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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 17. Error and Cognitive Risk


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Our epistemic situation is such that there is no categorical and automatic guarantee that objective factual claims for whose acceptance we have warranted evidentiation are in fact true. What we accept in factual matters is always at risk. In consequence, we have so set a threshold for acceptable risk, throughout our cognitive operations because things can go wrong. The prospect of error is ubiquitous and pervasive through the cognitive domain. For while questions usually have only one correct answer, there is always the prospect of endlessly many incorrect ones.

Error can come to us alike by the route of omission as that of commission. And while we want processes that are free alike from error of commission and errors of omission, the reality of it is that we just cannot have it both ways; in expelling the one we invite the other.

Granted we can expel error with a limited range of deliberation: there is, for example, no reason why it should invade a listing of the state capitals of the USA. But of course that saving limitation is itself an indication of the problem. For here we avoid errors of omission only because so much else has been exiled from our purview. But when dealing not with lists but with open-ended issues, things look quite different. ← 96 | 97 →

There is, unfortunately, no single way in by which error enters into human...

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