Chapter 1 textbook summary

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30 Sep 2011

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- most of what we know is a matter of agreement & belief (believing what we've been told)
- the basis of knowledge is agreement
- can also know through direct experience - observation
- in conflict we surrender our experience in favour of the agreement
looking for reality
- a Sci assertion needs logic and empirical support - must make sense and must not contradict actual
- epistemology is the sci of knowing
- methodology is the sci of finding out
Ordinary human inquiry
- causal & probabilistic reasoning = future circumstances are caused by present ones
- cause/effect patterns are probabilistic = effects occur more often when the causes occur than when causes are
absent (but not ALWAYS)
- we must distinguish between prediction & understanding - often make predictions without understanding
Tradition (2nd-hand knowledge)
- accept most of them, the things "everybody knows"
- we inherit a culture made up of firmly accepted knowledge about the working of the world
- * advantages: saves time, knowledge is cumulative & inherited knowledge is a jumping-off point of more
- * disadvantages: tradition may hinder human inquiry
Authority (2nd-hand lnowledge)
- acceptance of new discoveries depends on status eg your doc VS uncle
- * advantage: in controversy especially, we do well in trusting the judgement of a person with expertise
- * disadvantage:legitimate authorities may be mistaking in their own province, & when authority of experts speak
outside their realm of expertise
Errors in inquiry
Inaccurate Observations
- mistakes with observations happen frequently
- SCI observation is a concious ACT & observation is made more deliberate to reduce error
- simple & complex measurement devices help guard against inaccurate observations
- often assume a few similar events are evidence of a general pattern
- SCI guards against this by having a large/representative sample of observations + replication of inquiry
(repeating a study to see if the same results are produced every time)
Selective observation
- when we have concluded a certain pattern exist & we have a general understanding of why it exist, we focus on
future events & situations that fit the pattern & ignore those that don't
- in SCI, a research design can specify in advance the number & kind of observations to be made
Illogical reasoning
-"the exception that proves the ruke" & the gamblers fallacy (assuming a consistent run of good/bad luck
foreshadows its opposite)
- SCI avoid this by using systems of logic consciously & explicitly
Whats really real?
- 3 views on reality:
1 The premodern view
- guided most of human HIST
- PPL assumed they saw things as they really were
- eg. a flower has to be beautiful or an annoying weed, one or the other
2 The modern view
- accepts diversity as legitimate
- eg it is what it is (a flower) but subjective points of view are imposed on the object by diff PPL
- acknowledges the inevitability of human subjectivity
3 The postmodern view
- the flower doesnt exist, all thats "real" are the images we get thru our points of view
-dilemma: wanna observe whats "really" happening, but have personal orientations that will color what they
observe & how they explain it
- there is no "objective" realityto be observed in the 1st place, there are only our several subjective views
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