Monday, September 11, 2006

Conscious Knowledge vs. Unconscious Knowledge

During the discussion of knowledge-how and knowledge-that, we focused on an example like that of my daughter below. Because of the difficulties in stating what propositional knowledge she acquired and when she acquired it, Rich said today that the main subject of epistemology--at least this course--was knowledge at the conscious level.

Perhaps I'm reading this wrongly, but it seems that the question which drives the engine of architectural epistemology--foundationalsm v. coherentism; internalism v. externalism, etc.--and the discussion in Rich's book--is the status of empirical beliefs. But empirical beliefs are almost always unconscious.

Having said this, most of my epistemological inquiries focus on the conscious level and you might even say that what I'm interested in is the justification of *inferences* (Fumerton talks this way a lot). I'm not even sure the rationality of basic beliefs or empirical beliefs is rightly treated in anything very similar to the the rationality of inferences.

To look at it from another angle, it's not clear to me that basic beliefs can have as much value as non-basic beliefs, at least *conscious* non-basic beliefs (unconscious inference is something I'd like to know more about, but I'd make the same kind of value judgement). The reason, very roughly, is that in making conscious inferences we are guided by an ideal.

Basic beliefs and unconscious inferences might go *according to* a rule, but they are not *guided by* rules in the way that conscious inferences are. I've been assuming the following thesis which might be even more controversial than I guess:

(VI) Cognitive acts which are *guided by* ideals are more valuable than cognitive acts which merely go *according to* rules.

This begins to change the subject a bit, so I'll try to make (VI) more clear in a separate post.

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