Ideas of Martin Kusch, by Theme

[British, fl. 2002, Professor of Philosophy and Sociology of Science at the University of Cambridge.]

green numbers give full details    |    back to list of philosophers    |     unexpand these ideas    |    
3. Truth / C. Correspondence Truth / 1. Correspondence Truth
Correspondence could be with other beliefs, rather than external facts
     Full Idea: The correspondence theory of truth does not commit one to the view the reality is mind-independent. There is no reason why the 'facts' that correspond to true beliefs might not themselves be beliefs or ideas.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.17)
     A reaction: This seems important, as it is very easy to assume that espousal of correspondence necessarily goes with realism about the external world. It is surprising to think that a full-blown Idealist might espouse the correspondence theory.
3. Truth / F. Semantic Truth / 1. Tarski's Truth / a. Tarski's truth definition
Tarskians distinguish truth from falsehood by relations between members of sets
     Full Idea: According to the Tarskians we separate out truths from falsehoods by tracing the relations between members of different sets.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.16)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
We can have knowledge without belief, if others credit us with knowledge
     Full Idea: We can have knowledge that p without believing that p. It is enough that others credit us with the knowledge.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: [He is discussing Welbourne 1993] This is an extreme of the communitarian view.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 4. Solipsism
Methodological Solipsism assumes all ideas could be derived from one mind
     Full Idea: 'Methodological solipsism' says merely that everyone can conceive of themselves as the only subject. Everyone can construct all referents of their thought and talk out of complexes of their very own experience.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.19)
     A reaction: The possibility of this can be denied (e.g. by Putnam 1983, dating back to Wittgenstein). I too would doubt it, though finding a good argument seems a forlorn hope.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / f. Foundationalism critique
Foundations seem utterly private, even from oneself at a later time
     Full Idea: Foundationalists place the foundations of knowledge at a point where they are in principle accessible only to the individual knower. They cannot be 'shared' with another person, or with oneself at a later time.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: Kusch is defending an extremely social view of knowledge. Being private to an individual may just he an unfortunate epistemological fact. Being unavailable even to one's later self seems a real problem for foundational certainty.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / a. Coherence as justification
Testimony is reliable if it coheres with evidence for a belief, and with other beliefs
     Full Idea: Testimony must be reliable since its deliveries cohere both with input from other information routes in the formation of single beliefs, and with other types of beliefs in the formation of systems of belief.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: Kusch criticises this view (credited to C.A.J. Coady 1992) as too individualistic , but it sounds to me dead right. I take a major appeal of the coherence account of justification to be its capacity to extend seamlessly out into external testimony.
The coherentist restricts the space of reasons to the realm of beliefs
     Full Idea: The coherentist restricts the space of reasons to the realm of beliefs.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: I endorse this idea, which endorses Davidson's slogan on the subject. The key thought is that a 'pure' sensation is uninterpreted, and so cannot justify anything. It is only once it generates a proposition that it can justify. But McDowell 1994.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 5. Coherentism / c. Coherentism critique
Individualistic coherentism lacks access to all of my beliefs, or critical judgement of my assessment
     Full Idea: Individualistic versions of coherentism assume that a belief is justified if it fits with all, or most, of my contemporaneous beliefs. But who has access to that totality? Who can judge my assessment? From what position could it be judged?
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: [compressed] Though I agree with Kusch on the social aspect of coherence, I don't think these are major criticisms. Who can access, or critically evaluate a society's body of supposedly coherent beliefs? We just do our best.
Individual coherentism cannot generate the necessary normativity
     Full Idea: Standard forms of coherentism are unable to account for normativity, because of their common individualism. Normativity cannot be generated within the isolated individual, or in the causal interaction between world and individual mind.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.10)
     A reaction: This thought leads to belief in rationalism and the a priori, not (as Kusch hopes) to the social dimension. How can social normativity get off the ground if there is none of it to be found in individuals? The criteria of coherence seem to be given.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 2. Causal Justification
Cultures decide causal routes, and they can be critically assessed
     Full Idea: Assessments of causal routes are specific to cultures, and thus not beyond dialectical justification.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.11)
     A reaction: This is a good defence of the social and communitarian view against those who are trying to be thoroughly naturalistic and physicalist by relying entirely on causal processes for all explanation, even though I sympathise with such naturalism.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 3. Reliabilism / a. Reliable knowledge
Process reliabilism has been called 'virtue epistemology', resting on perception, memory, reason
     Full Idea: Process reliabilism is sometimes subsumed under the label 'virtue epistemology', so that processes are 'epistemically virtuous' if they lead mostly to true beliefs. The 'intellectual virtues' here are perception, memory or reasoning.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 9)
     A reaction: I am shocked that 'intellectual virtue' should be hijacked by reliabilists, suggesting that it even applies to a good clock. I like the Aristotelian idea that sound knowledge rests on qualities of character in the knower - including social qualities.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 6. Contextual Justification / a. Contextualism
Justification depends on the audience and one's social role
     Full Idea: How a claim (about an X-ray) needs to be justified depends on whether one is confronted by a group of laypersons, or of experts, and is prescribed by one's social role.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: I think this is exactly right. I cannot think of any absolute criterion for justification which doesn't play straight into the hands of sceptics. Final and certain justification is an incoherent notion. But I am a little more individualistic than Kusch.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 7. Testimony
Testimony is an area in which epistemology meets ethics
     Full Idea: Testimony is an area in which epistemology meets ethics.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: This is very thought-provoking. A key concept linking the two would be 'respect'. Consider also 'experts'.
