Philosophical Studies

, Volume 142, Issue 3, pp 371–386

Is knowledge a natural kind?

Article

Abstract

The project of treating knowledge as an empirical object of study has gained popularity in recent naturalistic epistemology. It is argued here that the assumption that such an object of study exists is in tension with other central elements of naturalistic philosophy. Two hypotheses are considered. In the first, “knowledge” is hypothesized to refer to mental states causally responsible for the behaviour of cognitive agents. Here, the relational character of truth creates a problem. In the second hypothesis “knowledge” is hypothesized to refer to mental states causally responsible for the evolutionarily successful behaviour of cognitive agents. Here, the problem lies in the fact that evolution by natural selection is not necessarily conducive to truth. The result does not necessarily amount to eliminativism, however, since the naturalist may consistently reject the condition of truth that lies behind these problems.

Keywords

Naturalism Naturalistic epistemology Causality Proximate/ultimate Cognitive ethology Truth Reference Eliminativism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PhysiologyUniversity of Helsinki 00014HelsinkiFinland

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