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Truth in Epistemology, Epistemic vs. Non-epistemic

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This was a paper for a 3rd year university subject. Please don't plagiarise. (i'm uploading just to download another file!)
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  It is widely agreed that knowledge requires truth. In the analysis of knowledge, does truth need to be understood in a non-epistemic correspondence sense? Or may truth be understood in an epistemic sense? Clarisse Thomas 2490 words In this essay, I will consider the debate between epistemic and non-epistemic theories of truth and argue for non-epistemic theories of truth. I will conduct my analysis for the appropriate theory of truth through metaphysics, and specifically the debate between Realism and anti-Realism. I will defend Realism against two of Putnam’s arguments against Realism, and will classify Putnam as anti- Realist. This may be a controversial move, however I am uninterested in how Putnam’s arguments can be metaphysically classified, I am interested in their effects on Realism. I will define an epistemic theory of truth as one where truth is a form of epistemic  justification (e.g. ‘idealised warranted assertability’ or ‘empirical adequacy’ or coherence). I will define a non-epistemic theory of truth as one where truth is distinct from any epistemic notion and thus a statement can be true without being justified. I will conduct my epistemological analysis in terms of the Justified True Belief account of knowledge. Firstly, I will briefly address and dismiss an epistemological objection to an epistemic theory of truth, the claim that it leads to no difference between a justified belief and item of knowledge. It is argued that this is problematic since justification for a proposition may change as its evidence changes, and intuition tells us that our knowledge of a proposition does not vary with evidence ‒  if we cannot assert a proposition as an item of knowledge now, then we were incorrect in asserting it  as an item of knowledge previously. However, to argue this is to misunderstand what essentially characterises an epistemic theory of truth, which is that truth is defined in terms of satisfaction of epistemic conditions ‒  this leaves open what those epistemic conditions are and whether they are identical with the ones required for  justification. For example, Putnam’s epistemic theory of truth as ‘idealised rational assertability’ may present justification as simply ‘rational assertability’ –  justification has a lower epistemic standard than truth. Other theories may well give identical epistemic conditions for justification and truth (e.g. coherence theory of truth and epistemic justification), however I will ignore these for the purposes of this paper. Now I will move onto my analysis of epistemic versus non-epistemic theories of truth as conducted from metaphysics. This connection between truth and metaphysics is achieved through Tarski’s semantic definition of truth or ‘material adequacy condition’. He claims that a correct definition of truth must be materially adequate, and a definition of truth is materially adequate if the equivalence (T)  X is true iff p  can be asserted for any  p    –  where  p  is a sentence in the language referred to by ‘true’, a nd  X   is the name of the sentence. In order for this condition to hold,  p  must make an ontological claim to the effect that the conditions which are the sentence’s truth condition obtain. However, this is does not necessarily posit a correspondence theory of truth, since the conditions being obtained may be epistemic or non-epistemic (e.g. coherence with a belief system, idealised rational acceptability, or states of affairs in the external world). Thus, the truth conditions of all possible sentences  p  define all the possible conditions which metaphysically obtain, and any theory which defines truth also defines metaphysics. (Tarski, 1944) The result of this is that any epistemic theory of truth will lead to some form of anti-Realist metaphysics where the world is constrained by epistemic conditions. This is anti-Realist since any construal of epistemic conditions must be made with reference to a thinking subject, and so any  world which is constrained by epistemic conditions is also constrained by thought. Thus, in order to discuss the merits of an epistemic versus non-epistemic theory of truth through metaphysics, the central difference between Realism and anti-Realism will be taken as one which concerns whether the world is constrained by epistemic conditions. It should be noted that this construal of Realism (as the metaphysical position which claims that the world is not constrained by epistemic conditions), makes significantly fewer positive claims about the world than Putnam (1981) would want to attribute to Realism. Therefore, his argument that Realism is untenable because it requires a ‘God’s eye’ point -of-view and an ontology of objects is rejected ex hypothesi  . 1   Before I present Putnam’s argument against Realism, I will bri efly address and dismiss the claim that epistemic theories of truth are untenable since they lead to idealism. This claim is unreasonable, since just as I have explained, epistemic theories of truth would only lead to the metaphysical position that the world has epistemic constraints, or must be understood in epistemic terms. This clearly is not equivalent to idealism. Putnam’s ‘internal realism’ can be given as a counterexample ‒   it is derived from an epistemic theory of truth (‘idealised rational acceptability’), however successfully preserves the commonsense realist intuition that everyday objects such as tables and chairs exist. (Putnam, 1987) 1  It should also be noted that any discussion of theories of truth from their metaphysical consequences would place metaphysics before epistemology. This move may be questionable, however for the purposes of this essay I shall assume it is legitimate.  Now I will move on to Putnam’s arguments against realism. The first argument I will consider can be presented as: 1. Realism allows the possibility of a brain-in-vat scenario. 2. Brain-in-vat scenarios are impossible, under any metaphysics. 3. Realism is incoherent. (from 1,2) I shall now explicate his argument. Brain-in-vat scenarios are often invoked by sceptics to generate the intuition that we can have no access to an external world. It is described as the scenario where all one’s sensory perceptions from birth are in fact generated by stimulation from a computer which is wired into one’s brain. Furthermore, the sensory perceptions generated are phenomenally indistinguishable from those which would be experienced if one was not   wired into the computer and interacting with the ‘real world’. P remise 1 of Putnam’s argument is reasonable, since the only way to deny the possibility of brain-in-vat scenarios through metaphysics would be to epistemically constrain the relevant aspects of the world such that they are metaphysically impossible, and Realism cannot do this. Now I shall detail the reasoning for premise 2 of his argument. This premise assumes ‘causal constraint’ –  the notion that the reference of a statement is determined by appropriate causal connection. Thus, if one were indeed a brain-in-a- vat, and one stated “I am a brain -in-a- vat”, then the words in this statement would refer to whatever caused their utterance. Thus, “brain” would not refer to a real brain, but stimulation from the computer causing the sensory perception of a brain, or what Putnam terms ‘brains in the image’; this occurs similarly for the word “vat”.  (Putnam, 1981) (Hickey, 2014) From this, his reasoning can be presented as follows. 1.   Assume I am a brain-in-a-vat. 2.   If I am a brain-in-a- vat, then the statement “I am a brain-in-a- vat” is true iff I have stimulation from the computer causing sensory perception that I am a brain-in-a-vat.
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