Epistemology Without History is Blind

Philip Kitcher
2011 Erkenntnis: An International Journal of Scientific Philosophy  
In the spirit of James and Dewey, I ask what one might want from a theory of knowledge. Much Anglophone epistemology is centered on questions that were once highly pertinent, but are no longer central to broader human and scientific concerns. The first sense in which epistemology without history is blind lies in the tendency of philosophers to ignore the history of philosophical problems. A second sense consists in the perennial attraction of approaches to knowledge that divorce knowing
more » ... from their societies and from the tradition of socially assembling a body of transmitted knowledge. When epistemology fails to use the history of inquiry as a laboratory in which methodological claims can be tested, there is a third way in which it becomes blind. Finally, lack of attention to the growth of knowledge in various domains leaves us with puzzles about the character of the knowledge we have. I illustrate this last theme by showing how reflections on the history of mathematics can expand our options for understanding mathematical knowledge.
doi:10.1007/s10670-011-9334-7 fatcat:njharnpskjaaren533jpzaowki