Sei sulla pagina 1di 23

Introduction to Philosophy

WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE?
(AND DO WE HAVE ANY?)

Professor Duncan Pritchard FRSE


duncan.pritchard@ed.ac.uk www.ppls.ed.ac.uk/people/view/duncan-pritchard-frse

Ren Descartes (1596-1650)


1

Structure of the Lecture


Part One: What is Knowledge? Part Two: Do We Have any Knowledge?

Part One: What is Knowledge?

Propositional versus Ability Knowledge


Knowledge-that:
Knowing that Paris is the capital of France. Knowing that the earth orbits the sun. Knowing that one has toothache.

Knowledge-how:
Knowing how to drive. Knowing how to play piano. Knowing how to beat the stock market.

Two Conditions for Propositional Knowledge




One can know a proposition only if: (i) That proposition is true; (ii) One believes that proposition.

Knowing versus Getting it Right


Two Intuitions About Knowledge
The Ability Intuition Knowledge requires getting it right through ones ability

The Anti-Luck Intuition

Knowledge requires getting it right in a nonlucky way
6

The Classical Account of Knowledge


Plato (427-347 BC)

One can know a proposition if, only if: (i) That proposition is true; (ii) One believes that proposition; (iii) Ones belief is justified.
7

Gettier Counterexamples
Edmund Gettier (b. 1927)

Examples of justified true belief where the true belief in question is just too lucky to count as knowledge
8

A Gettier-Style Case
The Stopped Clock
You believe that the time is 7.28am. You are justified in believing that the time is 7.28am. It is true that it is 7.28am. But you dont know that its 7.28am because, unbeknownst to you, what you are looking at is a stopped clock.

A stopped clock, yesterday.

Another Gettier-Style Case


The Sheep
You believe that there is a sheep in the field. You are justified in believing that there is a sheep in the field. It is true that there is a sheep in the field. But you dont know that there is a sheep in the field because, unbeknownst to you, what you are looking at is a big sheep-shaped rock which is obscuring from view a sheep hidden behind.
10

A Formula for Inventing Gettier-Style Cases


Step One Take a belief that is formed in such a way that it would usually result in a false belief, but which is justified nonetheless. Step Two Make the belief true, albeit for reasons that have nothing to do with the subjects justification.
11

Patching up the Classical Account: No False Lemmas



Keith Lehrer (b. 1936)

One can know a proposition if, only if: (i) That proposition is true; (ii) One believes that proposition; (iii) Ones belief is justified; (iv) Ones belief is not based on any false assumptions (or lemmas).
12

Two Questions Raised by Gettier-Style Cases


(1) Is justification even necessary for knowledge? (2) How does one go about eliminating knowledge-undermining luck?

13

Part One Conclusions


Knowledge is not justified true belief. Nor is knowledge justified true belief plus some obvious extra condition. So what is knowledge?

14

Part Two Do We Have any Knowledge?


15

Radical Scepticism
Radical scepticism is the view that knowledge (at least of the world around us) is impossible. Sceptics make use of sceptical hypotheses, scenarios where everything is as it usually appears to be, but where we are being radically deceived.

Ren Descartes (1596-1650)


The sceptic says that we cannot rule-out sceptical hypotheses, and thus argues that we are unable to know anything about the world around us.
16

The Brain-in-a-Vat Sceptical Argument


1. I dont know that Im not a brain-in-avat. 2. If I dont know that Im not a brain-in-avat, then I dont know very much. C. So, I dont know very much.
17

Brains-in-Vats
Question: Why dont we know that were not brains-in-vats? Answer: Because we cant tell the difference!

18

Brains-in-Vats and Everyday Knowledge


So even if we dont know that were not brains-in-vats, so what? But if you were a brain-in-a-vat, then you wouldnt have hands (since brains-in-vats are handless by definition). So how do you know that you have hands? (And if you dont know this, what do you know?)

19

Epistemic Vertigo
It is certainly part of the human condition that we are fallible creatures. But perhaps, once we reflect on the matter (and thus reflectively ascend), we realise that there is more than just fallibility at issue here. Maybe we simply dont know as much as we typically suppose.
20

Part Two Conclusions


Radical scepticism is the view that we know very little, if anything, about the world around us. Radical scepticism makes use of sceptical hypotheses, which are scenarios indistinguishable from ordinary life but where we are radically in error. It seems that if we cannot rule-out these hypotheses, then much of what we think we know is under threat.
21

Further Reading
I explore these issues about the nature and extent of knowledge in my introductory textbook, What is This Thing Called Knowledge? (Routledge). See especially parts 1 & 3.

22

Thank You For Listening!

23