ForumsWEPRPhilosophical Issues (Extended Cognition p. 5)

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Moegreche
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Moegreche
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Since I'm back for the foreseeable future, I thought it might be fun to consider some important philosophical issues. The idea I have in mind is to discuss issues - taking one at a time - that philosophers are currently thinking about. The goal is to introduce some of the member of the AG community to what philosophers do but more importantly to help develop critical thinking and argumentation skills for us all.

My role will simply be to (try to) guide the conversation and to fill in any theoretical gaps that appear. I know that my posts can be rather long-winded, so I'll try to sum up the conversation thus far with some handy bullet points at the end.

The topic I'd like to start with: how is knowledge more valuable than true belief?

This issue goes back as far as the writings of Plato, but is still an unanswered question - and one that is hugely important. There's an intuition that knowledge is, in fact, more valuable than true belief. The problem is actually providing an account of this value.

So let's suppose you're in Venice and you want to get to Rome, so you ask for directions. You have the choice between asking someone who has a true belief on how to get there or someone who has knowledge of the road to take. In either case, it looks like you're going to get to Rome. The first guy's belief is true (we've stipulated that) but so is the second guy's (since knowledge implies truth). So why would we prefer knowing over truly believing?

Summary:
Knowledge seems more valuable that (mere) true belief.
We can find plenty of cases where a true belief seems just as good as knowledge.
Is there a way to explain the value of knowledge over that of true belief? Or maybe knowledge doesn't have the value we think it has!

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Moegreche
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Moegreche
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Oh, and if any of you have ideas for future issues, please feel free to leave a suggestion on my profile page!

partydevil
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how is knowledge more valuable than true belief?

i didn't read you post but to just answer the bold question:

knowledge gives me a reason to know, that what i believe is true.
if i dont know what i'm talking about then i can't believe what i say is true.
Kasic
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Kasic
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how is knowledge more valuable than true belief?


This seems an easy question to me. What one believes to be true may not necessarily be so, while knowledge can be of both correct and incorrect things. One can mislead and blind you, the other simply is.
Salvidian
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Ah, but without belief how can we gain knowledge? You have to believe something will or won't work before trying it out, and then after trying it do you gain knowledge. It's the scientific method.

Kasic
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Kasic
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You have to believe something will or won't work before trying it out, and then after trying it do you gain knowledge. It's the scientific method.


No. The scientific method starts with observation. You don't have to believe anything - you just have to notice something that seems off. Then you think about it and try to come up with an explanation (hypothesis) and then test it (experiment). Data is then gathered an examined, and a conclusion is drawn based upon the results.

In fact, bringing current belief into the matter is bad science. It's called bias. If you do that, you're already looking to try and prove one thing or another, instead of remaining objective.
Salvidian
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In fact, bringing current belief into the matter is bad science. It's called bias. If you do that, you're already looking to try and prove one thing or another, instead of remaining objective.


Well, I didn't mean belief in the sense that you try and come up with pre-made conclusions. I meant the type of belief that creates ambition and then motivation. If you don't have that initial motivation, then you can't gain knowledge. I didn't clarify that well, sorry.
Kasic
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If you don't have that initial motivation, then you can't gain knowledge.


I won't argue that beliefs can motivate people to explore and gain knowledge, but you don't need that either. People stumble across discoveries all of the time.

"Knowledge" is gained any time you learn something new, even if it's true or not. Even if you "learn" a hundred ways something won't work, you still learned. Whereas with what I take this idea of "true belief" to be as being so stuck in your way that you cannot easily be shown otherwise.
pangtongshu
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pangtongshu
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The first guy's belief is true (we've stipulated that)


If the belief is true, would it not then be knowledge?
Isn't the difference between belief and knowledge the fact of truth and justification (reasonable and necessary plausible assertions/evidence/guidance [italics taken from wiki]) a for the idea held?

how is knowledge more valuable than true belief?


My answer for this, with my previous statement, would be that knowledge has justification behind it.
StDrake
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Ah, but without belief how can we gain knowledge? You have to believe something will or won't work before trying it out, and then after trying it do you gain knowledge. It's the scientific method.

Ah, but the OP states that we should be considering TRUE belief. How can one call a belief true, if he feels the need to check and proove it..to himself?

