the one that advocates true knowledge is impossible, the most rational standpoint? I am asking this based on the observation that there are very few things whose ...
AIB's user avatar
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23 votes
19 answers
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Can we prove reality?

I heard someone make an assertion that 'We cannot really prove that there is reality.'. 'Reality' here would mean the universe and everything in it. You could look at an apple and think its an apple ...
martinverdejo's user avatar
23 votes
8 answers
3k views

Is scientism a self defeating epistemology?

Some who have argued against the validity of scientism have argued that the view that only science can uncover truth is not a scientific discovery but rather a epistemology. Hence it has been claimed ...
Neil Meyer's user avatar
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23 votes
2 answers
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Why aren't pure apperception and empirical apperception structurally identical, even though they are functionally identical in Kant's Anthropology?

I can't be the only one who finds this strange. Section 7 of Anthropology from a Pragmatic Perspective, entitled "On Sensibility in contrast to understanding", reads as follows: In regard ...
Benoît's user avatar
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22 votes
12 answers
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How does one tell apart left from right?

I can look at one hand and know (not necessarily immediately) that "This is my left hand". How do I know this? (How can I be so successful at judging this?) This question is inspired by the classic ...
Mitch's user avatar
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22 votes
9 answers
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Is economics a science?

In class, I made the argument that economics is not science, because it cannot undertake repeatable experiments. Someone rebutted: this would mean that I am ignore an emerging body of work, some by ...
Aleesha's user avatar
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22 votes
8 answers
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Is 1+1=2 true by definition ?

Is 1+1=2 true by definition ? Or, is there a way to prove it? I'm trying to understand how do we know it's true, and how to reply if someone is skeptical or denies that 1+1=2.
YoMrWhite's user avatar
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21 votes
14 answers
6k views

What is a straight line?

I am not a philosopher; I am an engineer with a reasonable grasp of mathematics. This question has been bothering me for a long time, and I have asked a variation of it to a mathematical community. ...
MGA's user avatar
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21 votes
6 answers
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Are the unexamined lives of others worth examining?

Socrates continually admonished his interlocutors to become more introspective, arguing passionately for self-examination: The unexamined life is not worth living. But an examined life is painful, ...
Joseph Weissman's user avatar
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21 votes
2 answers
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Is Science about Truth or Adequate Models?

Is it the general view amongst philosophers of science that science isn't about truth but rather adequately predictive models and therefore it doesn't make sense to speak of a scientific theory as ...
James Tauber's user avatar
20 votes
4 answers
18k views

What are some methods of defining things?

In my experience, many definitions define an object/idea by merely listing it's characteristics. For example: Avocado a large, usually pear-shaped fruit having green to blackish skin, a single ...
Hugo's user avatar
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19 votes
9 answers
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What is the term for the fallacy/strategy of ignoring logical reasoning intended to disprove a belief?

Updated 10/19/2018 -- Regards for all the responses. Much appreciated. To address the point of fact that one cannot "prove" anything about reality: Yes, I agree. This is the reason I now set my ...
McMahon's user avatar
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19 votes
19 answers
4k views

If philosophy is based on reason and rationality, then why is there so much disagreement?

If philosophy is based on reason and rationality, then why is there so much disagreement? Is it due primarily to operating with different premises absent consensus on their truth, so that dissenters ...
Just Some Old Man's user avatar
19 votes
6 answers
1k views

Do any philosophers disagree with Occam's razor?

I never bought into the razor. For example, if I have two hypotheses A and B with equal evidence, the razor would have me pick the simpler one. But personally in my mind, I create a sort of credence-...
Mike Izbicki's user avatar
18 votes
15 answers
8k views

Why is the Münchhausen trilemma an unsolved problem?

Why is the Münchhausen trilemma unsolved? Couldn't anybody find some reasons for proving/disproving it? Or are there other reasons for it being called "unsolved"? the trilemma If we ask of ...
user21087's user avatar
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18 votes
14 answers
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Is God subject to logic?

If someone claims that God is beyond logic then how do we know he is beyond logic ? (as we lose all the methods to know whether the claim is true or not?) Logic is the use and study of valid reasoning,...
Arun's user avatar
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18 votes
7 answers
920 views

Is it possible for a layperson to suitably evaluate scientific disputes?

As a layperson, I try not to fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect. As an example, one area where I know that I am vulnerable is when biochemistry intersects with nutrition and disease. Is it ...
Dave Liepmann's user avatar
18 votes
7 answers
2k views

How can the physical world be an abstract mathematical structure a la Tegmark?

