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Epistemic Principles

A Primer for the Theory of Knowledge


Nicholas Rescher

Epistemic Principles: A Primer of the Theory of Knowledge presents a compact account of the basic principles of the theory of knowledge. In doing this, Nicholas Rescher aims to fill the current gap in contemporary philosophical theory of knowledge with a comprehensive analysis of epistemological fundamentals. The book is not a mere inventory of such rules and principles, but rather interweaves them into a continuous exposition of basic issues. Written at a user-friendly and accessible level, Epistemic Principles is an essential addition for both advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology.
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Chapter 1. Principles


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A first-order rule is a generalization specifying what is to be done in a particular case; a principle is a second-order rule for determining what rule is to be followed. First order rules specify what to do; principles specify how to figure out what to do. “Look it up in the encyclopedia” is a first-order cognitive rule; “Get the answer from a reliable source” is a cognitive principle. The present book will deal specifically with principles of cognition—the rules that govern procedures for the acquisition and management of information.

The function of procedural principles is to guide the process of decision. Unlike directives they do not purport to make our decisions for us but only canalize them toward certain destinations. They issue injunctions along such lines as:

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