Michael Daniel 9/4/2006 Reading 2: Sober, pp149-158: “What is Knowledge” Sober begins by laying out what he intends

to do with this chapter. He defines epistemology: “Epistemologists try to evaluate the commonsense idea that we… have knowledge and that we are … rationally justified in the beliefs we have.” Philosophers who challenge that belief are engaging in, “… some form of philosophical skepticism”. There are 3 kinds of knowledge: Propositional knowledge, Object knowledge, and know-how knowledge. Propositional knowledge is a fact and can usually be stated in a ‘true of false’ fashion. The example given is “S knows that the Rockies are in North America”. Object knowledge is knowledge of a person or a thing. It requires more subtle type of knowing. The example given is “S knows the president of the United States”. You can know all kinds of propositional information about the president, you can even be introduced to him at a cocktail party but that does not mean that you necessarily know him. Know-how knowledge is knowledge of how to functionally do something. Propositional knowledge of how to ride a bike is not enough for one to say that they know how to ride a bike. Propositional knowledge isn’t required for one to know how to ride a bike. It is therefore not related to know-how knowledge. The rest of this reading will concentrate on propositional knowledge. The two requirements for knowledge are belief and truth. One can not know something that they believe to be false. If one believes something that is objectively false then they can know it subjectively. Whether it is objectively true or not is irrelavent.

In the Theaetetus Plato argues that knowledge requires justification. To sum up: You have to believe the thing and it has to have some element of truth and you have to be able to justify your belief logically. This is the JTB theory (which stands for Justified True Belief). Justification can come from an argument made up of propositions that rely on each other. Justification can also be ‘noninferential’, in other words it is simply based on the evidence at hand. For example, you can know in a noninferential way that you have a headache without having to justify it with argument. There are counterexamples to the JTB theory that play with unexpected phenomena. For example, according to the text you can be justified in believing that your lottery ticket will not win because the odds are in favor of you loosing with your lottery ticket. Even if you are right and you loose it would be inaccurate to say that you knew that it would happen because the logic is nondeductive. The problem in the lottery counterexample can lead to skepticism. In other words, “If S knows that p then it isn’t possible that S is mistaken in believing that p.” If you don’t trust the senses then S can know nothing. Sober acknowledges that skepticism is deductively valid but in the same breath he tries to attack skeptical arguments by saying that they run contrary to ‘common sense’. Sober could be trying to say any one many different things by using the words ‘common sense’ so I won’t even attempt to directly refute it. I will, however, state what I believe right now: I believe that we can know what we are thinking. I know that I think that I am reading this book in a noninferential way. I can not know that I am actually reading a book because I can’t fully trust my senses.

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