Perceptual Knowledge and Epistemological Satisfaction

Barry Stroud

in Philosophers Past and Present

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608591
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729621 | DOI:
Perceptual Knowledge and Epistemological Satisfaction

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This chapter examines Ernest Sosa's ‘externalist’ answer to the traditional epistemological question of how we know things about the world around us. It agrees with Sosa's rejection of ‘internalist’ theories for the reasons he gives, but expresses doubts about his own positive account of knowledge in terms of its being no accident or coincidence that one's belief is true. The difficulty does not lie in any circularity in the account but in Sosa's apparent concession that the most we can, strictly speaking, know by perception alone is ‘the character of our experience’ and not the way things actually are. Sosa regards that concession as in itself unthreatening if it is not combined with the further assumption made by ‘internalists’ that knowledge of the world is arrived at by reasoning from some prior knowledge, and eventually from what we get from perception alone. For Sosa it is enough for knowledge if it is no accident or coincidence that things are the way one takes them to be when ‘the character of one's experience’ is so and so. The chapter explains how and why a restricted account of perception that denies all purely perceptual contact with the way things are would leave us always in an unsatisfactory position for understanding our knowledge of the world and explaining it even to ourselves.

Keywords: Ernest Sosa; externalist; internalist; knowledge; belief

Chapter.  5881 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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