Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2018)
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Metaepistemology may be partly characterized as the study of the nature, aims, methods and legitimacy of epistemology. Given such a characterization, most epistemological views and theories have an important metaepistemological aspect or, at least, a number of more or less explicit metaepistemological commitments. Metaepistemology is an important area of philosophy because it exemplifies that philosophy must serve as its own meta-discipline by continuously reflecting critically on its own methods and aims. Even though philosophical methodology may be regarded as a branch of epistemology, epistemology itself is as much in need of metaphilosophical examination as other core disciplines of philosophy. Moreover, metaepistemology is important because it bears significantly on first-order epistemological questions. Indeed, many of the most prominent contemporary debates in philosophy have a distinctly metaepistemological aspect. For example, the debates between rationalists and empiricists do not only concern the nature of cognition of specific areas – perception, arithmetic, logic and so forth – but also general metaepistemological questions about whether it is realistic and desirable that epistemology be naturalized. Likewise, the debates between epistemic internalists and externalists include metaepistemological debates about whether the proper focus for epistemology should be the cognizer’s rational perspective or some more objective property of the cognizer’s epistemic position. Similarly, the debates concerning the relationship between folk epistemology and epistemological theorizing include metaepistemological debates about how empirical data concerning folk epistemology should impact epistemology itself. Each of these debates provides an example of how first-order epistemological issues are deeply connected, and sometimes inseparable from, metaepistemological considerations.
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