Quine's Argument for Naturalized Epistemology
In a very influential article, Quine suggests that traditional investigations into epistemology are hopeless. They should be replaced by what he called "Naturalized Epistemology."
Why should epistemology be "naturalized"?So what's an epistemologist to do?Quine begins by recalling how the traditional epistemological foundationalist project has failed: He has Descartes & Hume in mind.(i) the Cartesian quest for certainty fails - we cannot get from reasoning to certain foundations for knowledge of the world
(ii) Hume's problem of induction shows that no knowledge about the world can be logically deduced from observations we make about the worldQuine's Suggestion: Give up traditional epistemology.What does this mean?
On the traditional approach epistemology precedes science. (Again, think of Descartes.) Epistemology establishes what is justified as knowledge, and since Descartes, that has meant primarily establishing at least that the conclusions of science count as empirical knowledge. Traditional epistemology is normative: it recommends particular methodologies for doing science
Instead, Quine proposes an image of epistemology within science:
"Epistemology in its new setting ... is contained in natural science, as a chapter of psychology." (260)We should give up the normative aspect of epistemology.Reactions to Quine's Proposal
Forget how we ought to form beliefs (e.g., forget justification), focus on how we do form beliefs.
"The stimulation of his sensory receptors is all the evidence anybody has had to go on, ultimately, in arriving at his picture of the world. Why not just see how this construction really proceeds? Why not settle for psychology?" (256)
While some have bought wholeheartedly into Quine's suggestion, others have not. (Some even doubt this is his suggestion.)(1) Defending normative epistemologySome argue we can carry on doing traditional epistemology as long as we give up Cartesian aspirations to certainty.(2) Paying greater attention to what science tells us
This attitude is often combined with response #2.That is, avoid 'armchair epistemology'. Check your epistemological theories against scientific evidence.(3) Bringing philosophy to bear on scientific problems
Much work in reliabilism is influenced by this idea. The "reliabilist" view holds that justification is a consequence of establishing one's beliefs on the basis of methodologies which have proved reliable. Since the reliability of any proposed method for deciding what is rational to believe is itself an empirical question, such questions are to be settled by scientific methods which have thus far proved reliable.E.g., Cognitive science. Philosophical work on consciousness.(4) Reconceiving Epistemology as 'the Science Police'(i) "a verb-sense of epistemology, ... drawing ongoing critical attention to particular kinds of motivating concerns, questions, and methods" (286)
(ii) historical epistemology - studying where particular (scientific) concepts came from (studying 'social construction')