The Possibility of Knowledge
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
How is knowledge of the external world possible? How is knowledge of other minds possible? How is a priori knowledge possible? These are all examples of how-possible questions in epistemology. Quassim Cassam explains how such questions arise and how they should be answered.
In general, we ask how knowledge, or knowledge of some specific kind, is possible when we encounter obstacles to its existence or acquisition. So the question is: how is knowledge possible given the various factors that make it look impossible? A satisfactory answer to such a question will therefore need to do several different things. In essence, explaining how a particular kind of knowledge is possible is a matter of identifying ways of acquiring it, overcoming or dissipating obstacles to its acquisition, and figuring out what makes it possible to acquire it.
To respond to a how-possible question in this way is to go in for what might be called a "multi-levels" approach. The aim of this book is to develop and defend this approach. The first two chapters bring out its advantages and explain why it works better than more familiar "transcendental" approaches to explaining how knowledge is possible. The remaining chapters use the multi-levels framework to explain how perceptual knowledge is possible, how it is possible to know of the existence of minds other than one's own and how a priori knowledge is possible.
to the extreme anti-minimalist, I haven’t fully understood how it is possible to reach Paris from London in less than three hours unless I recognize this enabling condition, just as I haven’t fully understood how it is possible to arrive at synthetic a priori geometrical knowledge by constructing ﬁgures in pure intuition unless I recognize the ideality of space. This is what moderate anti-minimalists ﬁnd implausible. Their thought is that there is no obvious sense in which a failure to say
be met. This is the worry that is dealt with at Level 2 of the multi-levels response, the obstacle-removing level. Second, even if the alleged epistemological requirements can be met or be shown to be bogus, there is a further question which needs to be addressed: what makes it possible to see that the cup is chipped and thereby to know that it is chipped? This is a Level 3 question. The multi-levels response answers it by identifying background necessary conditions for epistemic seeing or for
at is this: unlike anti-sceptical transcendental arguments, revelatory transcendental arguments are selfdirected rather than world-directed.¹³ They uncover the structure of our cognitive faculties rather than the existence or structure of mindindependent reality. While some of what they reveal about our cognitive faculties might be discoverable in other ways, we shouldn’t assume that this will always be the case. In principle, there could be facts about the structure of objective thinking or the
factors to differentiate them, factors such as colour differences and ﬁgural goodness.¹⁷ Against this background, the privileging of spatial location as the basis for perceptual differentiation has no basis. In fact, these considerations aren’t decisive. For a start, one couldn’t see a as pink and b as not pink without seeing them as being in different places; it isn’t possible to perceive both pinkness and its absence in the same region of space at the same time. The most we can say, therefore,
would be one way of justifying Stroud’s insistence on the centrality of perceptual knowledge. The Possibility of Knowledge 9 knowing about that subject matter by the proposed means. Once we have done that, we have done everything that can or needs to be done to answer the original how-possible question. In the case of propositions about the external world, therefore, the explanatory minimalist thinks that we have shown how knowledge of such propositions is possible by pointing out that