Pushing epistemological boundaries : the expansion of the epistemological tradition within the work of William Alston
Segars, Nathan Douglas
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William Alston has set himself squarely among the most prominent figures in philosophy and contemporary epistemology. In the work that follows I shall be investigating whether his most recent work in epistemology might not place him closer to those thinkers, specifically Ludwig Wittgenstein, from whom Alston has always made an effort to distinguish himself. I begin by tracing Alston’s steps through his earlier work in epistemology and justification theory in particular. In those early steps we notice many features of Alston’s thought that figure largely in our study. Those features are drawn out more clearly by setting them against the opposing viewpoints of other philosophers. As the investigation continues, we shall arrive at the crucial problem for Alston: How can we present a defense of our beliefs that doesn’t involve circular support? We shall be looking at three attempts Alston might make at solving this problem. The first is a weak one that he discards himself. The second attempt begins to take Alston into the domain of those thinkers like Wittgenstein mentioned before. The third attempt is my own construction from scattered hints and pieces left by Alston, which I believe can be formulated into a proposed solution to the problem. Even this last attempt takes Alston closer to the camp of philosophers he has tried to avoid. By way of hammering this point home, I demonstrate ways in which Alston and Wittgenstein are found to be more similar than Alston might want us to think. The final conclusion is that Alston’s commitments from his earlier work in epistemology have led him to the connections between himself and philosophers like Wittgenstein when dealing with the problem of finding non-circular support for one’s beliefs.