Ratcliff R and McKoon G (2000) Memory models. In:Tulving E and Craik FIM (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Memory, pp. 571±581. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Rolls ET and Treves A (1998) Neural Networks and Brain Function. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Joseph Cruz, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
What is epistemology?
Epistemology and cognitive scienceEpistemology is the philosophical study of what is required in order to have rational beliefs and knowledge. Both traditional a priori methods of philosophy and a posteriori methods of cognitive science have been brought to bear on this question.
WHAT IS EPISTEMOLOGY?
Epistemology answers to a daunting variety of senses in the humanities and the social sciences. Even when we restrict our attentionto epistemology as it is understood in contemporary AngloAmerican philosophy, the only uncontroversial claim we can make is that epistemology is an attempt to make sense of the possibility, nature, and limits of human intellectual achievement. Typically, the epistemologist does this by trying to illuminate the difference between knowledge and opinion, or the difference between good reasoning andpoor reasoning. This project is distinct from merely giving a descriptive account of what people claim to know or to believe reasonably. Instead, epistemologists try to understand what it is really to know or really to believe reasonably, even if people routinely fail to know or are frequently irrational. Moving beyond the descriptive details of knowledge or belief formation to what people oughtto believe is a normative philosophical enterprise. Construed one way, epistemology aims to understand general and ubiquitous elements of human inquiry, such as perceptual knowledge or inductive inference. This project has sometimes
been fueled by skeptical doubts about the veracity of our senses or the trustworthiness of our reasoning. Not all philosophers are persuaded, however, thatthoroughgoing skepticism allows for, or requires, a response. As a result we often find in contemporary epistemology the attempt to account for epistemic achievements in a way that does not necessarily offer a reply to the skeptic. Construed another way, epistemology aims to investigate specific domains of knowledge or rational belief. Some aspects of the philosophy of science may thus be understood asconstituting a subfield of epistemology. This kind of research may be narrowed to particular sciences, such as the philosophy of psychology or the philosophy of cognitive science (or physics, or biology, to name two more prominent areas). Efforts to understand the nature of explanation in cognitive science ultimately fall under the umbrella of epistemology, though such efforts lie at the intersectionof philosophy of science and philosophy of mind and have thereby taken on a robust theoretical autonomy. Another distinction may be drawn between epistemology oriented towards individuals and epistemology oriented towards social institutions or practices. Some philosophers claim that there are social practices that positively or negatively influence the formation of knowledge or rational belief.A strong version of this view is where knowledge or rationality is exhausted by socially-mediated factors. This position has currency in some fields of the humanities, but the epistemologists who interact most frequently with the cognitive sciences
tend to reject the most radical forms of social epistemology. We shall concentrate on the general construal of individual...