The Sources of Knowledge

Robert Audi

in The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780195301700
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Sources of Knowledge

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  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of Mind



This article identifies the sources from which one acquires knowledge or justified belief. It distinguishes the “four standard basic sources”: perception, memory, consciousness, and reason. A basic source yields knowledge or justified belief without positive dependence on another source. This article distinguishes each of the above as a basic source of knowledge, with the exception of memory. Memory, while a basic source of justification, plays a preservative rather than a generative role in knowledge. This article contrasts basic sources with nonbasic sources, concentrating on testimony. After clarifying the relationship between a source and a ground, or “what it is in virtue of which one knows or justifiedly believes,” this article evaluates the basic sources' individual and collective autonomy as well as their vulnerability to defeasibility. It examines the relationship of coherence to knowledge and justification, noting the distinction between a negative dependence on incoherence and a positive dependence on coherence.

Keywords: perception; memory; consciousness; reason; coherence; knowledge

Article.  11946 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology ; Philosophy of Mind

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