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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 15. Cognitive Importance


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A dictionary will define importance somewhat as follows: “having great significance, weight, consequence, or value.” And it will go on to list such synonyms as significance, essentiality, moment, and such antonyms as insignificance, negligibility, triviality. The important things are clearly those that count and the unimportant ones those that don’t. But how is the score to be kept?

Cognitive importance is the characteristic standard by which we assess the value of knowledge. It relates to what is important for understanding—for the enlargement and improvement of the body of information at our disposal. Other things being equal, cognitive importance pivots on such parameters as (inherent) significance, centrality, generality, and fertility. Cognitive significance is a matter of serviceability for achieving a comprehensively informative orientation toward the world about us. It pivots on the value of knowledge for knowledge’s sake; that is, for realizing the satisfactions of understanding, as such.

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