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Epistemic Principles

A Primer for the Theory of Knowledge

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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 16. Problems of Prediction

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PROBLEMS OF PREDICTION

In antiquity oracles—and above it the oracle of Delphi—provided means of setting future-oriented issues. At this time of day, however, the rationale of our predictions is generally provided through the teachings of science—as with astronomical or meteorological predictions, for example. All the same, rational prediction can also—and quite appropriately—be of an informal sort based simply on the common course of everyday experience. One need not understand how electric mechanisms work and how internal combustion engines function to predict with total appropriateness that one’s car will start upon turning the ignition key. Rational prediction as such does not require a mastery of the scientific details. I can predict with unqualified confidence (and unimpeachable appropriateness) that the bright sunshine we are now enjoying will melt the circumambient snow away. My lack of understanding of the sun’s thermonuclear processes and the physics of thermal radiation (i.e. the lack of detailed scientific infrastructure) nowise undermines the security or the rationality of my prediction. For sure, scientific predictions are thereby superior as science; but this does not by itself make them superior—or safer—as predictions.

All the same, the predictive enterprise conducted at any given juncture inevitably reflects the prevailing state of knowledge. Every cognitive state of ← 91 | 92 → the art has its own agenda of predictive questions. All questions have presuppositions, and at any particular juncture some questions do not arise. If Henry has never...

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