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patrik 7-2321

The Gettier counterexamples to Justified True Belief as knowledge

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So there was a guy in academic epistemology who allegedly turned the whole field upside down in the 1900's, by proving that having Justified True Belief in an idea is insufficient for having knowledge of said idea.

Read up if you want:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettier_problem
https://books.google.se/books?hl=sv&lr=&id=Gp9Umi2VEh8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA175&dq=Is+Justified+True+Belief+Knowledge%3F&ots=OGD1Xq6SY1&sig=qfXz6_nL9-_008Z6WmjehU7cKFU&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Is Justified True Belief Knowledge%3F&f=false

How I would sum it up:
Gettier provided some examples where an individual S deduces an idea Q which happens to be True, but the reasoning is based on a false premise P, which nonetheless is rationally Justified. Thus the individual does not know that the idea Q is true, and does not have knowledge of Q, but still Believes the idea. Thus it is claimed that S has Justified True Belief in something which is not knowledge, and JTB is an insufficient condition for knowledge.

The whole thing bothers me and I'm trying to figure out why. Is this an attempt at proving that knowledge is impossible, or can it actually make rational sense within objectivist epistemology? What to make of it all?

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The only perspective that matters is that of S.  All S can do is be methodical and conscientious about his reasoning and general alertness.  It takes an external perspective, frequently the omniscient or "God's Eye" view, to judge that S does not really have knowledge.  This is why communication with others is so helpful for being objective, it allows S to better check his premises and expand his awareness of relevant factors.

The same critique can be applied to the doctrine of Justified True Belief. Who is it exactly that is standing in judgement as a final authority on what is True or not?  There is an implied omniscient perspective, but no individual has access to that perspective so JTB is not a workable theory.

In short, one can be justified and still be in error.  If knowledge must be guaranteed to be true before it can count as knowledge then there is no such thing as knowledge and epistemology is a dead end rather than an ongoing problem to be solved.

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48 minutes ago, Grames said:

The only perspective that matters is that of S.

The system disallows me from giving out more "likes" today, so this will be my substitute.

Perfect response.

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1 hour ago, patrik 7-2321 said:

So there was a guy in academic epistemology who allegedly turned the whole field upside down in the 1900's, by proving that having Justified True Belief in an idea is insufficient for having knowledge of said idea.

Read up if you want:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettier_problem
https://books.google.se/books?hl=sv&lr=&id=Gp9Umi2VEh8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA175&dq=Is+Justified+True+Belief+Knowledge%3F&ots=OGD1Xq6SY1&sig=qfXz6_nL9-_008Z6WmjehU7cKFU&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Is Justified True Belief Knowledge%3F&f=false

How I would sum it up:
Gettier provided some examples where an individual S deduces an idea Q which happens to be True, but the reasoning is based on a false premise P, which nonetheless is rationally Justified. Thus the individual does not know that the idea Q is true, and does not have knowledge of Q, but still Believes the idea. Thus it is claimed that S has Justified True Belief in something which is not knowledge, and JTB is an insufficient condition for knowledge.

The whole thing bothers me and I'm trying to figure out why. Is this an attempt at proving that knowledge is impossible, or can it actually make rational sense within objectivist epistemology? What to make of it all?

 

Whatever it is, it's certainly not a proof that knowledge is impossible, nor is it intended to be. This is how analytic philosophy is done. One proposes the necessary and sufficient conditions for a certain thing, and then others try to find counterexamples. These counterexamples are then used to discover new conditions (or to jettison wrong ones) and the concept becomes further and further refined.

The JTB analysis is especially interesting and it led to the development of the causal theory of knowledge which I think is on the right track. However, some philosopher (I forget who) claimed to have proven that it is always possible to come up with Gettier cases regardless of the conditions for justification. This has led some other philosophers to propose that knowledge is not a "state" of consciousness at all, but something else entirely.

EDIT: Here's a video:

 

Edited by SpookyKitty

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Grames gave a fantastic response. A lot of people think of knowledge as needing to BE true to be knowledge. The only thing I'd add to Grames is that knowledge needs to (at least) strive to be true to count as knowledge. If you aim at knowledge by guessing for example, well, you will fail to find a way to consistently/reliably get to the truth. It wouldn't be striving for truth.

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Just now, Grames said:

The only perspective that matters is that of S.  All S can do is be methodical and conscientious about his reasoning and general alertness.  It takes an external perspective, frequently the omniscient or "God's Eye" view, to judge that S does not really have knowledge.  This is why communication with others is so helpful for being objective, it allows S to better check his premises and expand his awareness of relevant factors.

The same critique can be applied to the doctrine of Justified True Belief. Who is it exactly that is standing in judgement as a final authority on what is True or not?  There is an implied omniscient perspective, but no individual has access to that perspective so JTB is not a workable theory.

