What is knowledge 2016 revision jtb conditions not being necessary

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  1. Attacking the JTB account of knowledge 2. JTB in Standard Form ã Also called the ‘Tripartite Account’ ã In Standard Form: – ‘S knows that p’ iff ã S is…
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  • 1. Attacking the JTB account of knowledge
  • 2. JTB in Standard Form • Also called the ‘Tripartite Account’ • In Standard Form: – ‘S knows that p’ iff • S is justified in believing that P • p is true • S believes that P
  • 3. Testing the JTB Account: Methods of attack 1. Try to show that individual conditions are not necessary. OR 2. Try to show that the existing conditions are necessary but not sufficient.
  • 4. Arguments that try to show that individual JTB conditions are not necessary. By the way, what colour are flamingos?
  • 5. First argument that justification is not a necessary condition for knowledge • Is there really a practical difference between knowledge and true belief? • Consider Plato’s example in the Meno: If you asked two people directions to the town of Larissa, and: – One knew the way – The other had a true belief about the way • What would the practical difference be about the directions you got? • (Is there another kind of difference that’s more important here?)
  • 6. Arguments that reply that justification is indeed a necessary condition for knowledge • There really is a difference between knowledge and true belief: this is because justification is important. • People can have true beliefs with absent, poor or irrational justifications for holding them, and this is really undesirable. • Consider: – Judging guilt by physical appearance, and being right (as it happens). – Acting on a hunch about your lottery numbers – and them being right. • Would we really want to live in a society where prejudice and reckless gambling were celebrated, or acceptable? • Surely a society where people were required to give good reasons for their knowledge-claims would be better?
  • 7. Second argument against justification being a necessary component of knowledge • Consider the Infinite Regress Problem – Can justifications be entirely certain? – Logically, justifications can always be mistaken, so we cannot have certainty (and so, knowledge). – So we ought not to ask for justifications, as we cannot have them. • Reply 1: do we need certainty? Perhaps justification can be usefully redefined, and this objection overcome. – Are some kinds of justifications just linked to prior reliability? – Or coherence (‘fit’) with other things we (collectively) know? – We can ask for these simpler justifications. – Hence we can have justification. • Reply 2: we can have foundational justifications founded on basic beliefs that are indubitable. So certainty is possible!
  • 8. First argument that belief isn’t a necessary condition for knowledge • Can you know something without believing it? – Take the claim ‘I don’t believe it’, uttered when you receive dreadful news. – We do say this, implying we know something, but we don’t believe it. Examples: Victor Meldrew  – Many catastrophic things happen to Mr Meldrew, and he always shouts ‘I don’t believe it!’ – [But here one could reply that ‘I don’t believe it’ in this context simply means ‘I wish it isn’t true!’]
  • 9. The House Fire Example • Imagine that you came home to find this gentleman (from the FDNY Charity Calendar!) putting away his hose, and where you live a smouldering pile of rubble. • ‘Oh my God! I don’t believe it!’, you would shout. • But: would you then go on to act as if you really didn’t believe it? • Or (much more plausible!) wouldn’t you faint then make an insurance claim etc? • And surely this would suggest that you did know what had occurred – but just wished that it didn’t. • Surface meaning and depth meaning aren’t always the same! • So saying ‘I don’t believe it!’ doesn’t show that you can have knowledge without belief.
  • 10. Second argument that belief isn’t necessary for knowledge: Knowing without believing • Colin Radford (1966) presents a scenario in which Jean feels quite certain that he does not know any English history. • In this thought-experiment, when Jean is asked to provide dates for certain events in English history, such as the death of Queen Elizabeth, he correctly answers many of the questions, though he feels like he is guessing. • The correctness of his answers surprises Jean, and Jean concludes that he actually does know some English history (e.g. Queen Elizabeth died in 1603). • Radford finds it intuitively plausible to regard this as a case of knowledge without belief: Jean knew that Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 but did not believe that she died in 1603. • (Armstrong (1969) replies that this example is not intuitively clear.)
