• Bartricks
    1.4k
    Plato proposed that knowledge involves having a justified true belief.

    Subsequently many have argued that this is incomplete and there must be some other element, for we can conceive of cases where a person has a justified true belief, yet our resaon says that they lack knowledge.

    Bertrand Russell came up with a counterexample, one of kind made more famous later by Edmund Gettier (and that have subsequently become known as 'Gettier cases'). In Russell's case, a clock has stopped and is reporting a time of 3pm. Someone ignorant of the fact the clock has stopped but desirous to know the time looks at the clock and forms the belief that it is 3pm. By pure coincidence it is, in fact, 3pm. This person has a justified true belief. They belief that it is 3pm, and it is 3pm - so their belief is true. And their belief is justified because they have formed it in an epistemically responsible manner - they looked at a clock, a clock it was reasonble to assume was working. However, though they have a justified true belief that it is 3pm, it seems equally clear to our reason (the reason of most of us, anyway) that they do not 'know' that it is 3pm.

    Why doesn't that person's justified true belief qualify as knowledge? It is tempting to say that it doesn't qualify becasue it was just by luck that it was true. The method adopted - looking at clockfaces - was not reliable in this kind of context .

    But there are counterexamples to this modified 'no luck' analysis as well. For example, imagine that you want to know what the time is and so you look at a clock tower and form the belief that it is 3pm. This clock is working and it really is 3pm. However, unbeknownst to you, the area you are in is one in which most public clocks are stopped. This is the one exception. Well, it still seems true to say that you know it is 3pm, even though it was just by luck that the clock you looked at was the one working one.

    So, it seems that sometimes a justified true belief fails to qualify as knowledge due to the fact it was only by luck that it was true, and yet sometimes a justified true belief does qualify as knowledge despite the fact it was only by luck that it was true. Luck seems sometimes to explain why a justified true belief is not knowledge, but in other cases the same degree luck does not affect the knowledge status of a justified true belief. This is puzzling - or puzzling to many, anyway, who continue to try and refine the justified true belief account so as to be able to resist counterexmaples.

    Here is my proposal: for a belief to qualify as knowledge is for Reason to be adopting a certain attitude towards your possession of it. Sometimes the presence of luck will mean she does not adopt that attitude towards your possession of it; sometimes it will not.

    For an analogy: sometimes I approve of the presence of chocolate in a dish, sometimes I do not. Chocolate on a cookie - yes. Chocolate on a potato - no.

    It would be odd to try and formulate a hard and fast rule about when I do, and when I do not, adopt this attitude towards chocolate. For example, although I do not generally approve of chocolate when it is accompanying potato, perhaps there aer some contexts in which I will - perhaps potato and caramel and chocolate is a combination I approve of, even though were you to remove one element, I would disapprove of the combination of the others.

    Anyway, what I am suggesting, then, is that 'knowledge' is like this too. In some contexts a true belief will elicit the 'knowledge' attitude from Reason due to the fact it was not formed in a lucky fashion; but in other contexts a true belief may elicit the 'knowledge' attitude despite the fact it was formed in a lucky fashion.

    I also think that much contemporary thinking about knowledge confuses two distinct questions. "When do we have knowledge?" and "what 'is' knowledge?" Even if we can agree about when we have knowledge, that doesn't necessarily tell us what knowledge itself is. And likewise, we may be able to answer the latter question without being able to say with any precision when we have knowledge.

    My proposal, then, is that knowledge itself is constituted by having a true belief that Reason is adopting a certain attitude towards (the knowledge attitude). That analysis leaves open when and where Reason will adopt that attitude towards a true belief that one is holding.
  • Pantagruel
    414
    My proposal, then, is that knowledge itself is constituted by having a true belief that Reason is adopting a certain attitude towards (the knowledge attitude). That analysis leaves open when and where Reason will adopt that attitude towards a true belief that one is holding.Bartricks

    Why does one have to have an awareness that something is knowledge for it to be knowledge? Farmers know a great deal about how and when to plant, probably without any kind of reflective awareness about anything vaguely epistemological. I would argue not only do they possess knowledge, but that a very important and fundamental kind of knowledge.

