Monday, May 19, 2008


Blackwell Epistemology Anthology

I got given some book tokens, and so I set off to find some of the books I'll need for my dissertation in Glasgow. The book stores here have become pretty disappointing, and I didn't find anything on my list (none of which was particularly obscure or anything, I hasten to add. For instance, I need to get my own copy of Austin's 'How to do things with words'). In the end, I found a copy of the second edition of the Blackwell Epistemology Anthology. I already have the original Kim and Sosa edition, but Fantl and McGrath have done a superb job of bringing it up to date, and the volume is beautifully packaged. Couldn't resist.

Some of the highlights of the new selection include: a section on epistemic closure; a second paper by Conee and Feldman added to the section on justification; a vastly improved section on virtue- and value-driven epistemology, featuring papers by Greco, Pritchard, Kvanvig, Sosa, and others; a hugely expanded section on knowledge and context, which supplements the three pro-contextualist papers from the first edition (DeRose's masterly 'Solving the Sceptical Problem', Lewis' 'Elusive Knowledge', and Cohen's 'Contextualism Solutions to Epistemological Problems') with a number of pieces representative of the recent backlash, including excerpts from Hawthorne and Stanley's books, Fantl and McGrath's own Phil Review piece, and MacFarlane's paper on assessment sensitivity; a new section on epistemic sources, including Burge's classic paper on testimony and Lackey's rightly influential attack on the transmission model of testimony. And this is just scratching the surface.

There are some noticeable omissions in the topics covered, though. While the original volume included a cluster of papers on the generality problem, including core papers by Goldman, Alston, and Conee and Feldman, the new volume doesn't really have anything on that. It's a shame, since there's been a recent wave of responses to Conee and Feldman, and reliablism remains a very influential, important view. Also not represented, much to my surprise, is the recent debate between Pryor, Wright and others over the conditions under which one can acquire (prima facie) justification for one's perceptual beliefs. And there's no trace of the recent debate over the nature of knowledge how; recently there's been a tangible sense that epistemologists have been too narrowly focused on uncontroversially propositional knowledge, and so it's a little odd to find the volume more or less exclusively preoccupied with that. Stanley and Williamson's piece would at least served to give the flavor of the present debate.

These were just a few of the topics I was surprised not to see covered. But I want to stress again that I think the editors have done a fantastic job, and the volume is beautiful. I just need to work out how to get it back to the States in June...


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