Despite epistemology's attempts to ground the validity of knowledge claims, the exercise itself is overflowing with a large background of assumed, unquestioned axioms. These axioms are simultaneously bizarre, archaic, and solipsistic. The axioms have a deteriorating, that is, self-defeating aspect on the exercise itself. From the outset, what epistemology is attempting to solve is already aborted by its own assumed premises. Its own foundations later come to destroy its goals.
First and foremost, Epistemology is an exercise performed in Humanities departments on campus. It is not a science. It is therefore a form of rhetorical writing. Just in a tentative list, I can give an incomplete survey of the assumed axioms of epistemology that exist prior to anyone actually writing anything down:
- Assume there exists "minds" which are containers of "knowledge"
- Assume this knowledge is communicated in the form of English sentences.
- Assume English sentences are pure claims unadulterated by grammar or culture
- Assume there is a group of people who will make "propositions" in written format.
- Assume that "minds" exist transcendentally.
- Assume "sense perceptions" exist transcendentally.
- Assume "propositions" exist independently of their instantiations in language or by human mouths or human writing tools (pens, pencils, chalk).
- Assume the "mind" is a tabula rasa, upon which the transcendent sense perceptions act.
Epistemology can only thrive in the presence of the ignorance of the participants regarding the instantiation and substrate of the english language. Epistemology can only thrive in the presence of the ignorance of the participants regarding the instantiation and substrate of minds in biological tissue within the heads of the participants. Only given this background of woo-woo-I-dont-understand-this-stuff-I-see can epistemology thrive.
These solipsistic axioms which form the stage of epistemological writing, are now under direct factual attack from modern science and modern biology. If thoughts are the biological actions of neurons, then we cannot assume the existence of transcendental minds. If perception is caused by radiation transfer between molecules, then we cannot assume that "sense perceptions" exist transcendentally. If English is an inherited cultural artifact, then its grammar, its semantics, and its metaphors will not allow English sentences to be the format in which unadulterated, pure claims can form. English is simply too intertwined with its own cultural baggage to be the tool used to communicate unadulterated propositions.
Any discipline, whether scientific or rhetorical writing, if that discipline assumes magical phenomena better fit for the medieval worldview, that discipline should be highly suspect to any reader.
These allegedly transcendentally-existing objects called "minds" are themselves now understood to be macroscopic phenomena instantiated in macroscopic organs called brains. That is to say, we have the tools today to demonstrate that minds are reducible to a set of underlying parts interacting. This has serious repercussions for anyone claiming the existence of "mind" is transcendental.
These allegedly transcendentally-existing objects called "sense perceptions" are themselves now understood to be macroscopic phenomena instantiated within macroscopic objects. That is to say, we have the tools today to demonstrate that Sense Perceptions are reducible to a set of underlying parts interacting. This has serious repercussions for anyone claiming the existence of "sense perception" as transcendental.
The idea that the mind contains pieces of things called knowledge (as if it mind were a wooden bucket holding apples) is under factual attack. The brain itself has no such containers, and most of its operation involves cells sending a quick succession of ticks to each other through connecting fibers. (The "ticks" are called action potentials. The "fibers" connecting the cells are called axons.) The axons connect to other cells on little binding sites called dendrites. The memories of the brain are instantiated by the buildup and accumulation of ions on the insides of these binding sites (called the pre-synaptic cleft). These are often calcium ions. Buildup has a microscopic effect of changing the concentration of the fluids in the neuron, which profoundly affects the neuron's ability to conduct electrical signals. Concentrations in liquids are affected because the differences in scale between cells and atoms is extreme. In any case, the "storage" of memory in the brain takes place through a widely-distributed collection of ion buildup on millions of synapses. The cells of the brain that are involved in the process of perception are the exact pathways involved in the act of recall.
The above paragraph should invoke severe doubt on any premises or assumed axioms that depict the mind as a bucket holding little knowledge apples. The substrate does matter. The manner in which "thoughts", "propositions", and "beliefs" are instantiated in that substrate matters to a discussion of knowledge.
As our knowledge of information, of the body, and the brain increases, the discipline of epistemology will become more and more marginalized. The historical roots of epistemology lie with 16th and 17th century European empiricists, who assumed (and who had to assume at the time) that humans were blank slates upon which sense perceptions act innocently and purely. The way in which this was happening mattered not to those writers. However, today we know the underlying mechanisms are the central issue. We know these macroscopic phenomena and their associated objects are reducible to microscopic interactions. We could even, presumably assert that fact as an axiom, and then operate from there as our adopted Epistemological framework.
Ultimately, in a final assessment -- knowledge itself will be reduced to constituent parts, and it will be seen as a phenomena in nature instantiated upon a substrate of microscopic interactions.