Existential epistemologies

Joseph W Long, Purdue University


There is a tendency in analytic philosophy to refer to every social or existential theory of knowledge as pragmatism or neo-pragmatism, and a tendency to refer to any philosopher who practices from this approach as a pragmatist or neo-pragmatist. I think these tendencies are inaccurate and should be abandoned. In this dissertation, I will explore two different social and existential theories of justification, epistemic pragmatism and epistemic contextualism. The main project of this dissertation is the drawing of a distinction between these two paradigms by capturing each according to three differentiating criteria (Chapter 2). In so doing, I will try to pick out those features of epistemic pragmatism and epistemic contextualism which will clearly elucidate what each is all about, those features which distinguish epistemic pragmatism and epistemic contextualism from other paradigms of justification and from each other, and therefore, to help resolve some long-standing but misconceived claims about each. In Chapter Three, I will codify several twentieth century epistemologists according to my distinction. I wish to start the project however (Chapter 1) by recognizing an important similarity between the thinkers who are commonly called “neo-pragmatists” along with Dewey, James, and Wittgenstein, each of whom has advanced what I will call an existential epistemology, or as Putnam has put it, an epistemology “with a human face.” I will also argue in the first chapter that the existential epistemologies are in important ways superior to the traditional paradigms of justification, foundationalism and coherentism.




Seigfried, Purdue University.

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