Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sources and Means of Knowledge

A source of knowledge is something from which we acquire knowledge. Means of knowledge outline the process or processes by which we acquire knowledge from sources of knowledge.

If a person is to know what are the means by which he obtains knowledge, it is fairly obvious this must be accounted for by his sources of knowledge. The primary question, then, is what is or are one’s source[s] of knowledge. Whether this or these sources account for the alleged means of obtaining knowledge is only answerable after this primary question has been answered. It may turn out that whether a source or sources are able to account for the means of obtaining knowledge can help us sort through which of the various proposed sources of knowledge are viable, but first things first.

In other words, when examining a worldview, you have to start with the alleged source[s] of knowledge. What one claims as his sources of knowledge functions as his stated sufficient condition for knowledge (link).

Our ability to test such source[s] is limited to examining whether or not they are “self-consistent,” which encompasses multiple evaluative procedures that an apologist can undertake, including but not limited to answering if the source self-attesting, if it provides a theory of knowledge, language, metaphysics, and ethics, and if any of the answers it provides mutually exclusive.

But essentially, since we are not omniscient, we are never able to prove or externally validate everything we claim to know. Thus, our testing of an alleged sufficient condition for knowledge (i.e. the source[s] of knowledge) is limited to examining whether it satisfies subsidiary, necessary conditions for knowledge. Transcendental arguments, if you will. But this is not epistemologically fatal if - or, to be more precise, since - not all propositions are in need of proof in order to be known:
The second half of the disjunction was: “or else the evidence is dependent on the proposed authority itself, and the revelation fails, in consequence, to win its credentials as a reasonable source of trustworthy propositions.” 
This disjunct faces two replies. First, it assumes that a first principle cannot be self-authenticating. Yet every first principle must be. The first principle of Logical Positivism is that a sentence has no meaning unless it can be verified (in principle at least) by sensory experience. Yet no sensory experience can ever verify this principle. Anyone who wishes to adopt it must regard it as self-authenticating. So it is with all first principles. (Gordon Clark, Christian Philosophy, pg. 46)

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