    I think what you are describing is a theory about knowledge, not knowledge simpliciter.
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    Both with this and with truth in the other thread, you seem willing to accept problematic and probabilistic "definitions." And yours seem reasonable to me - they seem to work much of the time, even most of the time. But they're in no way understandings of the thing itself. Tell us, then, are you being practical or a philosopher?

    If you're pursuing apodeixis of these: knowledge, truth, reason, go for it. I'll follow with interest, and with a goad if you get side-tracked. All these have been racked and put to such questions as these forums could muster in many threads. One way to start might be to give one-sentence definitions/descriptions of each of the three and let us all sharpen them. And I think you're wise to set aside JTB notions of truth; that topic comes with its own set problems.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    A distinction is sometimes drawn between 'knowing how' and 'knowing that'. I am talking about 'knowing that'.

    Why does one have to have an awareness that something is knowledge for it to be knowledge?Pantagruel

    You don't, I think, and I haven't said that you do. Sometimes someone can know something - that is, can have a justified true belief - without knowing that their belief is justified.

    Being justified and being aware that your belief is justified are not necessarily the same.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Both with this and with truth in the other thread, you seem willing to accept problematic and probabilistic "definitions."tim wood

    Where? I didn't define truth. Others did, and I took issue with their definitions. Also it is not I, but Plato, who offered the 'justified true belief' definition.

    I am taking issue with it.

    But they're in no way understandings of the thing itself.tim wood

    I am not offering definitions. I know full well that definitions do not provide understanding. I am proposing that knowledge consists of an attitude. That's a thesis for exploration, not something I am certain about. And it is not a definition.

    Tell us, then, are you being practical or a philosopher?tim wood

    I'm trying to figure out what knowledge is. Using reasoned reflection to do that is practical, for what else would one use?
  • Pantagruel
    414
    Ok but this

    Sometimes someone can know something - that is, can have a justified true belief - without knowing that their belief is justified.Bartricks

    and this

    having a true belief that Reason is adopting a certain attitude towards (the knowledge attitude).Bartricks

    seem to be in disagreement?
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    I am not offering definitions. I know full well that definitions do not provide understanding. I am proposing that knowledge consists of an attitude. That's a thesis for exploration, not something I am certain about. And it is not a definition.Bartricks

    I accept the correction.

    But I'll assay my own proposal.
    Some tentative definitions:
    1) Information is that which can be said. If it cannot be said, it's not information.
    2) Knowledge is information that when applied leads to the realization of some goal. Knowledge, then, is "good" information in the sense of being both useful and efficacious.
    3) Truth is the quality that information has if it works. Knowledge, then, is true.
    4) Reasoning is the mind's - a person's mind's - activity in working with information and knowledge. As there can be information that leads to knowledge, so-called "good" information, and bad information, e.g., nonsense, that doesn't, so there can be good reasoning and bad reasoning.

    Improvement?
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    You've expressed scepticism about the value of definitions, and then you've offered a load? Why aren't you taking your own medicine? We can't solve philosophical problems with dictionaries.

    The topic here is "what is knowledge?" There is already broad agreement that whatever else knowledge involves, it involves having a true belief and a justification for it. But there are cases where these elements are present yet the person does not possess knowledge.

    Philosophers have spilt a lot of ink trying to come up with a list of ingredients for knowledge. Again, they agree that true beliefs and justifications are in the mix. They just disagree over what additional ingredient or ingredients are required.

    What I am saying is that their project is misguided. They are thinking of knowledge as being akin to a cake and then trying to figure out what ingredients are in this cake. But then they wonder why the cake doesn't always come out right.

    What I am saying is that knowledge is more closely akin to a 'delicious cake' as opposed to just 'a cake'. Some cakes are delicious, but 'being delicious' involves the cake standing in some relation to a taster. That is, a 'delicious' cake is a cake that is causing certain sensations in someone who is eating it.

