James Frederick Ferrier, Metaphysical Writer

James Frederick Ferrier (16 June 1808, Edinburgh – 11 June 1864, St Andrews) was a Scottish metaphysical writer. He introduced the term epistemology.

Ferrier’s first contribution to metaphysics was a series of articles in Blackwood’s Magazine (1838–1839), entitled An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness. In these he condemns previous philosophers for ignoring in their psychological investigations the fact of consciousness, which is the distinctive feature of man, and confining their observation to the so-called states of the mind. Consciousness comes into manifestation only when the man has used the word with full knowledge of what it means. This notion he must originate within himself. Consciousness cannot spring from the states which are its object, for it is in antagonism to them. It originates in the will, which in the act of consciousness puts the “I” in the place of our sensations. Morality, conscience, and responsibility are necessary results of consciousness.

Ferrier’s matured philosophical doctrines find expression in the Institutes of Metaphysic the Theory of Knowing and Being (1854), in which he claims to have met the two-fold obligation resting on every system of philosophy, that it should be reasoned and true. His method is that of Spinoza, strict demonstration, or at least, an attempt at it. All the errors of natural thinking and psychology must fall under one or other of three topics: Knowing and the Known, Ignorance, and Being. These are all-comprehensive, and are therefore the departments into which philosophy is divided, for the sole end of philosophy is to correct the inadvertencies of ordinary thinking.

Epistemology

Epistemology is the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.

Epistemology is a term first used by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier to describe the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge; it is also referred to as “theory of knowledge”. Put concisely, it is the study of knowledge and justified belief. It questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired, and the extent to which knowledge pertinent to any given subject or entity can be acquired. Much of the debate in this field has focused on the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification. The term epistemology was probably first introduced in Ferrier’s, “Institutes of Metaphysic: The Theory of Knowing and Being“.

Epistemology comes from Greek ἐπιστήμη, epistēmē, meaning "knowledge, understanding", and λόγος, logos, meaning "word".

Books about Epistemology

How Do We Know?: An Introduction to Epistemology
“How Do We Know?: An Introduction to Epistemology,” by James K. Dew Jr.

“How Do We Know?: An Introduction to Epistemology,” by James K. Dew Jr.

What does it mean to know something? Can we have confidence in our knowledge? Epistemology, the study of knowledge, can often seem like a daunting subject. And yet few topics are more basic to human life. We are inquisitive creatures by nature, and the unending quest for truth leads us to raise difficult questions about the quest itself. What are the conditions, sources and limits of our knowledge? Do our beliefs need to be rationally justified? Can we have certainty? In this primer on epistemology, James Dew and Mark Foreman guide students through this discipline in philosophy. By asking basic questions and using clear, jargon-free language, they provide an entry into some of the most important issues in contemporary philosophy.