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Philosophical Issues (Extended Cognition p. 5)

Posted Jun 30, '13 at 7:15pm

hojoko

hojoko

556 posts

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.

 

Posted Jun 30, '13 at 8:19pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,667 posts

Knight

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."

 

Posted Jun 30, '13 at 10:12pm

Xzeno

Xzeno

2,082 posts

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.

 

Posted Jul 1, '13 at 1:18am

Maverick4

Maverick4

3,707 posts

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?

 

Posted Jul 1, '13 at 1:37pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,667 posts

Knight

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.

 

Posted Jul 1, '13 at 2:33pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,765 posts

Moderator

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?

 

Posted Jul 1, '13 at 8:45pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,667 posts

Knight

Someone who truly believes in visiting aliens would consider their belief justified by seeing something they couldn't identify in the sky. They haven't actually gained any knowledge though. It's however possible that what they saw were indeed aliens, in which case they believed in visiting aliens, that belief was true and that belief was justified by what they saw. But that nature of the justification was subjective.

In contrast someone might truly believe in visiting aliens, sees something in the sky they can't identify. But instead of considering that justification of their belief they may go further to find out what that thing they saw was. After searching they find a flight plan in records that would put a plane in about the location they saw the unidentified object at the time they saw it. The could further go to the airport where this plane landed and speak with the pilot who can further confirm that he was in that location at that time. Each of these points is objective to the persons views and beliefs that there are visiting aliens. That person has gained knowledge of what he may have saw. In this case it doesn't justify his belief.

 

Posted Jul 2, '13 at 8:38pm

aknerd

aknerd

1,275 posts

I just thought of something.

Suppose there is a person who possesses no knowledge whatsoever, but always speaks the truth. A real true believer, so to speak. Moreover, it is known (somehow) that this person always and only speaks the truth.

If you learn a "true belief" from this person, did you not just gain knowledge of a fact? In this case, the difference between knowledge and true belief is precisely defined: the truth teller lacks the knowledge that they are a truth teller.

Weird isn't it.

 

Posted Jul 2, '13 at 9:24pm

Maverick4

Maverick4

3,707 posts

Isn't true belief without justification a priori knowledge? Since it is a truth drawn from no experience? As oppossed to JTB wiich would be a posterori knowledge?

 

Posted Jul 3, '13 at 12:45pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,765 posts

Moderator

There are some amazing points so far. First to Mage, whose whole post is just great, so I'd feel silly quoting the whole thing:

You mention the difference between subjectively and objectively justified beliefs. There may be a bit stronger distinction between internally and externally justified beliefs that may come in handy. I'm not sure if this will continue on as a topic, but we should certainly keep it in mind. In fact, the philosopher Jonathan Kvanvig argues that only subjective justification can provide the kind of value we need. But he makes the move that only understand (rather than knowledge) can accommodate subjective justification. We can talk about this more, for sure, but there are lots of other interesting points going on here.

Suppose there is a person who possesses no knowledge whatsoever, but always speaks the truth.

This is such a great example, and it's very close to (if not the same as) a thought experiment called Swampman. Swampman was created by chance (when a bolt of lighting struck a swamp, for some reason) and can provide the correct answer to any question you might ask of him. There's a debate concerning whether Swampman has knowledge (there's a lot of luck involved, for example). It's hard to imagine Swampman's state of mind, but this brings up a really good point. Why go consult an expert on a particular topic when you could ask Swampman? In other words, why seek out someone who knows when you could seek out someone who has all true beliefs?

If you learn a "true belief" from this person, did you not just gain knowledge of a fact?

This is a tough question because it involves testimonial knowledge. Testimony brings a whole host of other problems with it that we would have to solve once we address the questions before us at the moment.

Isn't true belief without justification a priori knowledge? Since it is a truth drawn from no experience? As oppossed to JTB wiich would be a posterori knowledge?

Really good question and you have the right idea. But I can have an a posteriori true belief without justification. Maybe I use tea leaves to determine that Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth. This is true, but it doesn't seem to be justified in the right way. Also, it's a posteriori.
There's a really good debate to be had regarded the justification of a priori beliefs. Do they justify themselves? Do the laws of logic justify them? And if so, how are the laws of logic justified?
There are also some really neat questions, and I'm happy to talk about them. I thought I'd just give this one more try, though, because there's a question I'd really like to see an answer to. So here is it again:

There is a problem in showing that justification adds anything of value to a true belief. Can you figure out what this problem is?

 
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