    I am saying that knowledge is like that - knowledge is a true belief whose possession by a person is causing a certain attitude in Reason. Just as a cake is delicious when it is responsible for causing certain taste sensations in you, likewise a true belief is 'knowledge' when it is responsible for causing a certain attitude in Reason.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Ok but this

    Sometimes someone can know something - that is, can have a justified true belief - without knowing that their belief is justified. — Bartricks
    and this

    having a true belief that Reason is adopting a certain attitude towards (the knowledge attitude). — Bartricks
    seem to be in disagreement?
    Pantagruel

    I don't see that. To be justified in a belief is for there to be reason for you to hold it. 'A reason' here denotes a bidding or approval of Reason (we have reason to believe something when Reason wants us to believe it). But it is entirely consistent with this that one might be unaware that Reason wants you to believe what you are believing, or unaware that Reason approves of you believing what you are believing. She still does - so your belief is justified - but you are unaware that the belief is justified.
  • Pantagruel
    414
    I mean, if you say so, ok. But it sure seems that "adopting a certain attitude" towards a judicative mental state really is by definition a meta-cognitive function, which is what I would contend is not essential to knowledge.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    I do not follow you.

    To be justified in holding a belief there needs to be a reason for you to hold it. But there can be a reason for you to hold a belief even if you are unaware of that reason.

    You have said this is inconsistent with knowledge being made of an attitude that Reason is adopting towards a true belief someone is holding.

    I do not see any inconsistency.
  • Andrew M
    770
    Here is my proposal: for a belief to qualify as knowledge is for Reason to be adopting a certain attitude towards your possession of it. Sometimes the presence of luck will mean she does not adopt that attitude towards your possession of it; sometimes it will not.Bartricks

    The ancient Greeks called her Athena. These days she's the natural patron of universities and apparently it's well worth seeking her favor.

    It is traditional at exam time for students to leave offerings to the goddess with a note asking for good luck, or to repent for accidentally breaking any of the college's numerous other traditions.Athena
  • fresco
    567
    'Knowledge' is a word applied to a state of confidence, shared or individual, that an event, or sequence of events.. was/is/will be.. the case. Words like 'belief', 'truth' and 'justification' are merely negotiable aspects of that state of confidence.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Let me get a few words in.

    No one really bothers that there are two distinct kinds of knowledge viz. inductive and deductive.

    The difference between the two is usually said to rest on the degree of certainty in the truth being argued for. Deductive knowledge is certain because given true premises and a valid argument form the conclusion can only be denied on grounds of insanity.

    Inductive knowledge is a different beast altogether. No amount of justification can guarantee the truth of an inductively inferred conclusion.

    This is basic or as some are fond to call it "baby" logic. No disagreements at all.

    Now consider the JTB theory of knowledge within such a framework. JTB theory has no problems with deductively derived knowledge for it's impossible for the conclusion to be false given true premises and a valid argument form.

    It's only in the domain of inductive argumentation that we find justification insufficient to make an inference to the truth. It is this gap between justification and truth, characteristic only of inductive arguments, which is inhabited by Gettier-type problems. I'm quite confident that all counterexamples to the JTB theory are inductive-based arguments and it surprises me why that's such a big deal. After all inductive arguments are known to be problematic in this way.

    Deductive knowledge is immune to Gettier-type problems.

    It's like someone who knows he has an ulcer but gets surprised when his tummy hurts.

    :joke:
  • Pantagruel
    414
    You have said this is inconsistent with knowledge being made of an attitude that Reason is adopting towards a true belief someone is holding.Bartricks

    Do you know what I mean by metacognitive? An attitude towards a belief would be cognition about a belief.
  • ovdtogt
    377
    Why doesn't that person's justified true belief qualify as knowledge?Bartricks

    Knowledge should work all of the time, not some of the time.

    (Caveat) Knowledge should always be considered within a certain frame of reference. Newton's law of motion is true when objects move at a certain fixed speed and under a certain gravitation pull.. Einstein showed Newtons law of motion do not hold when objects speed up/slow down or experience less or more gravity.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.6k
    The topic here is "what is knowledge?" There is already broad agreement that whatever else knowledge involves, it involves having a true belief and a justification for it. But there are cases where these elements are present yet the person does not possess knowledge.Bartricks

    I don't see how you can define knowledge in such a way and then say that a person fits that definition yet doesn't possess knowledge. It's like saying, "It walks, talks and acts like a duck, but isn't a duck".

