, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 303–324 | Cite as

Historical Epistemology or History of Epistemology? The Case of the Relation Between Perception and Judgment

Dedicated to Günther Patzig on his 85th birthday
  • Thomas Sturm
Original Article


This essay aims to sharpen debates on the pros and cons of historical epistemology, which is now understood as a novel approach to the study of knowledge, by comparing it with the history of epistemology as traditionally pursued by philosophers. The many versions of both approaches are not always easily discernable. Yet, a reasoned comparison of certain versions can and should be made. In the first section of this article, I argue that the most interesting difference involves neither the subject matter nor goal, but the methods used by the two approaches. In the second section, I ask which of the two approaches or methods is more promising given that both historical epistemologists and historians of epistemology claim to contribute to epistemology simpliciter. Using traditional problems concerning the epistemic role of perception, I argue that the historical epistemologies of Wartofsky and Daston and Galison fail to show that studying practices of perception is philosophically significant. Standard methods from the history of epistemology are more promising, as I show by means of reconstructing arguments in a debate about the relation between perception and judgment in psychological research on the famous moon illusion.


Epistemic Justification Rational Reconstruction Epistemological Problem Perceptual Illusion Epistemic Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Alix Hui, John Carson, Uljana Feest, Kyle Stanford, Jens Timmermann, and two anonymous referees for valuable comments and criticism. Cynthia Klohr made helpful suggestions for wording the text. Special thanks go to Lorraine Daston, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger and Jürgen Renn, whose work provoked me to think more clearly about the relation between philosophy and the history of science. Completion of this essay was supported by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) and by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation, Reference number FFI 2008-01559/FISO.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de FilosofiaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Barcelona)Spain

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