  • 11. More on knowing without believing: tacit knowledge • Radford’s ‘Queen Elizabeth’ example can be generalised. – You have learned a topic thoroughly but can’t remember the details, so you would say you didn’t know about it. – Yet your answers when tested are much better than random guesses, indicating that actually you do know the topic thoroughly. – You just don’t believe that you do. • Isn’t much of what we know about the world in fact tacit knowledge or unconscious knowledge? • Often we know, but we don’t believe we know: we have knowledge without belief that we do. • [But: could you say, here, it’s not a valid knowledge-claim because you can’t point to a justification of what you know?]
  • 12. The example of ‘Blindsight’ • The phenomenon of blindsight may be another example of the possibility of knowledge without belief. • Blindsight refers to the phenomenon of people who are cortically blind due to severe brain damage, but can still respond to visual stimuli that they do not consciously see. • Current evidence suggests that we have a faculty of unconscious vision: visual awareness is possible without it being explicitly known. • But: is visual knowledge, a kind of perceptual knowledge, isomorphic with propositional knowledge?
  • 13. First argument that truth is not a necessary condition for knowledge: Isn’t strongly justified belief enough? • Could knowledge simply be justified belief? • Aren’t there many examples of strongly justified individual beliefs? – For example, someone may make the knowledge-claim that flamingos are grey – They may believe it very strongly on the basis of good justification (say, they work in a zoo…) • Reply: such a knowledge-claim is factually mistaken: flamingos are not grey but pink. • So what looks like justified belief that is actually knowledge is not an example of knowledge at all, but an example of false belief. • So truth is necessary for knowledge: you cannot know false beliefs.
  • 14. The Truth about Flamingos • Flamingos are actually pale gray or off-white. • It’s the shrimps and algae in their diet that make them so pink. • The pink colour is from from a shrimp and algae-based diet rich in carotenoid pigments. • Initially blue or green, the carotenoid pigments become orange or pink during digestion and are deposited in the growing feathers. • The same effect is seen when shrimp change color during cooking. • The colour of the flamingo depends on the amount of carotenoids in its diet. • Initially, zoos fed carrots, red peppers, and dried shrimp to flamingos to keep them pink. • These days synthetic canthaxanthin is added to their feed.
  • 15. Flamin’ eck! The real importance of The Flamingo Test • What does the attempt to make a flamingo knowledge- claim based only on belief and justification show about the role of truth?  It shows that truth is vital to knowledge • What, therefore, does the specific flamingo example show about the claim that truth is not a necessary condition for knowledge?  It shows that the claim that truth is not a necessary component for knowledge is wrong.
  • 16. Another example that shows that truth is a necessary condition for knowledge • Take the notion of the mondegreen, ‘a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning’ (Wikipedia). • In a 1954 essay, Sylvia Wright describes how as a child she misheard a line of "The Bonnie Earl o' Moray“ (a ballad): – Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,/Oh, where hae ye been? /They hae slain the Earl o' Moray, /And Lady Mondegreen. • The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green“. – She wrote: "I know, but I won't give in to it. Leaving him to die all alone without even anyone to hold his hand--I WON'T HAVE IT!!!” • Yet, here, what looked like strongly justified individual belief that was knowledge is not an example of knowledge at all. – Instead Sylvia Wright’s mondegreen is simply an example of false belief – So truth is necessary for knowledge! – Belief and justification aren’t enough, because they don’t rule out the possibility of false belief.
  • 17. Jimi Hendrix, ‘Purple Haze’, 1967 Some famous mondegreens Desmond Dekker, ‘Israelites’, 1969 A song about being a gay man in 1967. A song about breakfast during a divorce.
  • 18. The actual lyrics Purple haze, all in my brain Lately things they don't seem the same Actin' funny, but I don't know why Excuse me while I kiss the sky. Oh. It’s about drugs instead.
  • 19. Get up in the morning, making the breakfast my wife and my kids, they f**k off and leave me… …my ears are alight!
  • 20. The actual lyrics Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir, so that every mouth can be fed. Poor me, the Israelite. Aah. Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir, So that every mouth can be fed. Poor me, the Israelite. Aah. My wife and my kids, they are packed up and leave me. Darling, she said, I was yours to receive. Poor me, the Israelite. Aah. Oh. It’s about bread. Or something.
  • 21. Conclusion: Mondegreens, Flamingos, False Beliefs • Many individual beliefs are strongly held, and strongly justified, particularly by empirical or sensory evidence. • These beliefs can seem to have the certainty of knowledge. • But although the justification for these individual beliefs seems sound, they are not true. • So such knowledge-claims are in fact examples of false beliefs.
