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Philosophical Review

Author(s): Matthias Steup
Review by: Matthias Steup
Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 101, No. 4 (Oct., 1992), pp. 856-858
Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review
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The Philosophical
Review,Vol. 101, No. 4 (October 1992)


TUAL SYNTHESIS. By EDWARD CRAIG. New York, Oxford Univesity
Press, Clarendon Press, 1990. Pp. x, 169.

According to the standard approach to epistemology,the concept of

knowledge is to be illuminatedby settingforthan analysansthatspecifies
necessaryand sufficientconditions.Craig's projectof "conceptual synthe-
sis" is intended to provide us with an alternativeto this program. Craig
thinksthat,as the literatureof the last two decades suggests,thisprogram
"runs into difficulties"(1). Here the reader mightwant to know precisely
what these difficultiesare, but Craig offersno elaboration,thoughlaterin
the book he does mention one of the shortcomingsof the standard ap-
proach: In it, features that are of "deep centrality,"yet not necessary,
simplyvanish withouta trace-a flawthatCraig's own approach is meant
to avoid (14).
Craig, then,does not ask whenthe concept of knowledgeis applied, but
ratherwhyitis applied, whichneedsitanswers,whichpurposesit serves.The
hypothesishe aims to establishis that the concept of knowledge is a re-
sponse to the factthathumans need true beliefsabout theirenvironment,
and thus is used forthe purpose to flag approved sources of information.
Accordingly,his project is based on the followingtwo concepts: (i) thatof
an inquirerwho does not as of yethave a beliefabout p but wantsto know
whetherp is true,and thus seeks informationon the truthvalue of p; and
(ii) that of a good informant:someone who can provide the information
the inquirerseeks. Good informants,accordingto Craig, possess a detect-
able propertythatmakes themidentifiableas persons who are likelyto be
rightas to whetherp is true or false.
The inquirer may be placed into various hypotheticalsituations,which,
if we begin withsimple informationseeking and end withthe practiceof
recommending informants,display a logical progression at the end of
whichwe findthe concept of knowledge.At the beginning,a barnacle-like
creatureneeding informationoperates in isolationand withoutemploying
distinctions.However, "withthe slightesthintof intelligencethisprimitive
holism startsto fragment.The creature must distinguishbetween food,
here, now ... and food here, soon" (83). A furtherstep towards greater
sophisticationis made when we place the informationseeker in a social
group, in which the members engage in the practice of selecting and
recommendingthose who are able to offerinformation.Now there is a
need to identifypersons who are good informantsas to a varietyof sub-
jects under a varietyof differentcircumstances.Since it cannot alwaysbe
known in advance on which subjectsunder whichcircumstancesinforma-


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tion is needed, the progressionwe are considering-a process of "objec-

tivization,"as Craig calls it-involves a shifttowardsadopting a high value
forthe likelihoodof the inquirer'sbeing right.And once the requirement
for a high value of probabilityhas evolved, we get the concept of knowl-
edge. "The concept of knowledge,"Craig writes,"lies at the objectivised
end of the process" (90f.).
This account aims at identifyingneeds, and the practicesthatwere de-
veloped in order to meet these needs, and is thereforeclaimed to be a
"stateof nature" explanation (89). Such an explanation "need not presup-
pose that the whollyegocentric,'subjectivised'thoughtfromwhich it be-
gan actuallyexists or existed, any more than a Hobbesian account of the
State needs the correspondingpresuppositionabout the war of everyman
againsteveryman. The argumentis onlythatifitexists .. . it willdevelop
in the direction of objectivisation.Therefore there will be objectivised
concepts,whetherthingsstartedout thatway or not" (84).
It is arguable whetherCraig's project,which is ambitiousand imagina-
tive, is a successful one. To begin with, the state is an institutionthat
demands a justification,and the purpose of a state of nature theoryis to
derive thisjustification.In contrast,the existenceof epistemicpractices-
social practicesinvolvingsuch words as 'knowledge' and 'probability'-do
not, in the way the state does, seem to demand justification.Craig might
reply that a state of nature explanation need not necessarilyaim at justi-
fyingthe existence of a practice. Rather, in his case the project aims at
illuminatinga certainconcept-that of knowledge.There is, however,the
followingproblem standing in the way of illumination:Surely we would
want to know preciselywhat kind of state the stateof nature is supposed
to be, preciselyhow it differsfromthe kind of state withwhich it is jux-
taposed. Presumably,the epistemic stateof nature is a general conditionin
which a need for informationexists,while inquirers don't yet have the
concept of knowledge. However, is it coherentto assume thattherecould
be such a state?Could therebe inquirerswho seek information, thatis, want
to know whethercertain propositionsare true or false and thus have the
concept of truth,yet do not have the concept of knowledge? It could be
argued that informationseeking is, ipsofacto,knowledge seeking. If it is,
then there does not seem to be a differencebetweenthe epistemicstateof
nature and the general conditionthatis achieved once the stateof nature
is left behind. Craig doesn't dwell on the question of preciselyhow the
epistemic statue of nature is to be characterized-a surprisingomission
given the book's title-and so the reader never gets a firmhold on the
alleged parallel between Craig's project and a stateof nature theorysuch
as Hobbes's.
Interestingly, quite oftenwhen Craig addresses issues havingto do with
the nature of knowledge,the suspicion arises thathe is deviatingfromhis


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original project and is back withinthe confinesof traditionalconceptual

analysis.Nevertheless,much of whathe has to say about familiarthemesof
analyticepistemology-such as reliabilism,counterfactualand causal theo-
ries,the traditionalaccount of knowledgeas justifiedtruebelief,internal-
ism and externalism,etc.-is interestingand frequentlyoffersa new per-
spectiveon old problems.
St. Cloud StateUniversity

Review,Vol. 101, No. 4 (October 1992)



ledge, 1990. Pp. ix, 197.

Since Norman Kemp Smith,all Hume scholarshave had to deal not only
with Hume's negative argumentstowardsthe rationaljustificationof be-
liefs such as those in causality,necessaryconnection,the external world,
substance,and personal identity,but also withhis naturalisticexplanation
of those beliefs. In fact, it is now not uncommon to so emphasize the
positiveaspects of Hume's philosophythatmany hold that Hume is not a
skepticin any interestingsense at all.' In the opinion of thisreviewer,the
beginning of truthwhen it comes to interpretingHume is to give equal
weightto both the skepticaland the positiveargumentsthat Hume gives
regarding the aforementionedbeliefs.2aDaniel Flage's David Hume'sThe-
oryofMind takes thisapproach. Flage describesHume's techniqueof deal-
ing with each of the problematicbeliefs as "doxastic pathology"; in each
case, Hume undercuts the rationaljustificationof the belief,while going
on to provide an explanation,in termsof the associationof ideas, of why
we continue to hold on to that belief. The success of these explanations
bolstersnot onlythe fundamentalrole played by the associationof ideas in
Hume's philosophy,but also the bundle theoryof mind of whichit forms
a part.
The bundle theoryof mind, Flage argues, provides the unifyingtheme
of Book I of the Treatise,and he structureshis account of Hume's "doxastic
pathology"of beliefs so that each of Hume's argumentscan be seen as a

'For a thorough surveyand criticismof these views,at least with respect to the
nonmoral issues, see Kenneth P. Winkler,"The New Hume," Philosophical Review
100 (1991): 541-79.
2The locusclassicusof thisbalanced view is Barry Stroud's Hume(London: Rout-
ledge, 1977).


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