PY1006 (2009-10

)

REASONING AND KNOWLEDGE
LECTURE ELEVEN: Can we define µknowledge¶? 4/2/2010 (student version) Dr. Patrick Greenough
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1. Recap.

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Recall that there are two basic epistemological questions: The Definitional Question: What is knowledge? The Sceptical Question: Do we know anything?
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2. Overview.

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In these last two epistemology lectures, we are going to address the first of these questions. In particular, we are going to look at a the so-called Gettier counterexamples.

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3. What is a definition?

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Two basic types: (1) Ostensive definitions (To ostend is to point.) (2) Verbal definitions. Here we try to express using words, rather than by pointing, what a word or phrase means.
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3. What is a definition?

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Two types of verbal definitions: (a) Definitions by giving examples. E.g.: We define bachelor by citing examples of bachelors: µJohn is a bachelor¶, µJim is a bachelor¶, «
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3. What is a definition?

(b) Analytic Definitions: These employ an µif and only if¶. E.g.: x is bachelor if and only if «

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3. What is a definition?

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Here µis a bachelor¶ is the definiendum (the thing to be defined). (Sometimes this is called the analysandum.)

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3. What is a definition?

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And the « are to be filled in by the definiens. (Sometimes these are called the analysans.)

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3. What is a definition?

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Good analytic definitions provide an analysis of some concept. The best kind of analytic definitions are reductive.

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3. What is a definition?

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Reductive analyses provide an analysis (or definition) of a concept in terms which are better understood (or more basic) than the original term.

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3. What is a definition?

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Reductive definitions are never circular: the defiendum never re-appears in the definiens or in any further analysis of the definiens.

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4. Non-reductive definitions.

Example one: x is a bachelor if and only if x is a bachelor ‡ ‡ This is blatantly circular. This definition is highly uninformative!
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4. Non-reductive definitions.

Example Two: x is red if and only if x is coloured and not-green and not-yellow and not-blue and .. ‡ This definition is circular (non-reductive) because µgreen¶ is defined as as follows: x is green if and only if x is coloured and notred and not-yellow and not-blue and «

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4. Non-reductive definitions.

Question: Are all circular definitions bad? ‡ Suppose I say that belief is that state which aims at truth and that truth is that property which all good beliefs have. Such analyses may be informative ± despite being circular «
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5. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

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Necessary conditions are conditions which must obtain in order for some other condition to obtain.

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5. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

Definition: P is a necessary condition for Q if and only if: Necessarily, if Q then P That is: Necessarily, Q only if P

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5. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

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Sufficient conditions are conditions whose holding is enough (or sufficient) for the obtaining of some other condition.

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5. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

Definition: P is a sufficient condition for Q if and only if: Necessarily, if P then Q. That is: Necessarily, P only if Q.

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5. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

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So, P is both necessary and sufficient for Q when and only when: Necessarily, P if and only if Q.

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6. Case Study: defining µmillionaire¶.

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See handout «

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7. Case Study: defining µbachelor¶.

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See handout «

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8. When are analytic definitions bad?

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They are bad when either: (a) They are uninformative (see above). (b) Inaccurate, i.e. subject to counterexample.

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

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Recall that an analytic definition is of the form: x is F if and only if « E.g.: x is bachelor if and only if «

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

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Such a definition makes two claims: (i) If « then x is F (ii) If x is F then « (sufficiency claim) (necessity claim)

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

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In other words, such a definition makes the following two claims:

(i) « is sufficient for x to be F (ii) « is necessary for x to be F

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

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So, counterexamples to some definition can be of two kinds: (1) Failure of sufficiency. (2) Failure of necessity.

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

(1) Failure of sufficiency: This is where « is not sufficient for x to be F ‡ That is, the « condition holds, but x fails to be F.

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

Example: Take the following definition. x is a millionaire if and only x has a very expensive house, a Rolls-Royce, and a German butler. Counterexample to sufficiency: «

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9. Counterexamples to an analytic definition.

Example: Take the same definition as before. Counterexample to necessity: «

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10. Is knowledge just belief?

Question: is knowledge just belief? (Here we are interested in so-called knowledge-that ± as opposed to knowledge-how.)

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10. Is knowledge just belief?

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Put another way: is belief both necessary and sufficient for knowledge? That is, do we have the following? A subject S knows that p if and only if S believes that p
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10. Is knowledge just belief?

Question: But is belief necessary for knowledge? ‡ YES. Potential counterexample: «

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10. Is knowledge just belief?

Question: But is belief sufficient for knowledge? ‡ Surely knowledge is some kind of special belief. Mere belief, while necessary, is not sufficient for knowledge.
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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Question: Is knowledge just true belief? ‡ That is, do we have the following? S knows that p if and only if: (i) S believes that and (ii) p is true.
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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Question: Is truth necessary for knowledge knowledge? Arguably: Yes ± one cannot know a proposition which is false. Potential counterexample: «
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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Question: Is true belief sufficient for knowledge?

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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Counterexample to this sufficiency claim: I believe that the moon contains 3 billion tonnes of lead. I formed this belief without any evidence. Nonetheless my belief turns out to be true ± but surely it is not knowledge!

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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Basic Underlying thought: a belief needs to be a bit more special than that in order to count as knowledge.

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11. Is knowledge just true belief?

Underlying thought One: we don¶t want beliefs that are accidentally true to count as knowledge. Underlying thought Two: we don¶t want true beliefs that are not supported by evidence to count as knowledge.
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12. Is knowledge justified true belief?

Put another way: «

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12. Is knowledge justified true belief?

This is called The Tripartite Analysis of Knowledge. Alternative name: The JTB Analysis.

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12. Is knowledge justified true belief?

JTB Analysis: a subject S knows that P if and only if (i) S believes that P, (ii) P is true, (iii) S is justified in believing that P
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12. Is knowledge justified true belief?

That is, truth, belief and justification are not only individually necessary for knowledge²they are jointly sufficient for knowledge too.

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13. What do we mean by µjustification¶ here?

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The sort of justification in the JTB analysis is a certain kind of fallibilist justification: one can have a justified but false belief. (We¶ll come back to this.)
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13. What do we mean by µjustification¶ here?

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It's a so-called 'threshold concept'--you need a certain amount of justification in order for your true belief to count as knowledge. A bit of evidence won't do-you need sufficient evidence.

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14. Is JTB enough for knowledge?

Question: But is a justified true belief sufficient for knowledge? In the shortest and perhaps the most famous article in 20th Century Philosophy, Edmund Gettier (1963) famously thought not «
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