  • 22. Second argument that truth is not necessary to knowledge: Geocentrists and Flat-Earthers • But sometimes entire societies have a fervent belief and have good reasons or justifications for having it. • For example: – That the Earth is flat (believed until the Hellenistic period c. 330 b.c.) – That the Earth is at the centre of the universe (‘Ptolemaic cosmology’, believed until the Renaissance) • These are examples of strongly held collective beliefs, believed for millennia in pre-scientific societies. • Don’t such beliefs amount to collective knowledge, although they are false…?
  • 23. Discussion Thoughts: Geocentrists and Flatearthers • Justifying flat-earth theory and geocentrism? – Our senses plainly tell us the truth of these ideas. – A society’s entire outlook justifies these beliefs as such-and-so: texts/holy writ, cultural practices etc • Knowledge? Or…? – Were these views true at the time ( conflicts with notion of knowledge as certain and indubitable?) – or did they mistakenly believe them and they were simply false beliefs?
  • 24. The certainty of past beliefs: Galileo’s first trial, 1616 • In 1610, Galileo (1564-1642) published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing observations he had made with the new telescope (the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter). • These observations supported the heliocentrist Nicolaus Copernicus (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ,1543). • The Inquisition investigated and declared heliocentrism heretical: the idea that the Sun is stationary is "foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture...” • Galileo was ordered to “abandon completely... the opinion that the sun stands still…and the earth moves”, and was told “not to hold, teach, or defend this view in any way whatever.” • He was then persecuted for the rest of his life: house arrest etc…
  • 25. What can we conclude about collectively held and strongly justified beliefs? • Past pre-scientific cultures are very often wrong about cosmology and other celestial sciences? • (Worse?) Past pre-scientific cultures are very often wrong about many things? • (Worser?) Past cultures are very often wrong about many things • …so (seemingly) justified beliefs may be false… • so (again) truth is necessary to knowledge… dannato idiota!
  • 26. Third argument against truth being necessary to knowledge: what you ‘know’ is not right… • But what if our modern knowledge-claims were as outdated as the older ones we have just rejected? • (In future, we will be a past culture…) • And (some of, much of) what we have justified belief in now, is in fact not true. • For example, (we already know) Newton’s physics is superseded: it is not correct at an interstellar scale. – Yet sometimes we may use as a thinking tool a theory that in fact is not correct: Newtonian physics is a very good approximation to the truth within the solar system. – So: can knowledge be of an approximation? Can Newtonian physics be knowledge, even though it is technically incorrect and untrue? Of Newton with his prism and silent face, The marble index of a mind for ever. Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone. — William Wordsworth.
  • 27. Response to the third argument that truth is not a necessary property of knowledge: Newton vs. the Flat Earth Society • Surely a good answer here is that “Newtonian physics helps us understand the world, and where and how Newtonian physics fails.” • The other beliefs (geocentrism, flat earth theory) aren’t (surely) good approximations, so we can say they’re beliefs alone. • And false beliefs at that. • (yet) they may be fair approximations… • (yet) and if the job of science is to deliver testable predictions, they may be predictively better (initially) than the newer theory…
  • 28. Fourth argument against truth being a necessary component of knowledge: Kuhnian Paradigms, or Truth denied • Hence, what about the notion that truth itself is relative? • Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) argues in ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ (1962) that: – Our scientific knowledge doesn’t improve in smooth evolutions. – Observations don’t exist in a vacuum. – They are contained within a master theory or paradigm • The paradigm explains the observations. • The observations support the theory. – ‘Truth’ makes sense within a paradigm.
  • 29. Kuhnian Paradigm Shifts • But sometimes the paradigm enters a crisis. • Observations build up that cannot be explained by the paradigm. • Pressure builds until the paradigm breaks down and is (abruptly?) replaced by entirely new ways of knowing. • This is called a paradigm shift – e.g. Newtonianism to Relativistic physics, for example. – e.g. from witchcraft to science • Can you think of any other ‘shifts’?
