Epistemologists working traditional modes have sought to discover the necessary and sufficient conditions under which one has knowledge. This has led to several tricky philosophical problems. Perhaps most notorious of these are the problems concerning skepticism. It seems that any analysis of knowledge admits of cases where the analysis is satisfied and yet knowledge has not been secured. This has led some philosophers to seek some other starting point for epistemology. Perhaps one should begin with the anti-skeptical premise that there are clear cases of knowledge, and then attempt from there to provide analyses of its constituent elements – belief, justification, evidence, and so on. Alas, this approach also has invited difficulties.
In What's the Point of Knowledge? A Function-First Epistemology
(Oxford University Press, 2019), Michael Hannon
takes a different approach. He argues that the place to begin in epistemology is with the question of the function of knowledge. Or, more precisely, he proposes to begin with an examination of the function of the concept of knowledge, the purpose for the sake of which we evaluate others as knowers. The result is a “function-first” epistemology.