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patrik 7-2321

The Gettier counterexamples to Justified True Belief as knowledge

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14 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

 

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

 

I get that you mean it never was knowledge, I should say I wouldn't want to say "it never was knowledge". I'm more curious to know a justification of why it has to be true to be knowledge.

I agree "I used to believe God is real" makes more sense, as in it was a false belief, and I know it's false from my own reasoning, thus I failed to know what made it false before. "I used to know God is real" would be okay to write, but thanks to English verb tenses, "I used to be in the state of knowing that God is real" is the shortest way to say it. It was knowledge by that standard - unless it was based on bad reasoning like appeal to emotion or appeal to authority.

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:
2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm more curious to know a justification of why it has to be true to be knowledge.

Why does A have to be A in order for it to be A?

When a person claims to hold knowledge, what is the basis (in reason) for such a claim. Isn't it that he holds some belief which is "justified"?

In what sense could a given belief be justified? Well, there ought to be some kind of evidence to support that belief, and the belief should be consistent with other held beliefs, and there shouldn't be evidence against it. (When and where the evidence is inconclusive, or seemingly in contradiction, the "belief"/knowledge this person lays claim to should reflect that fact. Sometimes "I don't know" is the honest answer.)

When a person holds some belief that is justified, according to everything he knows (all of the evidence he is aware of), when "all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative," then that person would say that he has knowledge (or "knows") that X is true.

Given one person -- any of us, on our own -- there is no difference between a "justified true belief" and a "justified belief." After all, there is no way to ascertain what is "true" or "false" except by appeal to the very things (evidence and reason) which justify belief to begin with. "Justified" and "true" thus become redundant, from a first person perspective.

So what do we mean when we invoke "justified true belief"? What more does "true" give us in this formulation, above and beyond "justified belief" (which is all that any individual will ever have)?

I think it is the introduction of an omniscient, third person viewpoint. Yes, it says, any individual may have a "justified belief" -- in that all of the evidence he is aware of may lead him to it -- yet that belief may be false, given information he does not yet know (but we do). And thus what he has with his "justified belief" is not actually knowledge, given this additional perspective.

But this is a way to sneak in a kind of skepticism, in holding a standard for knowledge which exceeds the capability of any individual observer. After all, there exists no omniscient viewpoint in the universe, and for any given individual, his beliefs must be based upon the evidence that he has, his ability to reason, and only this. He is justified in holding to be true any belief for which he has the evidence to do so. (And if he were privy to the kind of third party information that would make his "justified belief" false, his belief would no longer be justified, and he would no longer pronounce it "knowledge" accordingly.)

This, I believe, is why Peikoff said that "knowledge is contextual—it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually." The relevant context is the evidence one has access to, and upon which he bases/justifies his belief.

Edited by DonAthos

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Just now, Eiuol said:

I get that you mean it never was knowledge, I should say I wouldn't want to say "it never was knowledge". I'm more curious to know a justification of why it has to be true to be knowledge.

I agree "I used to believe God is real" makes more sense, as in it was a false belief, and I know it's false from my own reasoning, thus I failed to know what made it false before. "I used to know God is real" would be okay to write, but thanks to English verb tenses, "I used to be in the state of knowing that God is real" is the shortest way to say it. It was knowledge by that standard - unless it was based on bad reasoning like appeal to emotion or appeal to authority.

 

But "I used to be in the state of knowing that God is real" is not the same as saying "I used to believe God is real". This is because, one could say the former in cases where one has simply forgotten a true belief.

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Just now, DonAthos said:

When a person claims to hold knowledge, what is the basis (in reason) for such a claim. Isn't it that he holds some belief which is "justified"?

Given one person -- any of us, on our own -- there is no difference between a "justified true belief" and a "justified belief." After all, there is no way to ascertain what is "true" or "false" except by appeal to the very things (evidence and reason) which justify belief to begin with. "Justified" and "true" thus become redundant, from a first person perspective.

So what do we mean when we invoke "justified true belief"? What more does "true" give us in this formulation, above and beyond "justified belief" (which is all that any individual will ever have)?

 

I think the answer to this question is important.

Suppose that knowledge is simply justified belief. Then, all you have to do to gain knowledge is to justify whatever beliefs you happen to hold to the extent that you can, indeed, justify them. Suppose further that later on, you learn that one of your justified beliefs is false. Then, you are no longer justified in believing that belief, so that's one less justified belief in your head. But then it would seem as if you have somehow lost knowledge, when it would seem to make more sense to say that you have gained it.