In short, one can be justified and still be in error.  If knowledge must be guaranteed to be true before it can count as knowledge then there is no such thing as knowledge and epistemology is a dead end rather than an ongoing problem to be solved.

 

Both you and Eiuol have expressed this view now in that other thread. This looks like a good place to discuss it.

You have both raised the objection to the JTB that beliefs can only be judged as true from an "omniscient perspective". Since this perspective does not exist (granted), then it is impossible to really know whether any belief is true, and therefore it is impossible to decide wether or not a given justified belief qualifies as knowledge. Hence, JTB cannot be true.

But your argument confuses the extension of knowledge with its intension. One cannot infer from "we cannot decide in every case whether p is an isntance of q using conditions C" that "there is a p which is not an instance of q but which meets conditions C". In short, it is possible to know something without knowing that you know it.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, SpookyKitty said:

Hence, JTB cannot be true.

The (maybe not so) obvious point would be that then it would be a JTB that a JTB cannot be true.

Edited by dream_weaver

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2 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

You have both raised the objection to the JTB that beliefs can only be judged as true from an "omniscient perspective". Since this perspective does not exist (granted), then it is impossible to really know whether any belief is true, and therefore it is impossible to decide wether or not a given justified belief qualifies as knowledge. Hence, JTB cannot be true.

The Wright Brother's "proved" that flight was possible. However, an understanding of the of the mechanics of flight lay decades in the future, and was well beyond their abilities as engineers.

Science - and all knowledge for that matter - advances when an observation is made that cannot be explained by current theory.  Knowledge does not advance by the syntactic manipulation of symbols.

As my tag line says:

"You can say of (an idea) either that 'it is useful because it is true' or that 'it is true because it is useful.'  Both of these phrases mean exactly the same thing." - William James

Edited by New Buddha

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3 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

But your argument confuses the extension of knowledge with its intension. One cannot infer from "we cannot decide in every case whether p is an isntance of q using conditions C" that "there is a p which is not an instance of q but which meets conditions C". In short, it is possible to know something without knowing that you know it.

Sure, that is true, but it's not related to what the agent knows or their beliefs. You seem to implicitly assume knowledge must be -true-? Anyway, it's still a Gettier problem, albeit holding a true belief without knowing it is true. We can know if a belief is true, only we you qualify it as "the agent's context and the agent employs a sufficiently rational method". Other people seem to throw out "agent's context" and then end up ignoring human capacities. Perhaps you'd make some theory with a really constrained notion of knowledge. Perhaps you would be right as far as measuring accuracy of a claim (or how specific the claim is. A detailed mathematical theory must meet different levels of detail than say, Santa isn't real, to qualify as knowledge). But it would be a barrier to knowledge in general where we seek knowledge for one's benefit.

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Just now, Eiuol said:

Sure, that is true, but it's not related to what the agent knows or their beliefs. You seem to implicitly assume knowledge must be -true-? Anyway, it's still a Gettier problem, albeit holding a true belief without knowing it is true. We can know if a belief is true, only we you qualify it as "the agent's context and the agent employs a sufficiently rational method". Other people seem to throw out "agent's context" and then end up ignoring human capacities. Perhaps you'd make some theory with a really constrained notion of knowledge. Perhaps you would be right as far as measuring accuracy of a claim (or how specific the claim is. A detailed mathematical theory must meet different levels of detail than say, Santa isn't real, to qualify as knowledge). But it would be a barrier to knowledge in general where we seek knowledge for one's benefit.

 

Actually, I explicitly assume that knowledge must be true to qualify as knowledge.

I don't understand the rest of your post at all.

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1 hour ago, SpookyKitty said:

Actually, I explicitly assume that knowledge must be true to qualify as knowledge.

I don't understand the rest of your post at all.

Basically, knowledge should be seen as a means of seeking the truth about reality. So, it must be based on what an agent is able to do. I don't see -why- knowledge must be true to really be knowledge. Truth is a fine concept for something being true. "It is true as far as I know" is plenty fine to think about knowledge. It makes the focus of knowledge finding truth as opposed to having truth. I hope that makes more sense.

If not, well, this is a similar idea: http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtueep/

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Just now, Eiuol said:

Basically, knowledge should be seen as a means of seeking the truth about reality. So, it must be based on what an agent is able to do. I don't see -why- knowledge must be true to really be knowledge. Truth is a fine concept for something being true. "It is true as far as I know" is plenty fine to think about knowledge. It makes the focus of knowledge finding truth as opposed to having truth. I hope that makes more sense.

If not, well, this is a similar idea: http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtueep/

 

Is this your own view, or are you claiming that it is the Objectivist view?

Because, to me it seems that the Objectivist view is consistent with JTB. Rand says that "knowledge is the mental grasp of a fact of reality." Which means that it must be true.

