AQA Unit 3 Revision: Epistemology

This is the entirety of my revision notes for the Epistemology section of Unit 3. I am currently producing my Metaphysics section (though I lack a fair amount of the information so it's slow going).

This covers, Gettier Problems, Truth, Plato's definition of what counts as Knowledge and so on.

There may be things in this that are wrong, or inaccurate; but my philosophy teacher had a look-see and proclaimed it all correct (I'm a sceptic though).

If anybody wishes for me to do essay plans then please send me a message or leave a comment; I will attempt to do them ASAP.


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  • Created by: Kathryn.C
  • Created on: 20-04-12 11:24
Preview of AQA Unit 3 Revision: Epistemology

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Epistemology and Metaphysics
Topic One: Epistemology
In Topic One we study the following theories, arguments, and analyses in detail
Mitigated Scepticism
Hume's Naturalism
Ayer's Phenomenalism
Mill's Phenomenalism
Kant's Transcendental Arguments
Wittgenstein's Language Games and the Linguistic Approach
Knowledge, belief and justification
Internalism and Externalism
Gettier Problems

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Epistemology is the nature of knowledge
It includes the standard analysis of knowledge from Plato that something that is a true
justified belief is knowledge for us.
However, the Sceptic challenges this analysis. The refutation of Scepticism includes the
following arguments from David Hume
Mitigated Scepticism
Hume's Naturalism (including Hume's faith).
The Sceptic's position however, only has power within philosophical circles, i.e. during the
circumstances when we contemplate philosophically.…read more

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There are several attempts to refute Scepticism as a whole, with Hume's Mitigated Scepticism
being one form of this.
The other various arguments are as follows below:
Excessive Scepticism, not Mitigated Scepticism, has no impact on common life there is
nothing we can do with it in the real world, and there is nothing the Sceptic can do with it either
therefore it is invalid as an argument.…read more

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Popular objections are based on moments when our perception is wrong and relates to
arguments from illusion for example, disagreements about room temperature are an example
of popular objections.
Philosophical objections however, are also known as 'Excessive Scepticism' since they
focus on philosophical questions, and philosophical impacts. The Dream Realm Theory
proposed by Descartes is often used for this type of objection since it is designed to make us
question whether or not we're in a dream or reality.…read more

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Reason does play a part in the formation of beliefs we need to use reason and
experience together to form the best beliefs.
o From universal experiences, we need to use reason in order for our beliefs to form and in
order for these experiences to be of any use to us.…read more

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These, 'clusters' of possible sensations are what material objects are. A material object is
a collection of sensations that do occur and those that could occur.
o We derive the complexity of ideas of space, distance and perspective from the complex
association between sensations that we make automatically. As a result, we then think
material objects are the cause of the sensations that do occur since only certain
sensations occur out of a collection of possible sensations.…read more

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Ayer says that within Phenomenalism, inductive reasoning is based on the principle that, patterns
of past experience are a reliable guide to possible future patterns of experience.
Ayer says that we find that the world is made up of reliable and regular clusters of sense data and
so we can reason inductively and make reliable predictions about the world.…read more

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If all we have is sense data then what distinction can we make between sense data that is an
illusion, or hallucination, and sense data which is real?
Ayer would say, that we can tell the difference because the sense data that makes up reality is
stable and provides patterns and regular clusters of experience.…read more

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If 'y' is an actual fact of the world, then 'x' must be the cause because 'y' is only possible in
virtue of 'x'.
If we can show that 'x' is the very thing that makes the Sceptic's doubt possible, but at the same
time that 'x' depends upon the very thing that the Sceptic is doubting, then the Sceptic will no
longer be entitled to doubt 'x' as a result.…read more

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The Sceptic's challenge must be presented in such a way that it has to assume that there are
others that endure in time and so the Sceptic is reliant upon the concept of 'duration' when they
argue with us.
As such, the Sceptic can't consistently doubt the external world without fear of contradiction.
Hilary Putnam says that, when we ask the question "could I be a brain in a vat?" we do so via a
particular language this particular type of language is 'real.…read more


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