    Why doesn't the person have knowledge if they fit all the requirements? Find what is missing and make it part of the definition.

    Maybe truth and knowledge shouldn't be conflated. Knowledge is like a theory - a justified a hypothesis. One might say that knowledge is an effect of testing one's beliefs in the same way theories are the effect of testing one's hypotheses.

    Knowledge is a thing one possesses and knowing is the act of using that thing one possesses. In this sense, knowledge is the same as information. We possess information. Knowledge and information have this quality about them - particularly "aboutness". They are about states-of-affairs in reality. This means that I don't have the states-of-affairs in my mind, I have knowledge about those states-of-affairs in my mind. Knowledge, in this sense, is a mental representation of those states-of-affairs, based on testing my beliefs/hypotheses.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Do you know what I mean by metacognitive?Pantagruel

    No.
    An attitude towards a belief would be cognition about a belief.Pantagruel

    Why not just say that, then?

    And, like I say, where is the inconsistency between these two claims?

    Ok but this

    Sometimes someone can know something - that is, can have a justified true belief - without knowing that their belief is justified. — Bartricks
    and this

    having a true belief that Reason is adopting a certain attitude towards (the knowledge attitude). — Bartricks
    seem to be in disagreement?
    Pantagruel

    How are they 'in disagreement'??

    I can have a justified true belief - that is, a belief that I have acquired in a manner that Reason approves of - without realising that Reason approves of it.

    There is no inconsistency.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    'Knowledge' is a word applied to a state of confidence, shared or individual, that an event, or sequence of events.. was/is/will be.. the case. Words like 'belief', 'truth' and 'justification' are merely negotiable aspects of that state of confidence.fresco

    No, that's clearly false. Merely being confident about a belief is not sufficient for knowledge (it may not even be necessary). If I am confident I will win the lottery this evening that does not mean I know that I will (even if I get lucky and win it).
  • Pantagruel
    414
    I can have a justified true belief - that is, a belief that I have acquired in a manner that Reason approves of - without realising that Reason approves of it.Bartricks

    So then why is reason adopting an attitude towards that belief? (your words).

    I agree with the first statement wholeheartedly.
  • Pantagruel
    414
    Are you reifying, deifying or otherwise personifying reason?
  • Andrew M
    770
    I don't see how you can define knowledge in such a way and then say that a person fits that definition yet doesn't possess knowledge. It's like saying, "It walks, talks and acts like a duck, but isn't a duck".Harry Hindu

    The issue is that we're trying to empirically find out what knowledge is (or, linguistically, how people use the term), not legislate it.

    A human actor or a mechanical robot that walks, talks and acts like a duck satisfies the above definition, but isn't a duck.

    Why doesn't the person have knowledge if they fit all the requirements? Find what is missing and make it part of the definition.Harry Hindu

    Right. So JTB is like Newton's theory of gravity. Newton's theory predicts the planet's orbits really well. Except for Mercury. So the question just is to find what is missing (or to posit a different theory altogether).
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    So then why is reason adopting an attitude towards that belief? (your words).Pantagruel

    Well, because it is true and has been acquired in a manner she approves of. But beyond that we do not need to know why she has adopted it, for my point is that a belief qualifies as knowledge when - and only when - Reason is adopting this attitude towards it.

    For an analogy: a cake qualifies as being delicious-to-me when and only when it is causing certain taste sensations in me. That's true even if we do not know more specifically why it is causing those sensations in me.

    I believe many things. Some of what I believe I feel I 'know'. Of course, my feeling that I know something does not entail that I know it. There may be some things I do not feel I know, but that I do know. And there may be some things I feel I know, but do not know. The point, however, is that there is a feeling associated with knowledge - I feel I know some things.

    That feeling - a feeling we're all surely familiar with - does not constitute knowledge when we feel it towards a belief of ours (or anyone else's). After all, as just said, it is quite clear that if I feel I know something it does not follow of necessity that I know it.

    But that feeling - the knowledge feeling - does make a belief into knowledge when Reason has it towards a belief. That's what I am proposing, anyway.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Are you reifying, deifying or otherwise personifying reason?Pantagruel

    No, not 'reifying' because that term means 'mistakenly treating as a thing'. I am treating Reason as a thing, but there is no mistake. And I am personifying Reason, but again, that is not a mistake.