I'd say that above is why knowledge is better - it drives you to want to know more. True belief provides answers, but does not provide questions. When you know something happens a certain way you have a chance of asking - but why? And that leads to the aquisition of more knowledge..or at least attempts at that.
True belief merely states - "It is so", for it to be able to expand it requires either to be given new "facts" to passively accept..or be synergic with knowledge, which is a much less general case - and yet still it would have the weakness of not being able to overthrow illusions, when the drive of expanding knowledge would show the previous beliefs to be incorrect.

Lets try to image that while trying to stay away from the ouchy topic of gods:
Take a situation of a tree visible in the distance
pure true belief - there's a tree there, end of topic
knowledge - I see a tree there, possible things to think
-is it really a tree?
-why do I see it?
-let's check if we can find out more about the tree
..and the tree turns out to be merely a painting
true belief synergic with knowledge - there is a tree there, let's check if we can find out more about it
..and the tree turns out to be merely a paiting...what now? at the same time for us that is a real tree and a painting? Houston we have a problem
hojoko
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If the belief is true, would it not then be knowledge?
Isn't the difference between belief and knowledge the fact of truth and justification (reasonable and necessary plausible assertions/evidence/guidance [italics taken from wiki]) a for the idea held?


But where do you draw the line?

Using Moegreche's example, does the man who believes his directions to be accurate truthfully possess knowledge even if they were given to him by a friend--whom he deems trustworthy--but never personally verified? To take it a step further, what if the directions were given by a friends' friend, and tested only by the friends' friend. Does that still count as knowledge?

We could circumvent this question by defining knowledge as empirical data that can be proven true by the individual. However, this creates another problem because by this definition a man could claim knowledge that, when tested by the individual, proves false. But if knowledge must also be true, then we now know the man never possessed knowledge in the first place. Thus, the definition of knowledge must change to empirical data that has been proven true by the individual.

This brings us to the crux of the question: where are we measuring the value of knowledge? We're asking whether someone else's knowledge is more valuable than someone else's belief, but if my definition of knowledge is correct--and I'm not necessarily saying it is--then until the answer-seeking individual proves the answer true, it's not knowledge. Thus, to the answer-seeking individual, directions based on another's knowledge equate to directions based on another belief. To the asker, they are both a form of belief until proven true, although some beliefs (as defined in this sense) might have a much, much higher chance of being truthful.

Taking this into account we could argue that, to an individual, knowledge is more valuable than belief because it will already have been proven true by that individual. Otherwise, it's not knowledge. However, I think I may have taken a rather divergent path from the original question, so I'll attempt to bring it back to the comparison of external knowledge and true belief.

In a sense, we already know that knowledge is more valuable than belief. If belief were always true it wouldn't be belief. And once the belief proves true, it becomes knowledge rather than belief, even if it's not labeled as such by the believer.

Even so, the value of one or the other is, as always, dependent on the circumstance. If we're seeking directions or specific factual information then knowledge is always more valuable than belief because, even if the belief is true (which isn't always the case), the knowledge had already been proven true by the information giver, thus removing any uncertainty.

Conversely, if we're lost in the desert with two men, one of whom (because this is philosophy and we're not very good at character development) only answers in what he knows, belief might be more valuable than knowledge. This, I think, is the point Salvidian was trying to make. We could ask the factual man to tell us where to search for an oasis, but he'll only be able to tell us he doesn't know where it is (and that it's currently in our line of sight). However, the other man might believe he knows where an oasis is and lead us in that direction. Even if he was wrong, we'd still be doing something. In this situation, belief is more useful and thus, more valuable.

It's kind of like comparing abstract apples and oranges. Sometimes we might prefer one, other times we might prefer another, and the overall value of each is determined by the value placed on each by the individual, as well as the value placed on the situations in which one or the other might prove more useful.
MageGrayWolf
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Well, I didn't mean belief in the sense that you try and come up with pre-made conclusions. I meant the type of belief that creates ambition and then motivation. If you don't have that initial motivation, then you can't gain knowledge. I didn't clarify that well, sorry.


I'm not sure that would classify as belief. Perhaps wonder would be a better term to use here.

Ah, but the OP states that we should be considering TRUE belief. How can one call a belief true, if he feels the need to check and proove it..to himself?


Playing devils advocate. I double check many things I truly believe is so. When it comes to gaining knowledge it's good to recheck and reevaluate a position, even if you think you know or truly believe what the answer may be.

