AN EXAMINATION OF W.V.O. QUINE’S NATURALIZED EPISTEMOLOGY

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ABSTRACT

This work is an examination of Quine’s naturalized epistemology. Prior to Quine’s call for the naturalization of epistemology, there were attempts to establish a solid foundation upon which the edifice of knowledge can be built on. This search was attempted by Rene Descartes and Rudolf Carnap in their epistemological programs. The failure of the Carnapian and Cartesian functionalism and also the inability of epidemiologist to effectively deal with the Gettier problem led Quine to advocate for the naturalization of epistemology. He argues that epistemology should embrace the methods of science as the foundation of its operation in other to have certainty in epistemology as found in the natural science. The problem here is that it is not clear how a normative discipline like epistemology will be part of natural science. This work therefore examines Quine’s naturalized epistemology with a view to access what becomes of epistemology if naturalized. In order to achieve this objective, this work presents the Cartesian and the Carnapian epistemology, the traditional account of knowledge, the Gettier problem and it responses as well as Quine’s naturalized epistemology. Finally, it examines the possibility of naturalizing epistemology in view of its normative status.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

The major concern of the early philosophers like Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes was on the nature of things; they tried to state the ultimate principle or element of the universe. Following the failure of these philosophers to provide a universal truth about the ultimate principle of the universe, philosophers then changed focus to the problem of human knowledge, asking if it was possible for human mind to discover any universal truth. This gave rise to skepticism. The first sets of the sceptics were the sophists. They held that it is impossible to obtain any universal truth as individuals projects their perception into the nature of things. Protagoras, a leading sophist believed that knowledge is limited to our various perceptions and these perceptions differ. For instance if two people observe the same thing, their sensation would not be the same because the observers occupy a different position in relation to the object. So for him, man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are and of the things that are not that they are not (Idang 125). Based on the above, Protagoras concluded that knowledge is subjective, and this forms the basis of moderate skepticism. While Protagoras held that knowledge is subjective to persons and situations or circumstances, Gorgias held that there is no truth at all. He based his judgment on three propositions, (i) that nothing exist, (ii) and even if anything exists it is incomprehensible, (iii) even if it is comprehensible it cannot be communicated. Based on this, Gorgias was convinced that objective knowledge is not possible and universal truth is not attainable. This view forms the basis of radical skepticism. The skeptics challenge about the possibility of objective knowledge was a treat to human knowledge. The challenge was so serious that people were made to doubt their very own existence. This led Plato to respond to the skeptic challenge; he describes how the human mind achieves knowledge. He did this in his allegory.