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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 29. A Pragmatic Coda

Extract

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· 29 ·

A PRAGMATIC CODA

The cognitive situation in which we find ourselves is such that we cannot but recognize the two decidedly different issues are in play with regard to the nature of our knowledge:

(1) the actual truth about Reality

and

(2) our currently best-available estimate of (1)

We must acknowledge that these are bound to be different—if only because item (2) is ever-changing in the wake of scientific progress. Nevertheless, we have no alternative but to proceed on the supposition that (2) is an acceptable surrogate for (1).

What is it that justifies our equating these two in actual practice? Clearly it is not a certifiable truth somehow validated by considerations of general principle. It is, in fact, not a matter of theoretical insight at all, rather, it is a common threat enjoined upon us by considerations of practical rationality.

It is a cardinal principle of practical reason to adopt the line the best we possibly manage to do has to be accepted as good enough. In no situation can more be reasonably asked of us than doing the best we possibly realize in the ← 165 | 166 → circumstances. And this surely holds not just in practical but also in theoretical situations—in matters of inquiry as well as matters of action.

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