Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

The Contested Terrain of Epistemology: a Critical Review of the Goal of Naturalising Epistemology

Temidayo David OLADIPO



Epistemology, for so long, laid claim to being first philosophy and saddles itself with the responsibility of dealing with the foundation of scientific knowledge. However, the challenge to this claim, championed by proponents of naturalised epistemology, is that epistemologists should desist from handling epistemology as a normative, a priori, philosophical enterprise that seeks to evaluate the aims, procedures, and results of scientific inquiry. They would rather have epistemology treated as an arm of science that seeks to describe and explain how knowledge is acquired. Although, as has been rightly pointed out, one cannot address in one essay the entire project of naturalised epistemology (Code 1996, 1), we, in this essay, seek to examine the goal of naturalised epistemology directed at replacing the philosophical method of conducting epistemological inquiries with the scientific method.

Our contention is that the proposal for naturalised epistemology undermines the importance of the methodology of conducting philosophical inquiries, and hence the philosophical treatment of that branch of philosophy that deals with the branch of philosophy that deals with the theory of the origin, nature and limits of knowledge, as well as the importance of philosophical inquiry into science. We will further argue that the modification of the claim that rather than totally replacing epistemology with science, that what we should have is a collaboration between epistemology and science, in other words that the method of studying epistemology need only consider progress made in science, says nothing new that had not hitherto been accommodated. The essay, thus, considers why traditional epistemology, even if other means of analysing knowledge should emerge, will have to continue to evaluate human knowledge philosophically.

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