I believe that the JTB answers the above problem as follows. Because knowledge is justified true belief, when one discards a justified false belief, one has increased the degree to which his beliefs correspond (or at least fail to be in conflict) with reality.

 

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12 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

I believe that the JTB answers the above problem as follows. Because knowledge is justified true belief, when one discards a justified false belief, one has increased the degree to which his beliefs correspond (or at least fail to be in conflict) with reality.

 

There is never even a single instant in time in which one can ever hold a justified false belief.   In logic the very moment one becomes aware of the falseness of the belief it can no longer be justified.  Before the moment of discovery of its falseness, it is merely a justified belief.  

It is not a loss of knowledge to transform "S is P" into "S is not P", as both propositions count as knowledge whichever one (and only one) may happen to be justified.

If anyone can bring up an actual example of a justified belief that was later fully falsified, and not merely refined into a wider truth then it would be helpful to this discussion.  I hold that no such example actually exists, but that all such examples are merely guesses, estimates, suppositions and hasty generalizations that never met any standard of justification.   There had not even been any standards of justification until geometry was invented, and that was for geometry only until Aristotle formalized the study of logic.

Actually it occurs to me that perceptual illusions are a trivial example but those are in fact trivial and the possibility of knowledge, here referring to abstract conceptual knowledge, is not threatened because illusions exist.

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Just now, Grames said:

There is never even a single instant in time in which one can ever hold a justified false belief.   In logic the very moment one becomes aware of the falseness of the belief it can no longer be justified.  Before the moment of discovery of its falseness, it is merely a justified belief.  

It is not a loss of knowledge to transform "S is P" into "S is not P", as both propositions count as knowledge whichever one (and only one) may happen to be justified.

If anyone can bring up an actual example of a justified belief that was later fully falsified, and not merely refined into a wider truth then it would be helpful to this discussion.  I hold that no such example actually exists, but that all such examples are merely guesses, estimates, suppositions and hasty generalizations that never met any standard of justification.   There had not even been any standards of justification until geometry was invented, and that was for geometry only until Aristotle formalized the study of logic.

Actually it occurs to me that perceptual illusions are a trivial example but those are in fact trivial and the possibility of knowledge, here referring to abstract conceptual knowledge, is not threatened because illusions exist.

 

Not only are justified false beliefs possible, but they are also pervasive. Just look at the case of Newtonian physics.

Your argument as whole is incoherent. If there are no justified false beliefs, then every justified belief is true. Hence, if knowledge is justified belief, then knowledge must also be justified true belief.

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7 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Suppose that knowledge is simply justified belief. Then, all you have to do to gain knowledge is to justify whatever beliefs you happen to hold to the extent that you can, indeed, justify them.

Though I would probably put this in slightly different terms ("justifying whatever beliefs you happen to hold" sounds to me a bit like putting the cart before the horse, and rationalization, rather than sincere reasoning), I think that this otherwise describes reality.

Knowledge is justified belief. Justified belief is the best that any person can do -- there's not a higher standard possible for any man than believing that which evidence and reason justify him to believe, and no less and no more than that. (Such a standard is plenty high, and most fail to meet it with any regularity.)

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Suppose further that later on, you learn that one of your justified beliefs is false.

This happens all the time, as you later say.

In many respects, this describes the scientific process, and other types of learning.

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Then, you are no longer justified in believing that belief, so that's one less justified belief in your head.

This seems a strange use of language to me. "One less justified belief in your head"? :) Who counts the justified beliefs in his head?

I don't think that's accurate in any event. In learning your earlier belief to be false, you certainly haven't "lost knowledge," but gained knowledge, just as you say. It is knowledge, for instance, (a justified belief) to hold that your earlier belief was false to the extent that it is no longer justified by what you now know. So if we're... counting instances of justified beliefs one has in his head at any given time, it at least remains constant, but more likely grows.

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I believe that the JTB answers the above problem as follows. Because knowledge is justified true belief, when one discards a justified false belief, one has increased the degree to which his beliefs correspond (or at least fail to be in conflict) with reality.

I don't agree that you have described a problem. If it "seems" like a problem, then it only seems to be one.

