Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Epistemology of the Reel -- Part Two

Experience, Emotions, and Learning.

I may be justified in believing that there is a tree in front of me by virtue of the fact that I am currently having a certain kind of sense experience, but this will be true only in “favorable circumstances.” If I am confronted with a complicated arrangement of mirrors, I may not be justified in believing that there is an oak tree in front of me, even though it looks for all the world as if there is. Again, it may look for all the world as if water is running uphill, but the general improbability of this greatly diminishes the justification the corresponding belief receives from that experience. (1)

As William P. Alston indicates in the quote above, most often we are perfectly justified in claiming that what we are seeing is indeed something of real substance before us. Yet, this is what Alston qualifies as a favorable circumstance. In other words, there is no reason to believe that I am hallucinating, dreaming, that the objects I see are holograms, and so forth. Favorable circumstances are just part of every-day-life. We seldom (unless you’re a philosopher working too much in metaphysics and epistemology) give much thought to the physical reality of the world we live in. When I reach out my hand for my mug of coffee, I fully expect that my fingers will grip the handle and I will be able to pick it up and bring it to my lips. I do not even think about whether my mug is real or not. (2)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Epistemology of the Reel -- Part One

"Movies cannot be dismissed as mere entertainment and diversion. Rather, they are life stories that both interpret us and are being interpreted by us."

- Robert K. Johnston.(1)

What is Epistemology?

In the quest for knowledge, humanity has developed several approaches to the question: “What can we know?” This field of study in philosophy is know as epistemology, and focuses on understanding how we think and know. As such, philosophers have long presented various theories of knowledge. The mind is ever searching, seeking what it might be able to latch on to as a solid foundation for the reality we deal with day after day. In these philosophical views of knowledge and beliefs, most of the dialogue centers on the cognitive activity of the mind. Laws of logic are used in the discussion of knowledge. Rightfully so, I argue. I am one who holds to the Law of Noncontradiction as a self-evident truth. In other words, once I have recognized and understood what the Law of Noncontradiction states, I cannot help but to know it is true.(2) Knowledge is very commonly looked at as a matter of the mind, and with good reason. We know with our minds, we reflect on the world we live in with our thoughts, and we recall past events with our memory. All of these are phenomena that take place in the mind. It is issues as these that are usual topics of epistemology (an awful lot of thinking about thinking).