Why Knowledge Requires More Than Science

by Aaron Brake

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy (not science) that deals with how knowledge is defined, what we know, and how we know it. Richard Dawkins summarizes one view of epistemology in the first chapter of his book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True:

We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.

According to this view of epistemology, all knowledge concerning reality comes through the five senses. If you can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or hear it, you can’t know it. How we know what’s true “always comes back to our senses, one way or another.” We can phrase it this way:

All knowledge concerning reality is acquired through the five senses.

The problem with this view is immediately obvious. The belief “all knowledge concerning reality is acquired through the five senses” is not itself acquired through the five senses…

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Why Knowledge Requires More Than Science