Issues in Epistemology, old and new

Marco Ruffino, Editor, University of Campinas-UNICAMP, CNPq, Campinas, SP, Brazil

This volume contains one book review and eight original articles, three of them invited contributions and five that answered a worldwide call for papers. All contributions deal with central topics in Epistemology, the theory of knowledge and justified belief. Epistemology is one of the oldest disciplines in philosophy and many of its fundamental questions, such as the problem of skepticism and the analysis of knowledge, are still hotly debated today. But Epistemology is not confined to these traditional issues. As new philosophical tools and concerns developed, new problems and approaches emerged. This volume reflects this rich landscape.

Adams, Barker and Clarke, in their contribution “Knowledge as facts tracking true belief”, for example, offer a new approach to an old problem. They argue for what is called the tracking analysis of knowledge. Drawing mainly from Dretske (1971, 2005), they hold that a true belief constitutes knowledge if and only if it is based on fact-sensitive reasons. This is notably an externalist analysis of knowledge, for the subject does not need to be able to justify the relevant belief from her own perspective. If it manages to resist some important objections – and the authors claim it does – the tracking analysis might prove to be a novel and plausible response to the traditional problem of what constitutes knowledge, and a more naturalistic one.

This brings us to a related issue: what is the nature of epistemic facts? It commonly accepted that epistemic facts and notions are inherently normative just like moral facts and notions. If this is correct, then many questions traditionally posed in ethics, especially in metaethics, can be transported to epistemology. One of the central ones is the question of reduction: can moral facts be reduced or explained in non-normative, natural terms? Given its normative character, the same question arises in epistemology: can epistemic facts and notions be explained in non-normative, natural terms? In his contribution entitled “Epistemological closed questions: a reply to Greco”, Côte-Bouchard deals with this problem. More precisely, he argues against Daniel Greco’s (2015) claim that the Open Question Argument against reductionism in ethics proposed by G.E. Moore works just as well in epistemology. If the author is right, then naturalism and reductionism about epistemic facts and concepts is not threatened by Moorian-style arguments.

Another traditional problem in epistemology is skepticism in its various forms. In his short but insightful paper “Small Stakes Give You the Blues: The Skeptical Costs of Pragmatic Encroachment”, Littlejohn brings skeptical problems to the heart of epistemic fallibilism, a doctrine that, ironically enough, is supposed to be an alternative to skepticism.

The other contributions in this volume include discussions about semantic information, the internalism/externalism debate, justification, the epistemic speech act of asserting, and much else. In addition to original articles, the volume includes Zuppolini’s review of David Bronstein’s recent book Aristotle on Knowledge and Learning: The Posterior Analytics, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), an important contribution to the history of epistemology.


DRETSKE, F. Conclusive reasons. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, v. 49, p. 1-22, 1971. ISSN: 1471-6828 [reviewed 2 February 2018]. Avaliable from:

DRETSKE, F.  Reply to Hawthorne. In: STEUP, M.; SOSA, E. (Eds.). Contemporary debates in epistemology. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. p. 43-46.

GRECO, D. Epistemological Open Questions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy , v. 93, n. 3, p. 509-523, 2015. ISSN: 1471-6828 [reviewed 2 February 2018]. Avaliable from:

To read the articles, access

Manuscrito vol.40 no.4 Campinas Oct./Dec. 2017

External link

Manuscrito – MAN:


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RUFFINO, M. Issues in Epistemology, old and new [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2018 [viewed ]. Available from:


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