“How do you know?” sounds like such a simple question. It’s the kind of question a young child might fire off dozens of times a day to a flustered parent who tries to explain how they know that the sun can burn skin or that the mourning doves don’t pose any threat to their walk. But, like many simple questions, when one thinks more deeply about it, it becomes deeply complex. After all, how do we know what we know? That’s the question that James K. Dew, Jr. and Mark W. Foreman turn towards in How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and such a study lends itself directly to asking questions. The titles of the 11 chapters of the book reflect this, with headings like “What Do We Perceive?” and “Do We Need Justification?” Along the way, the authors introduce a wealth of information to the reader, along with resources for further exploration, discussion questions, and more. The book is clearly intended as an introductory textbook, and would serve that function well. But because of its format, it would also serve the general reader who wants to learn more about epistemology without having to dive right into a major work on the topic.
The authors focus largely on modern authors, bringing the latest thinking on the topics invovled to the reader. For example, in the chapter on justification, much is made of Alvin Plantinga’s work on epistemic justification and warrant. The book is written from a Christian perspective, but its rarely exclusive to Christian thinking. What makes the perspective useful, for one, is that the readings include several Christian authors, but only when they’re at the forefront of their fields. For example, it makes sense to include Plantinga and William Alston in the section on justification, because they’ve done so much work on the topic. The topic of “revelation” treated in an epistemology text sets this one apart, as well. It allows readers to engage with questions about faith that aren’t ordinarily addressed in this context.
How Do We Know? is a great introduction to several massive topics. Readers will come away with many question, but also equipped with several paths to explore and ways to pursue those questions. Recommended.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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