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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 8. From Conjecture to Belief and from Belief to Knowledge


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Of course, conjecture is not the end of the cognitive line. Rational belief takes matters a step further. But just what more needs to be added? As noted above, conjectures can be validated negatively, when plausibilities encounter no obstacles and are free of plausible counter-indications. But something more than a lack of con-indications is needed to warrant rational belief, namely the presence of significant pro-indications. For to believe something is to accord it a level of credence beyond mere conjecture albeit generally short of what we would claim as outright knowledge.

With belief one steps beyond the tentativity of conjecture. So while a mere conjecture can be warranted along the negative pathway (via negativa) of a presumption clear of any indications to the contrary, the warranting of belief requires some positive support. Such support can be obtained principally along two lines: evidentiation and harmonization. For a claim can be substantiated either by the substantiation provided by evidentiation from other data or by the coordination of smooth fit into the larger fabric of already available information. Of course both of these factors—both substantiation and coordination—are matters of degree, of more or less. Belief is a matter of greater or lesser confidence, and at some point rationally warranted belief is going to spill over into putative knowledge. ← 34 | 35 →

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