Making space for knowing : a capacious alternative to propositional knowledge

Creller, Aaron Bradley
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2014]
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This dissertation is an intervention in mainstream western epistemology, especially as it relates to theories of knowledge, knowing, and knowers. Through its focus on propositional knowledge, contemporary mainstream epistemology has narrowed the scope of the definition of "knowledge" to a point where it fails to accurately describe the structure of knowing and prevents a genuine understanding of "knowledge" across cultural boundaries. In the first chapter, I explain how this narrow definition stems from an anachronistic historical narrative that stresses knowledge as justified true belief and focuses principally on propositions. In the second chapter, I illustrate not only how this narrow definition has prevented analytic epistemology from adequately integrating its own accounts of non-propositional knowledge (i.e. skill-based knowledge or interpersonal knowledge), but also on how it fails to account for the structure of propositional knowledge itself. This narrow account prevents propositional knowledge from explaining what it claims it can without the explanatory assistance of a robust, capacious account of knowledges, particularized knowers, and personalized knowing. In the third chapter, I construct an alternative in response to this narrow definition by using resources within hermeneutics and Michael Polanyi's work on tacit knowing. My alternative responds to the inability of proposition-focused epistemology to adequately account for knowing-that, as well as a variety of other kinds of knowing that are irreducible to knowing-that or each other. This reopens the space constrained by a singleminded fixation on propositions in order to better account for knowledge in its various forms. Once this space has been opened up, it makes possible a more cross-cultural, comparative approach to knowledge because it does not reduce other cultures' and traditions' accounts of knowing or knowledge to a propositional form. I explain this in the fourth chapter by considering the case of the epistemically rich term 知zhi in Warring States era Chinese thought, which I argue is a robust philosophical culture. In short, because a narrow search for explicit principles constricts epistemology, a capacious alternative is required to gain mobility amongst perspectives on knowledge for the sake of understanding the process of knowing.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
epistemology, hermeneutics, comparative philosophy, Chinese philosophy
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Philosophy.
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