You bring up Newtonian physics later (though I should caution that my knowledge of physics is quite limited, so please keep that in mind when discussing this subject). I imagine that there might have been people who felt like their knowledge of the universe had somehow shrunk, when observations leading to quantum mechanics (however one feels about that subject) were first made. Yet we know it's not the case that their knowledge shrunk; their knowledge grew. This is the very thing that made a study of quantum mechanics possible. And Newtonian physics is still plenty "true" insofar as we can continue to use it to calculate many phenomena; it is still taught in schools, I believe, for this reason. But now we are justified in believing that Newtonian physics does not accurately describe all known phenomena -- that's no reduction of knowledge with respect to either Newtonian physics or quantum mechanics. It's total gain.

People can be quite zealous about their beliefs, and suffer ego loss when their understanding is challenged (and fight like the dickens to preserve their errant beliefs), but that's not a problem for knowledge, as such.

And further, this is no call for us to reintroduce the (unhelpful, skeptical) third-person standard "true" to "justified belief," because even a belief which has been refined -- which we can say "better corresponds to reality" from our current perspective (a perspective which itself may not be wholly settled) -- has the same epistemological status for any given individual who holds that belief. Knowledge remains valid contextually, and a "refined" belief is still but a "justified belief," justified according to the (now greater amount of) evidence one has. What knowledge is has not changed.

6 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Your argument as whole is incoherent. If there are no justified false beliefs, then every justified belief is true. Hence, if knowledge is justified belief, then knowledge must also be justified true belief.

I believe that what Grames was saying (he may correct me if necessary, of course) was that as soon as an individual has the perspective/information necessary to say that a belief is false, it is no longer "justified" for him to hold it as a belief. Thus "justified false belief" is a contradiction in terms.

This is not to say that one may not hold a "justified belief" in some moment of time which later proves to have been false, although it is possible that Grames intends that, too. I shall address that possibility presently:

7 hours ago, Grames said:

If anyone can bring up an actual example of a justified belief that was later fully falsified, and not merely refined into a wider truth then it would be helpful to this discussion.  I hold that no such example actually exists, but that all such examples are merely guesses, estimates, suppositions and hasty generalizations that never met any standard of justification.   There had not even been any standards of justification until geometry was invented, and that was for geometry only until Aristotle formalized the study of logic.

I think it possible for a person to hold some belief which is justified (given the evidence he has) yet false (with respect to correspondence to reality). Early people saw the sun appear to rise and concluded that the sun rose; I would have made the very same mistake, in that time and place, and I do not fault those people for it. (When do we otherwise doubt that which "appears" to us to be so? Only, in reason, when we have some apparent contradiction that we need to resolve; some justified doubt.)

Is "the sun rises" a fully false belief? I'm not certain exactly what you mean by "fully falsified," but "the sun rises" is false enough for me to call it a false belief. What remains true, perhaps, is that "the sun appears to rise when one observes it from the earth." Or even "there is relative motion between the sun and the earth." And thus the observations that early man made were not false in themselves -- they only lacked the context of information required to interpret their observations correctly.

We could even argue that "the sun rises" is not false, in a sense; just that we have refined our understanding of what it means to say that "the sun rises." And indeed, just as we continue to teach Newtonian physics -- with the modern understanding that it does not work to describe sufficiently small phenomena -- we continue to talk quite sensibly about the sun "rising" and "setting," yet meaning no contradiction with modern astronomy.

Yet I still would say that their beliefs were meaningfully false in that the sense that early people had (that the sun passes through the earth's sky, moving, while the earth itself remained motionless) turned out to be in error, according to later information.

What you say about "standards" of justification is important, and that's the foundation for both our own reasoning and what we otherwise call the scientific process (the standards themselves being a kind of knowledge, refined over time). Yet I would not say that no one had knowledge until such standards were realized explicitly, or until Aristotle wrote about them, or etc.

Quote

Actually it occurs to me that perceptual illusions are a trivial example but those are in fact trivial and the possibility of knowledge, here referring to abstract conceptual knowledge, is not threatened because illusions exist.

I completely agree that such illusions (including the sun rising) pose no threat to knowledge. They should only pose a threat to knowledge, I think, if we (implicitly) reintroduce the necessity for a third-person/omniscient "true" qualifier -- and many people use them for just such a purpose.

But so long as knowledge is "justified belief" then yes, a person may believe himself to see an oasis in the desert and be mistaken -- because it is only an artifact of heat that he actually observes -- but this is no threat to "knowledge," as such, and nothing can be.

Such mistakes are actually quite helpful with respect to epistemology, from time to time, in that they remind us of knowledge's contextual character. And then they are surpassingly helpful with respect to growing one's knowledge, in that mistakes and errors provoke us to further study, to refine our understanding of the world, and to greater and greater discovery.

