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Socratic Epistemology


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Socratic Epistemology
Explorations of Knowledge-Seeking by Questioning

Socratic Epistemology challenges most current work in epistemol-ogy—which deals with the evaluation and justification of information already acquired—by discussing instead the more important problem of how knowledge is acquired in the first place.

   Jaakko Hintikka’s model of information-seeking is the old Socratic method of questioning, which has been generalized and brought up to date through the logical theory of questions and answers that he has developed. Hintikka argues that the quest by philosophers for a definition of knowledge is ill-conceived and that the entire notion of knowledge should be replaced by the concept of information. And he further offers an analysis of the different meanings of the concept of information and of their interrelations. The result is a new and illuminating approach to the field of epistemology.

Jaakko Hintikka is an internationally renowned philosopher known as the principal architect of game-theoretical semantics and of the interrogative approach to inquiry, and as one of the architects of distributive normal forms, possible-worlds semantics, tree methods, infinitely deep logics, and present-day-theory of inductive generalization. Now a professor of philosophy at Boston University, he is the author of more than thirty books and has received a number of honors, most recently the Rolf Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy, for his pioneering contributions to logical analysis for modal concepts, in particular the concepts of knowledge and belief.

Socratic Epistemology

Explorations of Knowledge-Seeking by Questioning

Boston University

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
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Information on this title:

© Jaakko Hintikka 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Hintikka, Jaakko, 1929–
Socratic epistemology : explorations of knowledge-seeking by questioning / Jaakko Hintikka.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-85101-5 (hardback) – ISBN 978-0-521-61651-5 (pbk.)
1. Knowledge, Theory of. I. Title.
BD161.H536  2007
121–dc22      2006102664

ISBN 978-0-521-85101-5 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-61651-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication
and does not guarantee that any content on such
Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Acknowledgments page vii
  Introduction 1
1   Epistemology without Knowledge and without Belief 11
2   Abduction—Inference, Conjecture, or an Answer to a Question? 38
3   A Second-Generation Epistemic Logic and Its General Significance 61
4   Presuppositions and Other Limitations of Inquiry 83
5   The Place of the a priori in Epistemology 107
6   Systems of Visual Identification in Neuroscience: Lessons from Epistemic Logic 145
  With John Symons
7   Logical Explanations 161
8   Who Has Kidnapped the Notion of Information? 189
9   A Fallacious Fallacy? 211
10   Omitting Data—Ethical or Strategic Problem? 221
Index 229


I would like to thank the original publishers of Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, and 10 for kindly granting me permission to reprint my previously published essays.

Chapter 1 has not appeared in English before. It was originally published in French as “Une epistemologie sans connaisance et sans croyance” in the series of pamphlets Journée de la philosophie, No. 2, Jaakko Hintikka, “Une epistemologie,” UNESCO, 2004.

Chapter 2 first appeared under the title “What Is Abduction? The Fundamental Problem of Contemporary Epistemology” in Transactions of the Charles Peirce Society, vol. 34 (1998), pp. 503–533. It is reprinted here with additions.

Chapter 3 first appeared in Vincent F. Hendricks et al., editors, Knowledge Contributors, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht (2003), pp. 33–56. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.

Chapter 4 is a revised version of the essay “Presuppositions of Questions, Presuppositions of Inquiry,” forthcoming in Proceedings of the 2001 IIP Annual Meeting, Matti Sintonen, editor, Springer, Dordrecht. Reprinted with kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.

Chapter 5 is new.

Chapter 6, written jointly with John Symons, first appeared under the title “Systems of Visual Identification in Neuroscience: Lessons from Epistemic Logic,” in Philosophy of Science, vol. 70 (2003), pp. 89–104. John Symons is an assistant professor of philosophy at The University of Texas, El Paso.

Chapter 7 is new. Some of the material first appeared in Jaakko Hintikka and Ilpo Halonen, “Interpolation as Explanation,” Philosophy of Science, vol. 66 (1999), pp. 779–805.

Chapter 8 is new.

Chapter 9 first appeared in Synthese, vol. 140 (2004), pp. 25–35. Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.

Chapter 10 first appeared in Synthese, vol. 145 (2005), pp. 169–175. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.

In writing the different chapters of this book, and before that in thinking the thoughts that have gone into them, I have incurred more intellectual debts than I can recount here. The earliest is to Dr. Einari Merikallio, the headmaster of my high school, who was the most masterful practitioner of the Socratic method of questioning I have ever witnessed.

On a more mundane level, there is the old joke answer to the question: Who really did write the works of great scholars? The answer: Their secretaries, of course. In the case of this book, this answer is even more appropriate than in most other instances. The book would not have been possible without the industry, patience, judgment, and diplomacy of my secretary, Ms. Lynne Sullivan. My greatest and most direct debt is to her.

Ms. Sullivan’s services were made possible by support from Boston University. I also appreciate whole-heartedly the patience and expertise of the editors of Cambridge University Press, and above all the decision of the Press to accept this book for publication.

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