How Do We Know? | Book Review


How Do We Know? By James K. Dew Jr. and Mark W. Foreman is an introduction to epistemology, the theory of knowledge. It is also the inaugural volume in IVP Academic’s new series, Questions in Christian Philosophy. The next volume, How Do We Reason? by Forrest E. Baird, is an introduction to logic and comes out in April 2021.

Here is the table of contents:

  1. What Is Epistemology?
  2. What Is Knowledge?
  3. Where Does Knowledge Come From?
  4. What Is Truth, and How Do We Find It?
  5. What Are Inferences, and How Do They Work?
  6. What Do We Perceive?
  7. Do We Need Justification?
  8. Can We Be Objective in Our View of the World?
  9. What Is Virtue Epistemology?
  10. Do We Have Revelation?
  11. How Certain Can We Be?

As can be seen from this table, the book asks the basic questions of epistemology. Dew and Foreman outline the most common answers to each question, noting their strengths and weaknesses. They write clearly and use everyday illustrations to make their points.

The authors note that the book is for “those with no background in philosophy,” and it brings a “Christian perspective” to bear on the topic. This perspective is most evident in the book’s discussions about the possibility of divine revelation and of Reformed epistemology.

Given that How Do We Know? is published by the academic imprint of an evangelical publisher, I assume that its primary readers will be college students, especially at Christian colleges and universities. However, readers who aren’t college students—or even Christians—can profit from the book’s discussion of the issues, which largely tracks with the content of other primers on epistemology.

One final note: This is the book’s second edition. Its major difference from the first edition is the addition of chapter 8, “Can We Be Objective in Our View of the World?”

Book Reviewed
James K. Dew Jr. and Mark W. Foreman, How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

In This World of Wonders | Book Review


Memoirs by philosophers typically don’t garner wide readership, but Nicholas Wolterstorff’s In This World of Wonders should. It records vignettes from the life of a leading Christian philosopher who has made scholarly contributions to the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, among others. His Lament for a Son, written after the death of his son in a climbing accident, has helped many Christians journey through grief and is a spiritual classic.

I became aware of Wolterstorff in college when, as a philosophy student, I was introduced to the “Reformed epistemology” that he, Alvin Plantinga, and William P. Alston pioneered. Wolterstorff recounts the origins of that epistemology here, and provides a short introduction to its basic thesis, but he also shines a light on the development of his thinking in aesthetics and ethics. Given his interest in the former, it’s a good thing that Eerdman’s layout of this book was so well done. It’s always a pleasure to read a book where the beauty of the writing is matched by the beauty of the presentation.

For many years, Wolterstorff worried that his interests in different fields of philosophy had no unifying core. But he came to realize that the biblical concept of shalom, which he translates as “flourishing,” in fact integrated his interests. God created this world so that its creatures would flourish. This world-affirming theology, an outgrowth of a Reformed worldview, has guided Wolterstorff’s thinking over the course of a long, productive career at Calvin College, Yale University, and the University of Virginia.

Philosophically minded folk who have read Wolterstorff will be interested in this memoir, but I also think it presents a model of Christian scholarship—both implicitly and explicitly—that will commend the book to professors in other disciplines too.

in-this-world-of-wondersBook Reviewed
Nicholas Wolterstorff, In This World of Wonders: Memoir of a Life in Learning (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019).

P.S. If you like my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

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