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23 hours ago, patrik 7-2321 said:

How I would sum it up:

Gettier provided some examples where an individual S deduces an idea Q which happens to be True, but the reasoning is based on a false premise P, which nonetheless is rationally Justified. Thus the individual does not know that the idea Q is true, and does not have knowledge of Q, but still Believes the idea. Thus it is claimed that S has Justified True Belief in something which is not knowledge, and JTB is an insufficient condition for knowledge.

You can start out with a false premise, and arrive at a true statement, by introducing vagueness. For instance, if your premise is that "all vikings were seven foot tall", from that you can conclude that "all vikings were taller than a rabbit".

To me, that's all Gettier seems to have done. He just made the examples a little more complicated.

I don't get how that's supposed to disprove the JTB definition of knowledge. The fact that inference isn't equivalence is a pretty obvious property of Logic, and it in no way makes Logic, when used CORRECTLY, invalid.

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8 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:
9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Basically, knowledge should be seen as a means of seeking the truth about reality. So, it must be based on what an agent is able to do. I don't see -why- knowledge must be true to really be knowledge. Truth is a fine concept for something being true. "It is true as far as I know" is plenty fine to think about knowledge. It makes the focus of knowledge finding truth as opposed to having truth. I hope that makes more sense.

If not, well, this is a similar idea: http://www.iep.utm.edu/virtueep/

Is this your own view, or are you claiming that it is the Objectivist view?

Because, to me it seems that the Objectivist view is consistent with JTB. Rand says that "knowledge is the mental grasp of a fact of reality." Which means that it must be true.

Consider Peikoff's discussion of "certainty" (from a lecture, per the Lexicon):

Quote

“Certain” represents an assessment of the evidence for a conclusion; it is usually contrasted with two other broad types of assessment: “possible” and “probable.” . . .

Idea X is “certain” if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative . . . .

You cannot challenge a claim to certainty by means of an arbitrary declaration of a counter-possibility, . . . you cannot manufacture possibilities without evidence . . . .

All the main attacks on certainty depend on evading its contextual character . . . .

The alternative is not to feign omniscience, erecting every discovery into an out-of-context absolute, or to embrace skepticism and claim that knowledge is impossible. Both these policies accept omniscience as the standard: the dogmatists pretend to have it, the skeptics bemoan their lack of it. The rational policy is to discard the very notion of omniscience. Knowledge is contextual—it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually.

This discussion, and the last paragraph especially, seems to me to accord with Eiuol's description of "true as far as I know."

Edited by DonAthos

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12 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Is this your own view, or are you claiming that it is the Objectivist view?

Because, to me it seems that the Objectivist view is consistent with JTB. Rand says that "knowledge is the mental grasp of a fact of reality." Which means that it must be true.

I claim it is the Objectivist view. I am considering how Rand speaks of reason as a process of finding knowledge and certainty, all within one's context, to serve man for his ends and needs. To Rand, neither reason nor knowledge is "disinterested". Truth is how reality is, so as far as not being in accordance with truth, an idea should be rejected when one recognizes it is false. When I take all of Rand's ideas together, it's more like knowledge is grasping truth, and since grasping is an action, this implies it is "truth as far as one knows and is able to know".

I think the causal view you mentioned is that knowledge is when one's beliefs -cause- one to be hold true beliefs. What I'm saying is similar, the only difference I think is that adding "true as far as one knows" is supposed to make knowledge a matter of how we find truth.

 

 

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I fear for the future of Oism.... 

Knowledge is not a "method" it is obtained by method. It is the outcome of method. 

Objectivism is about "adhering to the object" (76 lectures) in the relation of the "s"ubject to the object.

Patrik this thread is a mess and I recommend you read Greg Salmieri's paper Conceptualization and Justification in the book Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge.

Quote

The function of epistemology is to define a method by which we can discover new knowledge and validate putative knowledge. The need for such a method arises, says Rand, because man is "a being of volitional consciousness" whose knowledge is obtained by an effortful process that he can fail to perform correctly (or indeed to perform at all). But these considerations only apply "beyond the level of percepts": perception is a more primitive form of knowing that is automatic and does not require a method. As the language of "levels" indicates, the volitional forms of knowing that do require a method are founded on the primitive form that does not—i.e., conceptual knowledge is founded on perceptual knowledge. Thus, to understand Rand's view of conceptual knowledge and of the role of validation in it, we will need first to understand something about her view of perception and about the broader conception of knowledge or consciousness that embraces both perceptual and conceptual awareness?

The answers in this thread seem oblivious to the acontextual nature of axiomatic knowledge. Once grasped its impossible to be wrong about that knowldge and all knowledge rests on non-propositional "justification".

Edited by Plasmatic

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25 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

Knowledge is not a "method" it is obtained by method. It is the outcome of method.