    It is not essential to my case that Reason be personified - one could accept what I have said but insist that non-persons can adopt attitudes towards things and that Reason is such a non-person. Now, I think that's an insane position - for I think that a person who sincerely believes that non-persons can adopt attitudes towards things is mad. Hence why I personify Reason. But one could resist personifying Reason consistent with accepting everything else I have said about knowledge. I just wouldn't recommend it, as it is bonkers.

    But personifying Reason also sheds light on the nature of knowledge. Why has knowledge defied analysis? Well, because philosophers have been trying to locate its ingredients. But 'knowledge' is not a thing - it is not a kind of cake or other kind of substance. It is a specific kind of attitudinal relation that a true belief stands in to Reason.
  • Andrew M
    770
    But that feeling - the knowledge feeling - does make a belief into knowledge when Reason has it towards a belief. That's what I am proposing, anyway.Bartricks

    How would we distinguish between those beliefs Reason approves of and those she does not?

    Or to put it another way, why does Reason approve of the beliefs she does?
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    How would we distinguish between those beliefs Reason approves of and those she does not?

    Or to put it another way, why does Reason approve of the beliefs she does?
    Andrew M

    I do not think those are the same question. The latter has as no definitive answer - it would be like asking me why I find delicious what I find delicious (it varies) - but is also irrelevant to the question at issue. The question at issue is what knowledge is, not why it exists.

    As for the former question - well, our reason is our source of insight into what Reason approves of.

    Take the Gettier cases mentioned earlier. It used to be thought that possession of a justified true belief was sufficient for knowledge. But then Gettier cases are brought to our attention. And, for most of us, it is clear enough to our reason that the subject in a Gettier case lacks knowledge even though they possess a justified true belief. Now, that isn't arbitrary - people are not just randomly deciding, on the basis of nothing at all, that the subject in a Gettier case lacks knowledge. No, their reason tells them that the subject in that case lacks knowledge.

    So, just as I think I know there's a fig tree in my study because there appears, visually, to be one there - a visual impression that has been confirmed by everyone who has come into my study thus far - I think we can know when a person has knowledge if it appears to our reason that the person in question has knowledge. That includes people who may be unaware they have knowledge, too. It can be apparent to our reason - even if it is not to theirs - that they know something, and that is excellent evidence that they know it.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    The topic here is "what is knowledge?" There is already broad agreement that whatever else knowledge involves, it involves having a true belief and a justification for it. But there are cases where these elements are present yet the person does not possess knowledge.
    — Bartricks

    I don't see how you can define knowledge in such a way and then say that a person fits that definition yet doesn't possess knowledge. It's like saying, "It walks, talks and acts like a duck, but isn't a duck".
    Harry Hindu

    No, that's quite wrong. It's not a 'definition'. It is a thesis. It was Plato's thesis. And it seems true for the most part.

    But then counterexamples were devised - cases where although a person possesses what the thesis says they need to possess, it seems manifest to reason that they nevertheless lack knowledge.

    You're doing things the wrong way around - or you're imagining that philosophers do things the wrong way around.

    A good philosopher does not just 'define' knowledge and then dismiss as 'not knowledge' anything that fails to match that definition. That's not philosophy.

    A philosopher tries to figure out what knowledge is by a combination of looking at clear cases of knowledge possession and seeing if there is anything they all have in common apart from being cases of knowledge and conceptual analysis.

    They may propose a thesis - as Plato did - but then others are going to set about trying to refute it. Which they do not by just 'defining' knowledge differently and then insisting that the word does not apply to what Plato described. But rather by rational reflection - a major part of which involves devising thought experiments to test the thesis.

    Now it seems to me that there is nothing all clear cases of knowledge have in common apart, that is, from involving a true belief.

    That doesn't mean that having a true belief is sufficient for knowledge - it is clearly not, for we can easily imagine cases in which someone has a true belief but does not have knowledge. Nevertheless, there seems nothing - apart from being cases of knowledge - that all cases of knowledge have in common apart from involving a true belief. Knowledge cannot be reduced to 'true belief', but there seems nothing else all cases of knowledge have in common.

