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Chapter 2

Ant210H5 Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Course Code
Gary Crawford

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Chapter 2: Epistemology: How you Know What you Know
Knowing Things
oThe word epistemology means the study of knowledge—how you know
what you know
oHow do we differentiate fact from fantasy in archaeology or in any other
field of knowledge?
oHow do I know anything about mountains in the first place, much less
which is tallest?
I haven’t measured any of the other tall peaks to compare them to
Everest or Mauna Kea
oThere is a run-down stone monument on the top of Bear Mountain in the
northwestern corner of Connecticut
When the monument was built to memorialize this most lofty and
auspicious of peaks—the mountain is all of 2,316 feet above sea
level—people knew that it was the highest point in the state and
wanted to recognize this fact with the monument
In recent times, with more accurate, sophisticated measuring
equipment, it has been determined that Bear Mountain is not the
highest point in Connecticut. The slope of Frissell Mountain, which
actually peaks in Massachusetts, reaches a height of 2,380 feet on
the Connecticut side of the border, eclipsing Bear Mountain by
about 64 feet
So, people in the late 1800s and early 1900s “knew” that Bear
Mountain was the highest point in Connecticut. Today we know that
they really did not “know” that, because it was not true—even
though they thought it was and built a monument saying so
Collecting Information: Seeing is Believing
oIn general, people collect information in two ways:
Directly through their own experiences
Indirectly through specific information sources such as friends,
teachers, parents, books, TV, the Internet, and so forth
oThink of the old expression, “Seeing is believing.” In other words, you can
believe something as long as you see it with your own eyes. But there’s a
problem here; our eyes aren’t all that reliable. In fact, most people are
pretty poor observers.
For example, the list of animals that people claim to have observed
— and that turn out to be figments of their imagination
oA red or “lesser” panda escaped from the zoo
The zoo informed the press that the panda was missing, hoping the
publicity would alert people in the area of the zoo and aid in the
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