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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 28. Fact, Fiction, and Functional Surrogacy


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· 28 ·


Homo sapiens is an amphibian. We live in the real world through our emplacement in space and time, equipped with bodies that can act upon and interact with the other physical realities that exist about us. But we also live in a thought world of ideas, of beliefs and suppositions. This thought realm itself divides into two sectors. One the one side there is the realm of thought about reality—of science, philosophy, and scholarship. One the other side there is the realm of conjecture and imagination, where the mind deliberately cuts loose from reality and produces a domain of its own—a realm of fancy, make-believe, and speculation that deals not with real things but with imaginatively devised artifacts of thought. This is the world of literature, and preeminently of fiction, where our thought quite deliberately leaves reality behind.

The possibility of fiction is inherent in language. It is built into the “is not” of negation. Since the negation of any assertion can itself also be asserted, the contentions at our disposal cannot possibly all be about reality alone. Once negation becomes available as a communicative resource we can immediately turn any factual claim into a fiction through its denial.

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