The Metaphysics of Knowledge

Analysis 69 (1):178-181 (2009)
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Abstract

Keith Hossack's thesis is that knowledge is a conceptually primitive and metaphysically fundamental relation between a mind and a fact. He argues that in terms of the simple relation of knowledge we can analyze central notions of epistemology, of semantics, of modality and a priori knowledge, of psychology, and of linguistics. He does so in a framework that includes a fairly rich faculty psychology and that stresses causation: knowledge can be caused by belief, but because knowledge is simple, it is not any kind of belief. He regards his enterprise as metaphysics, and he proceeds in a rather grand manner. The beginning of his Preface might remind one of the opening paragraphs of Leibniz's The Monadology.If knowledge is a simple relation between minds and facts, then we want to know a bit about facts. Hossack takes facts to consist in universals being instantiated among things. He favours a view of universals as respects in which things resemble each other, but his theory is at least officially silent about which universals exist, leaving that as a matter for scientific inquiry. But he takes metaphysics to be a science. Here he is being coy, and it is worth making out how. Hossack uses multigrade relations; these are relations of no fixed polyadicity that for any natural number n may be instantiated by n things. Vectors are bearers of such relations. The relation among working men of uniting to form a union is a multigrade relation, and the founders of the International Workers of the World are a vector bearing this relation.

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Keith Hossack
Birkbeck College

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