Thinking about it that get's into the whole believe to knowledge point. If we truly believe something then we think we know that something to be true. I suppose in that sense knowledge could to a degree be a form of belief or perhaps better put a subset of belief.

On the theory of knowledge from wiki.
"The classical definition, described but not ultimately endorsed by Plato, specifies that a statement must meet three criteria in order to be considered knowledge: it must be justified, true, and believed. Some claim that these conditions are not sufficient, as Gettier case examples allegedly demonstrate. There are a number of alternatives proposed, including Robert Nozick's arguments for a requirement that knowledge 'tracks the truth' and Simon Blackburn's additional requirement that we do not want to say that those who meet any of these conditions 'through a defect, flaw, or failure' have knowledge. Richard Kirkham suggests that our definition of knowledge requires that the evidence for the belief necessitates its truth.

In contrast to this approach, Wittgenstein observed, following Moore's paradox, that one can say "He believes it, but it isn't so," but not "He knows it, but it isn't so." He goes on to argue that these do not correspond to distinct mental states, but rather to distinct ways of talking about conviction. What is different here is not the mental state of the speaker, but the activity in which they are engaged. For example, on this account, to know that the kettle is boiling is not to be in a particular state of mind, but to perform a particular task with the statement that the kettle is boiling. Wittgenstein sought to bypass the difficulty of definition by looking to the way "knowledge" is used in natural languages. He saw knowledge as a case of a family resemblance. Following this idea, "knowledge" has been reconstructed as a cluster concept that points out relevant features but that is not adequately captured by any definition.
"
Xzeno
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Moe's a mod again? What's up with that?

Well, good to have you back, bud. I'd work up a comment for this, but I have a gender studies essay to finish.

And I need to comment on the Women Run the World thread.

Maverick4
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Clarification: is the belief "true" because it is in accordance with reality, or because the individual holding the belief is entirely confident that it is in accordance with reality? IE, is the belief true, or is it full faith in the belief?

MageGrayWolf
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Clarification: is the belief "true" because it is in accordance with reality, or because the individual holding the belief is entirely confident that it is in accordance with reality? IE, is the belief true, or is it full faith in the belief?


You bring up an excellent question there. I think I will wait for an answer before continuing on.
Moegreche
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I'm so happy to see such great responses so far! You guys are really getting at some challenging issues and asking all the right questions. I tried to leave the OP a vague as I could to see where things would go. But it looks like I will need to clarify a few things.

First off:

is the belief "true" because it is in accordance with reality, or because the individual holding the belief is entirely confident that it is in accordance with reality?


This is a great question, and has been touched upon by a number of people in this thread. The distinction you're talking about is what we call a phenomenological distinction. This is just a fancy word for saying "what it's like" to have such-and-such an experience (or in this case to be in a particular mental state).
I think this is a strong line to take in order to answer the question. Imagine you're on a game show and it's down to the final question. It's going to feel very different if you know the answer than if you just have a true belief about the answer. But I'd like to ignore this aspect.
So, to answer the question: the belief is true because it's in accordance with reality. It has nothing to do with the believer's phenomenological state.

I think it was Mage that gave us a working definition of knowledge: it's justified true belief. This is called the JTB account of knowledge. So we have a mental state where an agent believes X, and X is true, and the agent has justification for X. Now, this definition for knowledge doesn't actually work - but let's just assume for a second that it does.
What we're comparing, then, is two mental states. One involves truth and belief only. The other involves truth, belief, and justification. If we think about it this way, then it looks like it's justification that's doing the work for us. In other words, justification explains why knowledge has value over true belief.

There are 2 problems with this, however. The first is that one can have a justified true belief that fails to be knowledge (these are called Gettier cases). If you guys would like examples of these kinds of cases, I'm happy to provide them. But all we would just is that justified true belief is more valuable than mere true belief - we've said nothing about knowledge!

There's a much deeper problem, though, and it has to do with justification. It really depends on how we define justification, but I'll let you guys sort out what this problem is. It turns out that it's really hard to even show the value of justified true belief over true belief. In other words, there's a challenge to show that a well-formed belief with reasons behind it is more valuable than just a lucky guess!

So, to sum up:

- We're ignoring the "what it's like" part to know X vs. believing X
- We'll assume (for now) that knowledge is justified true belief
- So it looks like justification is what gives knowledge its value
- But there's a problem in showing the value of a justified true belief (JTB) over that of a lucky guess! Can you figure out what the problem is?
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