Edited by DonAthos

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13 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

 

But "I used to be in the state of knowing that God is real" is not the same as saying "I used to believe God is real". This is because, one could say the former in cases where one has simply forgotten a true belief.

It's not the same, that's why the former is more precise. The idea is that the phrasing that makes more sense doesn't matter, as none of these phrases are meant to be spot on and unambiguous. What matters is that I would have been in a state of knowing because my beliefs and good reasoning caused me to be in that state of knowing yesterday, and new beliefs caused me to leave that state of knowing today. I'd also know more now, as in more of my beliefs cohere as a web of knowledge than before. Forgetting isn't caused by one's beliefs, so that's not an issue.

So far you are (correctly) pointing out vagueness and holes in my statements - informal discussion does that - but I don't see much of a positive reason to say "aha! Knowledge has to be true to count as knowledge!" The Gettier problem involves a weaker notion of justified than in Objectivism. Justification in Objectivism is pretty "thick" as not only must a belief cohere with other beliefs, it needs a foundation in perception, and the belief must involve things like intellectual honesty and desiring the truth. I mentioned virtue epistemology before because it also uses "thick" notions of justification. Throwing in "the belief is also true" isn't going to help or alter epistemology or anything. No one will get an official answer from the Ministry of Truth. "True as far as I know" captures that fallibility fine.

EDIT: phrasing

 

Edited by Eiuol

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10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

This, I believe, is why Peikoff said that "knowledge is contextual—it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually." The relevant context is the evidence one has access to, and upon which he bases/justifies his belief.

So, in the context of philosophy, why does A have to be A in order for it to be A? Or, as Eioul said " I'm more curious to know a justification of why it has to be true to be knowledge."

Did knowledge not exist prior to the discovery that some knowledge requires justification in order it to be recognized as true?

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45 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

So, in the context of philosophy, why does A have to be A in order for it to be A? Or, as Eioul said " I'm more curious to know a justification of why it has to be true to be knowledge."

Did knowledge not exist prior to the discovery that some knowledge requires justification in order it to be recognized as true?

I apologize d_w, but I don't really understand your question(s). Neither did I understand the apparent discrepancy between yourself and Eiuol.

I figured it was as good a point as any to try to explain (and explore) my stance on "justified true belief." But "why does A have to be A in order for it to be A?" The question doesn't make sense to me. Things are as they are -- there's no "have to be" about it. And knowledge has existed so long as men have held beliefs on the basis of their observation and reason.

Is there something that I wrote (here, or in my initial [substantive] post, or my follow-up to SpookyKitty) with which you disagree?

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On 1/19/2017 at 5:57 AM, 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.

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?

 

The problem is that you can't obtain knowledge from a false premise.  To acquire knowledge you need both truth and validity.  If you end up with a conclusion that is true which is improperly validated or based on a false premise your conclusion is not knowledge.  It is not knowledge because it has not been integrated into your totality of knowledge contradiction free.

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2 hours ago, Jesse Abbott-Dallamora said:

The problem is that you can't obtain knowledge from a false premise.  To acquire knowledge you need both truth and validity.  If you end up with a conclusion that is true which is improperly validated or based on a false premise your conclusion is not knowledge.  It is not knowledge because it has not been integrated into your totality of knowledge contradiction free.

Right, knowledge is both contextual and hierarchical.  If someone has a false premise they need to check their premises down to reality, to what exists.

Edited by KorbenDallas

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14 hours ago, Grames said:

It is not a loss of knowledge to transform "S is P" into "S is not P", as both propositions count as knowledge whichever one (and only one) may happen to be justified.

Grames, I'm interested in any examples that you take as justifying the belief that Objectivism supports this premise. I am very curious to see your process here.

Edited by Plasmatic

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22 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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

Yes, a true belief that corresponds to facts. The conditions that satisfy belief that P are obtained. ( for anyone familiar with arguments about JTB, knowledge without belief is evasion) 

Homework:

Why does a parrot who can say 1+1=2 not have knowledge according to Objectivism?

 

 

Edited by Plasmatic

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's not the same, that's why the former is more precise. The idea is that the phrasing that makes more sense doesn't matter, as none of these phrases are meant to be spot on and unambiguous.

You should consider the fact that this policy will continue to garner you disdain and frustration from people who take philsophy seriously enough to take the time to say what they mean. 

More importantly this policy will also effect ones cognition because language is primary a tool of cognition and not communication. Context is not a license to equivocate and taking it as such will do you no favors in persuing facts or communicating them.