This is Tegmark's short formulation of the "mathematical universe" (paraphrased by detractors as "reality made of math"), and he goes out of his way to stress that he means the "is" literally:"Whereas ...
Conifold's user avatar
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18 votes
3 answers
928 views

What are the philosophical consequences of the undecidability of the spectral gap in quantum theory?

An article published in Nature yesterday proves that finding the spectral gap of a material based on a complete quantum level description of the material is undecidable (in the Turing sense). One of ...
Alexander S King's user avatar
18 votes
8 answers
2k views

Which comes first - truth or provability?

When I'm thinking about mathematics, I usually imagine that every sentence in the language of arithmetic is either true or false, in reality. Thus, I imagine that truth comes first. Afterwards come ...
goblin GONE's user avatar
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17 votes
8 answers
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Is it fallacious to argue that something is correct, of good quality, or acceptable because a community of experts has established it as such?

Earlier today, I asked a programming question on a forum. I phrased the question as "What is the best way to do x?" Someone responded with something to the effect of, "the best way is ...
AffableAmbler's user avatar
17 votes
4 answers
5k views

How could one distinguish crankery from serious work?

Suppose I read a work, and I don't understand it or see its meaning, then it could be that either the information itself is inconsistent/non-sensical or I don't understand it personally. How do I know ...
Babu's user avatar
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17 votes
7 answers
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Please explain to a beginner: what is metaphysics?

As I understand it, most or all of philosophy can be put into the three main branches of philosophy: Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Axiology. A devotee of reason, I have great affinity for, and ...
Sindyr's user avatar
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17 votes
7 answers
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Can a lack of knowledge or understanding invalidate a positive claim?

Consider the example of causal determinism. It can be phrased in many ways, all with identical meaning: - The idea that "every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is ...
stoicfury's user avatar
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17 votes
1 answer
701 views

Does Alvin Plantinga's account of epistemic warrant require belief in God?

On Plantinga's account, true belief becomes knowledge under epistemic warrant; and epistemic warrant requires the 'proper functioning' of our cognitive faculties in the right kind of cognitive ...
Tom Morris's user avatar
17 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are all philosophers subject to a variation of the Socrates problem?

Obviously, the specific problem of knowing who Socrates was and what he taught is wholly unique to the man. However, reading books and articles about philosophers and philosophy, I'm struck by the ...
Jon Ericson's user avatar
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16 votes
19 answers
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What is the difference between knowledge and belief?

Sometimes this image is used to explain what agnosticism is and how it's independent from belief: It makes some sense but I still have confusion understanding it. What is the difference between ...
CiscoIPPhone's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
4k views

Are there any philosophers that argued for knowledge having intrinsic value?

Many (if not most) philosophers agree that knowledge has value. However, does it have intrinsic value, or is its value purely in its ability to affect things outside of the realm of knowledge? Are ...
Cort Ammon's user avatar
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15 votes
15 answers
2k views

Can we know that something exists even if we can't explain or define it?

Can a person know that something like "free will" must exist even though an exact definition in words, using language, cannot be provided, and in the absence of a complete theory that ...
Mark's user avatar
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15 votes
7 answers
15k views

How do animals think if they don't speak a language?

The way we humans think and reason involves us using words to describe things. Even when thinking in our heads, we use words to think. This begs the question, how do animals who don't understand a ...
mdlp0716's user avatar
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15 votes
7 answers
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What are examples of analytic a posteriori knowledge?

There is the analytic/synthetic distinction and the a priori/a posteriori distinction. These two distinctions form four types of knowledge: analytic a priori synthetic a priori analytic a posteriori ...
usr's user avatar
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15 votes
8 answers
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Can one prove a negative existential claim?

A major concern in epistemology is just what we can know about existential claims, that is, claims about the existence (or lack of) something. Suppose for example that I assert the following: The ...
commando's user avatar
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15 votes
6 answers
570 views

Is a language its dictionary?

A dictionary defines words in a language, in terms of other words in that same language. An English dictionary is not the same as a Spanish dictionary, simply because the sets of English words and ...
Dan Brumleve's user avatar
15 votes
5 answers
8k views

Is Galileo's argument about falling bodies logically flawed?

Galileo's famous argument against the Aristotle's theory of falling bodies goes like this (taken from THEP forum, now defunct):"Let's say heavy objects do fall faster than light ones. Then it ...
Conifold's user avatar
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