The Need for Epistemology: Problematic Realism Defended

  • Mark Pastin
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 17)


Epistemology, as I see it, is centrally concerned with the conditions under which statements (propositions, sentences, claims, whatever) are warranted — in a familiar, restricted sense of warranted; rationally as opposed to ethically, aesthetically, legally or otherwise warranted — for a person, and with the concept of warrant. This outlook presupposes that understanding of warrant conditions and of the concept of warrant are essential to understanding the nature of knowledge, which is the defining topic for epistemology. (Note: Despite this, I hold that warrant or justification is not necessary for knowledge.1) The other concepts requisite to understanding knowledge, e. g., the concepts of belief, truth, or process of inference, are properly investigated by metaphysics and philosophical psychology. This concern with warrant has recently been challenged. One thrust is that with fuller understanding of the semantic, syntactic, and perhaps psychological character of statements, there will be no interesting residue of issues to be explored in terms of a concept of epistemic warrant. A second thrust is that the Gettier problem, and problems arising from the operation of social factors in knowledge attribution, show that the concept of warrant does not help explain the nature of knowledge. Appeals to reliability, discrimination among alternatives, and causation, rather than warrant, are the fashion. I contend that both thrusts miss the mark. I parry the first thrust here by offering an account, to which I give the dusty label ‘Problematic Realism’, of the relations between epistemic features and other features of empirical statements.2 The second thrust is treated in a sequel to this essay on the role of social factors in knowledge attributed.3


Problematic Realism Warrant Condition Knowledge Attribution Empirical Statement Inductive Generalization 
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  1. See ‘Knowledge and Reliability: A Critical Study of D. M. Armstrong’s Belief, Truth, and Knowledge’, Metaphilosophy (April, 1978), pp. 150–162Google Scholar
  2. The label ‘Problematic Realism’ is applied to a view somewhat resembling that de-fended here by Jacob Loewenberg in his essay in Contemporary American Philosophy, ed. by G. P. Adams and W. P. Montague II (New York, 1930), pp. 55–81.Google Scholar
  3. C. I. Lewis considered applying this label to his own views in ‘Realism or Phenomenalism?’ in The Collected Papers of Clarence Irving Lewis, ed. by John D. Gohenn and John L. Mothershead, Jr. ( Standford, California, 1970 ), pp. 335 - 347.Google Scholar

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© D. Riedel Publishing Company 1979

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  • Mark Pastin

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