Edited by Plasmatic

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Justification in Objectivism is pretty "thick" as not only must a belief cohere with other beliefs, it needs a foundation in perception, and the belief must involve things like intellectual honesty and desiring the truth. I mentioned virtue epistemology before because it also uses "thick" notions of justification. Throwing in "the belief is also true" isn't going to help or alter epistemology or anything. No one will get an official answer from the Ministry of Truth. "True as far as I know" captures that fallibility fine.

This is false and "virtue epistemology" is another example of the postmodern assault on truth and objectivity. Good intentions does not knowledge make. False beliefs pressupose knowledge but not of the intended state of affairs to which the belief claims to be knowledge of.

From OPAR

Quote

The concept of “truth" identifies a type of relationship between a proposition and the facts of reality. “Truth,” in Ayn Rand's definition, is “the recognition of reality. In essence, this is the traditional correspondence theory of truth: there is a reality independent of man, and there are certain conceptual products, propositions, formulated by human consciousness. When one of these products corresponds to reality, when it constitutes a recognition of fact, then it is true. Conversely, when the mental content does not thus correspond, when it constitutes not a recognition of reality but a contradiction of it, then it is false.  

 

Edited by Plasmatic

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7 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

You should consider the fact that this policy will continue to garner you disdain and frustration from people who take philsophy seriously enough to take the time to say what they mean. 

More importantly this policy will also effect ones cognition because language is primary a tool of cognition and not communication. Context is not a liscence to equivocate and taking it as such will do you no favors in persuing facts or communicating them.

What policy, that I am willing to post before I know if my explanation is the best way to convey my idea? I mean, you frequently make typos and speak ambiguously as anyone else. I don't think it means you don't know philosophy, or that you fail to understand or know anything. After all, we can't spend 10 hours on a forum to communicate to others the exactness that we use language for cognition. SK brought up common language examples, so I am disputing those were good counter-examples. I said what I meant as best I could - if I wasn't clear at first, I clarified. 

In any case, what do you disagree with, specifically, in my posts?

30 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

Why does does a parrot who can say 1+1=2 not have knowledge according to Objectivism?

What I wrote earlier answers this. Generally, it can't be knowledge because it's not the result of reason or cognition. There is no grasp of reality at all implied in it. I also already said that knowledge must be caused by one's reasoning, and involve things like intellectual honesty, or not evading as Rand so often mentioned.

Do you mean "true (as far as one reasons and can know) belief", or "true (regardless of what one reasons and can know) belief"?

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11 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

Good intentions does not knowledge make.

Right, and even the article I linked shows supporters think good intention is not enough... I said myself there are more necessary conditions. Read the SEP article I linked before, and we can address it directly.

Edited by Eiuol

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5 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I apologize d_w, but I don't really understand your question(s). Neither did I understand the apparent discrepancy between yourself and Eiuol.

I figured it was as good a point as any to try to explain (and explore) my stance on "justified true belief." But "why does A have to be A in order for it to be A?" The question doesn't make sense to me. Things are as they are -- there's no "have to be" about it. And knowledge has existed so long as men have held beliefs on the basis of their observation and reason.

Is there something that I wrote (here, or in my initial [substantive] post, or my follow-up to SpookyKitty) with which you disagree?

Knowledge existed prior to discovering that what one believes has to be true before it can be considered knowledge. What observation(s) provided the basis for reasoning that knowledge must be true before it can be knowledge?

To say "X is true so far as I know", suggests that learning something new could ultimately overturn it, rendering X as false. Isn't this what the Gettier problem introduces? The idea that knowledge is contextual (and in the context Peikoff stated it, I agree), is there any way to move from "X is true so far as I know" to "X is true" period?

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15 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

 

Not only are justified false beliefs possible, but they are also pervasive. Just look at the case of Newtonian physics.

Your argument as whole is incoherent. If there are no justified false beliefs, then every justified belief is true. Hence, if knowledge is justified belief, then knowledge must also be justified true belief.

Newtonian physics is a perfect example for this discussion.  Newtonian physics was and continues to be true whenever relativistic or quantum considerations don't apply or are negligible.  Newtonian physics is not now and never was nor will ever be falsified, it was merely "special cased" into a broader theory.  It was an expansion of knowledge to learn cases that Newtonian physics did not predict correctly, not a loss of knowledge.  For example, Einstein predicting correctly the amount of precession in the orbit of Mercury was an important test and justification for accepting the General Theory of Relativity as true.  See Wikipedia Tests of General Relativity for more context.  Out of 574 arcseconds per century of measured precession it is Newtonian physics that accounts for 531 of them and Relativity is not a substitute theory that provides another way to get those 531, it merely explains 43 of the difference between 574 and 531 which was previously a mystery.