Powerless people are assumed to be unreliable, even about their own lives
     Full Idea: The powerless in society are not usually taken to be trustworthy witnesses even when it comes to providing information about their own lives.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: This is where epistemology shades off into politics and the writings of Foucault.
Testimony does not just transmit knowledge between individuals - it actually generates knowledge
     Full Idea: Testimony is not just a means of transmission of complete items of knowledge from and to an individual. Testimony is almost always generative of knowledge.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: I'm not clear how my testimony could fail to be knowledge for me, but become knowledge just because I pass it to you. I might understand what I say better than you did. When fools pool their testimony, presumably not much knowledge results.
Some want to reduce testimony to foundations of perceptions, memories and inferences
     Full Idea: Reductionalists about testimony are foundationalists by temperament. ...Their project amounts to justifying our testimonial beliefs in terms of perceptions, memories and inferences.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: Kusch wants to claim that the sharing of testimony is the means by which knowledge is created. My line is something like knowledge being founded on a social coherence, which is an extension of internal individual coherence.
Testimony won't reduce to perception, if perception depends on social concepts and categories
     Full Idea: How can we hope to reduce testimony to perception if the way we perceive the world is to a considerable extent shaped by concepts and categories that we have learned from others?
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: To me this sounds like good support for coherentism, the benign circle between my reason, my experience, and the testimony and reason of others. Asking how the circle could get started shows ignorance of biology.
A foundation is what is intelligible, hence from a rational source, and tending towards truth
     Full Idea: It can be argued that testimony is non-reductive because it relies on the fact that whatever is intelligible is likely to come from a rational source, and that rational sources, by their very nature, tend towards the truth.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 4 n7)
     A reaction: [He cites Tyler Burge 1993, 1997] If this makes testimony non-reductive, how would one assess whether the testimony is 'intelligible'?
Vindicating testimony is an expression of individualism
     Full Idea: To believe that testimony needs a general vindication is itself an expression of individualism.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: Kusch is a spokesman for Communitarian Epistemology. Surely we are allowed to identify the criteria for what makes a good witness? Ask a policeman.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 8. Social Justification
Myths about lonely genius are based on epistemological individualism
     Full Idea: Many myths about the lonely scientific genius underwrite epistemological individualism.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: They all actually say that they 'stood on the shoulders of giants', and they are invariably immersed in the contemporary researches of teams of like-minded people. How surprised were the really expert contemporaries by Newton, Einstein, Gödel?
Communitarian Epistemology says 'knowledge' is a social status granted to groups of people
     Full Idea: I propose 'communitarian epistemology' - claiming first that the term 'knowledge' marks a social status, and is dependent on the existence of communities, and second that this social status is typically granted to groups of people.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Intro)
     A reaction: I find this very congenial, though Kusch goes a little far when he claims that knowledge is largely created by social groups. He allows that Robinson Crusoe might have knowledge of his island, but can't give a decent account of it.
Private justification is justification to imagined other people
     Full Idea: Coming to convince myself is actually to form a pretend communal belief with pretend others, ..which is clearly parasitic on the case where the others are real.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.11)
     A reaction: This slightly desperate move is a way for 'communitarian' epistemologists to deal with Robinson Crusoe cases. I think Kusch is right, but it is a bit hard to prove that this is what is 'actually' going on.
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 2. Self as Social Construct
To be considered 'an individual' is performed by a society
     Full Idea: One cannot even have the social status of 'being an individual' unless it has been conferred on one by a communal performative belief.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.11)
     A reaction: This sounds crazy until you think of the mentality of a tenth generation slave in a fully slave-owning society.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 1. Concepts / a. Nature of concepts
Our experience may be conceptual, but surely not the world itself?
     Full Idea: I am unconvinced by McDowell's arguments in favour of treating the world as itself conceptual. Granted that our experience is conceptual in quality; it still does not follow that the world itself is conceptual.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 9)
     A reaction: I would take Kusch's point to be a given in any discussion of concepts, and McDowell as a non-starter on this one. I am inclined to believe that we do have non-conceptual experiences, but I take them to be epistemologically useless.
19. Language / F. Communication / 1. Rhetoric
Often socialising people is the only way to persuade them
     Full Idea: Often we can convince members of other cultures only by socializing them into our culture.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.19)
     A reaction: This looks both true and interesting, and is good support for Kusch's communitarian epistemology. What actually persuades certainly doesn't have to be reasons, and may be almost entirely social.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 7. Communitarianism / a. Communitarianism
Communitarianism in epistemology sees the community as the primary knower
     Full Idea: Communitarianism in epistemology sees the community as the primary knower.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: This thought offers an account of epistemology which could fit in with communitarian political views. See the ideas of Martin Kusch in this database.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 7. Critique of Kinds
Natural kinds are social institutions
     Full Idea: Natural kinds are social institutions.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch.11)
     A reaction: I can see what he means, but I take this to be deeply wrong. A clarification of what exactly is meant by a 'natural kind' is needed before we can make any progress with this one. Is a village a natural kind? Or a poodle? Or a shoal?
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 4. Divine Contradictions
Omniscience is incoherent, since knowledge is a social concept
     Full Idea: The very idea of omniscience is dubious, at least for the communitarian epistemologist, since knowing is a social state, and knowledge is a social status, needing a position in a social network.
     From: Martin Kusch (Knowledge by Agreement [2002], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: A nice test case. Would an omniscient mind have evidence for its beliefs? Would it continually check for coherence? Is it open to criticism? Does it even entertain the possibility of error? Could another 'omniscient' mind challenge it?