Stockholms universitet

Stockholm History of Philosophy Workshop: Alexander Stöpfgeshoff (Stockholm/Toronto)


Datum: tisdag 14 december 2021

Tid: 10.00 – 12.00

Plats: D700 & Zoom

Knowledge strictly speaking – Buridan's rejection of idealization in epistemology


In recent years, John Buridan's account of knowledge has received much attention and is often described as new and innovative (King 1987; Pasnau 2017; Zupko 2001; Klein 2020). However, Buridan follows a medieval tradition conceiving that the term ”knowledge” (scientia) can be used in different levels of strictness. Within this tradition, understanding what knowledge is entails understanding the different levels at which humans might be said to have the knowledge and how they are related. That the term "knowledge" (scientia) can be used in different levels of strictness allows for accommodating Aristotle's high demand for knowledge (episteme/scientia) in the Posterior Analytics with other domains where humans are thought to have knowledge.

I will argue that Buridan's analysis of how knowledge exists on different levels of strictness rejects many features of accounts by his predecessors. Thomas Aquinas and others define knowledge as a perfect grasp of truth. Scholars have argued that on this account, what Aristotle described in Posterior Analytics is knowledge itself because it is a perfect grasp of truth, and all other cases where we grasp truth with some certainty is knowledge only in a qualified sense (Pickavé 2012; Macdonald 1993; Pasnau 2017; 2010). A thesis we can refer to as perfectionism. On this account, idealization is part of the notion of knowledge itself. Buridan, in contrast, does not endorse a perfectionist account of knowledge and breaks with the idealized epistemological project in which all forms of knowledge are understood in relation to the ideal case.