In the field of Epistemology, one of the most important, or arguably the most important, questions one can ask is "how does one know anything at all?" This simple, but poignant question has puzzled philosophers for ages. The writers at Paper Masters will assist you with answering the tough questions that epistemology poses.
Going back to Socrates and Plato, these issues would oftentimes result in the formulation of theories in an attempt to answer this troubling dilemma. Even modern philosophers have struggled with how to approach the subject of knowledge, with the rise of analytic philosophy championed by the ideas of such figures as Wittgenstein and Russell. One such philosopher, A. J. Ayer, presented his theory on knowledge in his book The Problem of Knowledge. More specifically, Ayer laid out his views on the topic in the chapter entitled "Knowing as The Right to be Sure." His theory challenges that of the traditional model set forth by Plato and others. In a research paper on epistemology, the writers at Paper Masters will approach any aspect of knowledge and knowledge acquisition you need explored.
To better understand the debate over epistemology or how knowledge is accomplished, one must first establish the history of this debate as well as the tradition that it created. Although Plato was certainly more than likely not the first to address the subject and thus construct a coherent theory concerning it, in light of the material available to the philosophical community Plato's epistemological theory is well established. Accordingly, it is often referred to as JTB; Justified True Belief. This model is a tripartite one where these three elements stand for the sufficient and necessary conditions for their being knowledge at all.
- First, one must demonstrate how it is one knows something, this is through justification.
- The second condition is that the item of knowledge be true. And lastly, that one believes the conclusion of what is known appropriately.
Here is an example that is used by Ayer in his article, but will be illustrated here as an expression of JTB. If one claimed to 'know' the winning numbers of a lottery game prior to their being picked, then according to JTB one must establish how it is one knows this (justification), that the numbers one claims turn out to be the winning numbers (it is true) and that the claimant believes his or her claim to be true.
The discussion of philosophical beliefs in terms of "influence" is, perhaps, more valid for the early than the later middle ages, but it is more germane for the period as a whole than it would be for any other period in the history of western philosophy. The reason for this is the medieval reverence for the auctores, the great writers from the past. This habit of mind stifled, for a very long time, intellectual innovation and any impulses that there might have been towards empiricism. Curtius notes that the beginning of the end of this mode of thinking did not occur until the twelfth century when dialectics (logic) came to the fore in university curricula, and that it survived a long time after this period (52-3). This reverence for authority made "influence" much more than what it means today; the medieval mind was slavishly reverential of authority. This, indeed, was itself of epistemological import. For example, their theory of knowledge, as has been widely noted, worked to freeze medical knowledge at the level of Galen and to ignore completely any empirical observations that conflicted with Galen.
The points to be made in what lies ahead may be summarized as follows. The chief influence upon early medieval philosophy, with respect to the theory of knowledge, was Plato. The Platonic epistemology was altered slightly by the Neo-Platonists. Neo-Platonism was transmitted into the formal theology and philosophy of the middle ages in large part by Augustine (AD 354-430) who saw in Neo-Platonism an answer to the Manichaeism which he had been attracted to, but later came to view as abhorrent. Since Augustine was the dominant figure in Catholic theology until Aquinas, and since, as Hamlyn notes, theology and philosophy were intermingled throughout that period, early medieval epistemology was thus essentially derived from Plato. In the twelfth and thirteen centuries this changes. The Aristotelian corpus became available to Latin Europe. As Southern notes, a vast body of Latin translations of Aristotle's work, produced from Greek and Arabic manuscripts, was produced by western scholars at that time (66-8). Taylor notes that it took some time to absorb this material. In the works of Albertus Magnus (early 13th century) great advances were made in the understanding of Aristotle's system. Then, in Thomas Aquinas' (AD 1225-1274) Summa Theologica, there was produced a systematic theology based on Aristotle, a work by a man whose understanding of Aristotle was magisterial (I:18). As we shall see, the epistemology of Aristotle/Aquinas differs appreciably from that of Plato/Augustine. It will be the epistemology of Aristotle/Aquinas that will dominate medieval philosophy from the 13th century on.