The ‘Unity of Cognition’ and the Explanation of Mathematical Knowledge

Barry Stroud

in Philosophers Past and Present

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608591
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729621 | DOI:
The ‘Unity of Cognition’ and the Explanation of Mathematical Knowledge

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This chapter describes some of the main ingredients in the development of Alvin Goldman's important work in epistemology, focusing especially on the requirement that the reliable procedures essential for gaining knowledge must include facts about the psychology of the believer; relations simply among the propositions believed are never alone enough. ‘Unity of cognition’ is the idea that this requirement holds for explaining knowledge of all kinds: of mathematical and other necessary truths as well as of contingent facts. This conception of reliable procedures is promising for explaining mathematical knowledge without familiar but ultimately fruitless appeals to ‘concepts’, ‘meanings’, or ‘analyticity’. But Goldman is apparently committed to the eventual success of what he calls a ‘primary epistemology’ in which what it is for someone to have followed reliable procedures, and to have done so reliably, will be described in purely ‘non-epistemic’ or ‘non-normative’ terms. Doubts are expressed about that enterprise while encouraging the explanation of mathematical knowledge along the lines Goldman has so ably defended before taking that last reductionist step.

Keywords: Alvin Goldman; epistemology; unity of cognition; knowledge; concepts; meanings; analyticity

Chapter.  6980 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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