No one said this, I don't know what you mean. If you mean me, perhaps I was imprecise, I should've said "knowledge should be seen as a product of" not "means of", my intended meaning by saying "seen as" was poorly conveyed.

I don't know how your last sentence adds clarity here. I mean, I agree that there's a foundation to knowledge that can't be "wrong" per se, but it doesn't address the Gettier problem, or if knowledge -has- to be true to be knowledge.

Edited by Eiuol

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15 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Basically, knowledge should be seen as a means of seeking the truth about reality. So, it must be based on what an agent is able to do.

The "means" of knowledge and what one is said to "do" in obtaining it (it being knowledge) is not an instance of knowledge itself. You are conflating process with outcome.

Edited by Plasmatic

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Yeah, I edited my recent post to you to correct myself, I wrote that sentence poorly for what I wanted. We at least want what qualifies as knowledge to be obtainable by what an agent is able to do.

Edited by Eiuol

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In Oist epistemology, the refinement of knowledge of the units of a concept and therefore the change of definition in relation to an essential differentiating characteristic, at no time means that the previous context of knowledge is untrue

The contextual nature of knowledge in objectivism does not separate truth from knowledge.

In ITOE, when explaining the process of a child gaining more knowledge about a concepts units and therefore updating the definition, Ms. Rand says :

 

Quote

 Observe that all of the above versions of a definition of man were true, i.e., were correct identifications of the facts of reality—and that they were valid qua definitions, i.e., were correct selections of distinguishing characteristics in a given context of knowledge. None of them was contradicted by subsequent knowledge: they were included implicitly, as non—defining characteristics, in a more precise definition of man. It is still true that man is a rational animal who speaks, does things no other living beings can do, walks on two legs, has no fur, moves and makes sounds.  

 

Edited by Plasmatic

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2 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

In Oits epistemology, the refinement of knowledge of the units of a concept and therefore the change of definition in relation to an essential differentiating characteristic, at no time means that the previous context of knowledge is untrue

Just to clarify, are you adding to what has been said, or are you saying someone argued against this? I'm still not sure if you think knowledge has to BE true to be knowledge, as is most commonly thought.

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Knowledge is a type of belief, not sure what emphasis is for.

Suppose it were 200 or so BC and I had good reason to think that human thought comes through the heart. I used all my knowledge and observations to include this. So, as far as I understand, I'd possess the truth, that is, I'd have knowledge that thought comes from the heart. Then fast forward to today, and now anyone decently educated knows that thought comes from the brain. To be sure, the observations and prior understanding about the body don't become false, just that the conclusion is false - as long as the earlier conclusion used reason. If I know a claim is false, it can't be knowledge.

But would my point of view in 200 BC, retroactively speaking, no longer count as knowledge? I'd have no way at that time to know it is false. It's another way to frame the Gettier problem. That's why I stood by "as far as one knows", since it's in line with Rand discussing how one acquires knowledge. When Rand talks about truth (which is unrelated to the agent's point of view), it's often paired with validating knowledge or ideas and sometimes attaining certainty.

Grames said it best:

On 1/19/2017 at 0:08 PM, Grames said:

If knowledge must be guaranteed to be true before it can count as knowledge then there is no such thing as knowledge and epistemology is a dead end rather than an ongoing problem to be solved.

 

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Just now, Eiuol said:

Knowledge is a type of belief, not sure what emphasis is for.

Suppose it were 200 or so BC and I had good reason to think that human thought comes through the heart. I used all my knowledge and observations to include this. So, as far as I understand, I'd possess the truth, that is, I'd have knowledge that thought comes from the heart. Then fast forward to today, and now anyone decently educated knows that thought comes from the brain. To be sure, the observations and prior understanding about the body don't become false, just that the conclusion is false - as long as the earlier conclusion used reason. If I know a claim is false, it can't be knowledge.

But would my point of view in 200 BC, retroactively speaking, no longer count as knowledge? I'd have no way at that time to know it is false. It's another way to frame the Gettier problem. That's why I stood by "as far as one knows", since it's in line with Rand discussing how one acquires knowledge. When Rand talks about truth (which is unrelated to the agent's point of view), it's often paired with validating knowledge or ideas and sometimes attaining certainty.

Grames said it best:

 

 

It's not that it retroactively stops being knowledge, it's that it was never knowledge in the first place.

I have an argument against your conception of knowledge.

Does anybody ever say that they "used to know" something that they now know is false or do they say that they "used to believe" something that they now know is false?

For example, imagine a Christian who eventually became an atheist. Would they ever be justified in saying things like "I used to know what really happens to you when you die. I used to know that there was a God. I used to know that Christ rose from the dead after three days."? Wouldn't they rather say that "I used to believe that there was a God"?

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