  • 30. Another take on Paradigms: Conceptual Schemes • “Conceptual schemes, we are told, are ways of organizing experience; they are systems of categories that give form to the data of sensation; they are points of view from which individuals, cultures, or periods survey the passing scene.” – Donald Davidson, “On the very idea of a Conceptual Scheme”, 1973 • A ‘paradigm’ is, in Kuhn’s usage, restricted to science. • Davidson’s formulation could allow us to think more broadly, about ‘world-views’, ‘mind-sets’, ‘ways of seeing’ and the like.
  • 31. Candidates for Conceptual Schema Different languages • Davidson: “We may accept the doctrine that associates having a language with having a conceptual scheme… if conceptual schemes differ, so do languages.” – Does a Chinese-speaker perceive the world in the same way as an English-speaker? – Does the language you speak entirely control the way you see the world? (‘Linguistic Determinism’)
  • 32. Candidates for Conceptual Schema Science • A worldview that strongly contrasts with proto- or pre- scientific worldviews. – What beliefs characterise the scientific worldview? – What is the relationship between the scientific and non-scientific world-views? – Do different sciences see the world in different ways? – Are the sciences reducible? Does the world reduce, for instance, to maths, or is the approach each science takes subtly irreducible?
  • 33. Pre-scientific, culturally specific views – • All cultures have a particular world-view and deeply embedded conception of the universe. • These are highly specific to geography, technology levels, interaction with other cultures. • Take the Assyrian Empire which existed from the 25th century BCE to the 6th century BCE. Their world-view: Merodach…slew Tiamat…her body stretched throughout all Space. He split the corpse ‘in two…and hung one of the halves on high as the heavens…the other half he spread out under his feet as the Earth…then he cut off his own head, and, having kneaded the blood flowing from it with the Earth, formed men, who were thus endowed with a surviving particle of understanding and with a surviving particle of divine thought.’ • Would an ancient Assyrian person be able to understand (y)our world-view? Who would be right? Candidates for Conceptual Schema
  • 34. Candidates for conceptual schema Faith-based views – • All faiths, as pre-scientific world-views, have a conception of the universe and of man’s role therein. • Example: the Babylonian creation myth (c. 16-18 centuries BCE): – …Marduk offers to save the gods if he is appointed as their leader. The other gods agree to Marduk's conditions and he is selected as their champion against Tiamat, in which he destroys her. He rips her corpse into two halves and makes the earth and the skies. After this he creates the calendar, organizes the planets and stars, and regulates the moon, the sun, and weather. • Would an ancient Babylonian person be able to understand (y)our world-view? Who would be right?
  • 35. Kuhn: There is no ‘Truth’, so it can’t be a necessary component of knowledge • Reality in a different paradigm is simply different: the concepts themselves that we use to judge reality and accuracy have changed, so ‘worldviews’ aren’t commensurable. – The scientist might think that ‘evidence’ allows them to disprove more ‘primitive’ views. – But there is no neutral way of describing states of affairs. – So because ‘truth’ itself only exists within a paradigm, we can’t compare the truth of different paradigms. • Hence ‘knowledge’ can only be justified belief.
  • 36. Replies to Kuhn: there is truth • Reply 1: Science is more true than other worldviews – Proponents of the scientific worldview could argue that science is true because it is the best explanation for the way the world is (it makes the best predictions etc) , and we have all benefited immeasurably from technology. – Kuhn’s response: ‘progress’ isn’t ‘truth’. It’s just difference. (Consider: our happiness arguably hasn’t improved since we become a more technological society.) • Reply 2: Truth exists within paradigms and is meaningful – One could also reply to Kuhn that if we can’t compare paradigms, we can’t step outside them either. – Truth exists without a capital ‘t’ – but it’s only relatively relative, and so we can still use it as a notion. – One could reply to Kuhn that our theory of truth must be a coherence theory, instead.
  • 37. Reply 3 to Kuhn: ‘Paradigm Shifts’ haven’t really happened • One could also reply that the ‘paradigm shifts’ Kuhn is thinking of haven’t really occurred. • So if there aren’t radical breaks with the ideas of the past, ‘truth’ has simply been continually refined and is still a meaningful term. • So it can be a component of knowledge after all.
  • 38. Quine’s reply to the claim that there is truth: Truth is a ‘cultural posit’ – is this redefinition, or abolition? “As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science
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