Informational Semantics and Epistemic Arrogance

  • S. Silvers
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 72)


An adequate epistemology of human knowledge should explain what is assumed to be distinctive about that knowledge. The assumption that human knowledge is distinct in kind is challenged by various forms of naturalized epistemology. Tradition has it that it’s the propositional character of human knowledge that distinguishes it from all other kinds. This suggests that if we can explain how the human mind entertains propositions we will have explained human cognition, rational action (behavior under the causal control of logically coherent thought patterns), and gained insight into human cognitive hegemony. A naturalistic explanation of human knowledge and cognition cannot permit itself the metaphysical luxury of Descartes’ dualistic ontology. Descartes’ discontinuity thesis explains the distinctiveness of human knowledge by severing it and, especially the minds that have it, from everything else. It is the urge to naturalize that creates the tension with what we identify as the human cognitive advantage, namely, rational thought.1 One part of the argument for the propositional character of human knowledge rehearses Descartes’ discontinuity thesis that distinguishes human linguistic capacity as sui generis and locates the mental outside the natural order. The other part of the argument attempts to show that while thought, in practice, is discontinuous with the mental capacities of the beasts, it is nevertheless explainable compatibly with the resources of natural science. This is, of course, precisely what Descartes denied.


Human Knowledge Propositional Attitude Rational Belief Abductive Inference Naturalize Epistemology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Silvers
    • 1
  1. 1.Clemson UniversityUSA

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