    And that's why I propose that knowledge itself is an attitude Reason is adopting towards true beliefs. Hence why there is nothing else they all have in common apart from being cases where an agent has a true belief.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Knowledge should work all of the time, not some of the time.ovdtogt

    What do you mean? I am asking what knowledge is - literally what it is made of.

    So, take someone who knows something. Don't question whether they have it or not - they clearly do have it. The question is what they have in having it. What does their having knowledge consist in?

    It can't just be having a true belief, for that would mean that lucky guesses could count as knowledge. But if I believe - on the basis of no evidence whatsoever - that Jack killed someone, then I do not 'know' that Jack killed someone even if, as it happens, he did.

    So, it is clear to our rational reflection that having knowledge does not just involve having a true belief.

    It does involve having a true belief - for when we imagine someone with a false belief, it seems clear in every case that they lack knowledge. 'False knowledge' seems an incoherent idea.

    So, knowledge does involve having a true belief, but having a true belief is not sufficient. Yet it would be sufficient if 'knowledge' was composed solely of possession of a true belief. Thus, it is not.

    What about a justification, then? If we add a justification to a true belief, does that transform the true belief into an item of knowledge?

    Sometimes - often - yes. But not always, as Russell and Gettier demonstrated. There are cases -clear cases - where a person clearly has a justified true belief, but equally clearly lacks knowledge.

    Thus, knowledge cannot be composed solely of a justified true belief, for otherwise there would not be such cases (and there clearly are).

    I think there are also cases (though I have not yet described one - and I also would admit that they are not as clear cut as Gettier cases) where a person has knowledge and yet is not justified in their belief.

    So it seems to me that, upon reflection, justifications are not essential to knowledge. They sometimes transform a true belief into knowledge, but they do not invariably do so.

    What's knowledge, then?

    Well, because it seems that the only thing all clear items of knowledge have in common is that they involve a person possessing a true belief, and because having a true belief is clearly not sufficient to have knowledge, I conclude that knowledge is a relation that a true belief stands in to Reason. I don't say that's entailed. It is a proposal. But I do think that whatever else anyone proposes, it will either amount to saying "a person has knowledge when they have knowledge" - in which case it is true but vacuous - or it will be false, for we'll be able to conceive of cases involving the said combination yet that are clearly not cases in which the person possesses knowledge.

    My proposal, then, is that when Reason feels a certain way about a true belief of yours (or anyone's), then that true belief qualifies as knowledge. Sometimes - very often, it would seem - the fact your true belief is justified is going to be what is responsible for making Reason adopt that attitude towards your belief. But not always. Just as, by analogy, covering something in chocolate will often make me like it, but not invariably.
  • Athena
    307
    Why doesn't that person's justified true belief qualify as knowledge? IBartricks

    Just for the sake of argument, time is an abstract concept. Time is not a tangible reality. That is, it is not a thing that is perceptible by touch, therefore it can not be known. It can be believed by an individual or the whole state in that time zone can believe that it is three o'clock, as it can be believed the earth is flat, but if I understand the OP argument, believing something is not exactly knowing it. Experience is a vital part of knowing, and if it is not perceptible by touch, it can not be experienced.
  • ovdtogt
    377


    1 Knowledge should work all of the time, not some of the time.
    2 Knowledge is useful.
    3 Knowledge answers questions
    4 Knowledge solves problems.
    5 Knowledge is made of facts.
    6 Facts are true
    7 Facts are true because they are useful, answer questions, solve problems.
  • Bartricks
    1.4k
    Just for the sake of argument, time is an abstract concept. Time is not a tangible reality. That is, it is not a thing that is perceptible by touch, therefore it can not be known. It can be believed by an individual or the whole state in that time zone can believe that it is three o'clock, as it can be believed the earth is flat, but if I understand the OP argument, believing something is not exactly knowing it. Experience is a vital part of knowing, and if it is not perceptible by touch, it can not be experienced.Athena

    I don't know what point you're making. Time is not an abstract concept, but what time is is not the topic of this thread. This thread is about what knowledge is. It is not about what can be known, but what knowledge itself is.
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