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2 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

Grames, I'm interested in any examples that you take as justifying the belief that Objectivism supports this premise. I am very curious to see your process here.

I was just addressing Spooky Kitty on a level he might be able to understand, that of counting propositions.  Don't read anything more into it please.

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Since SK mentioned Newtonian (Classical) Mechanics, I thought I would post a link to a good video that discusses how it is still relevant - and in fact comprises 99% of applied science as it is practiced on a day to day basis.  Watch at least the first 12 minutes.  Persons with little to no formal training in science fundamentally don't understand how it is conducted.

Edit:  I wish this person had been my electrical engineering instructor in college.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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3 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Knowledge existed prior to discovering that what one believes has to be true before it can be considered knowledge. What observation(s) provided the basis for reasoning that knowledge must be true before it can be knowledge?

Are there observations that provide such a basis? I would guess that it is the process of observing others who come to conclusions they consider true (but we know are not), or looking back on historical beliefs which were held to be true at the time, yet we now know are not or were not true.

So we say that this belief -- considered "knowledge" once -- was not "real" knowledge; that it was never knowledge at all. And we introduce the idea of "true" because when we say that we know a thing, we should not like to one day find that we had been mistaken. We want "knowledge" that will never suffer the fate of the other people we've observed, and adding "truth" to the definition of knowledge is meant to guarantee this. (And so among Objectivists, we might find the... interesting phenomenon of tooth-and-nail disagreement -- to the last degree of any given subject -- and yet no indication on any side that he might be the one mistaken; since everyone personally holds his own knowledge as true, he has no further burden to consider the possibility of his own error.)

But such an idea would not have helped the person who held an errant belief in the past, or someone who holds errant beliefs today, to reach any conclusion other than that his justified beliefs are knowledge. (For a man has no way of knowing what is "true" apart from the process which justifies beliefs in the first place.) Again: an individual (any individual) can do no better than to believe what is warranted by the evidence he has access to and such reasoning as he is capable of performing.

If that isn't sufficient for "knowledge," then nothing is.

Quote

To say "X is true so far as I know", suggests that learning something new could ultimately overturn it, rendering X as false.

[...]

The idea that knowledge is contextual (and in the context Peikoff stated it, I agree), is there any way to move from "X is true so far as I know" to "X is true" period?

To say "X is true so far as I know" is as much to say, as Peikoff did, that knowledge is contextual. Peikoff is not saying "X is true, period." He is saying "given this context, X is true." Part of the context is "so far as I know." Look again at the quote:

Quote

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.

The idea of "X is true, period" is appealing to the standard of omniscience that Peikoff is saying we ought to discard.

Think of concretes in your own life, beliefs that you hold. We've discussed "conspiracy theories" before. Do you consider yourself to know who was behind 9/11? Would you say that it was al-Qaeda under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden? I think you might. (And if you happen to subscribe to some other theory, perhaps that it was notable prop comedian Gallagher who took down the Twin Towers with his Sledge-O-Matic, please humor me for a moment.) Does such a thing count as knowledge?

I'd say that it does. Suppose we examine the evidence of 9/11 and decide that it all points to Bin Laden. We'd say that we know that Bin Laden was responsible accordingly -- we would have a justified belief (the belief is "justified" by the evidence we had examined, and our process of reasoning). Or, as Peikoff put it:

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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 . . . .

So let's say that this is the state we reach. According to all of the evidence we have (which is, note, a "given context of knowledge") it supports X (that Bin Laden was responsible) and does not support any given alternative (we rule out Gallagher; we found no tell-tale watermelon seeds at Ground Zero).

All right. But then suppose that a few years from now, Edward Snowden Jr. steps forward and unleashes a treasure trove of papers on the world that conclusively establish that 9/11 was some "false flag" operation, orchestrated by Gallagher! (Or Dick Cheney. Or whatever.)

What then?

Do we cling to the Bin Laden theory regardless (because we considered ourselves to have "knowledge," and knowledge is true, therefore this new theory must be false)? Hopefully not. Do we look back and say that we were never justified to believe that Bin Laden was responsible? I don't think so. We were plenty justified.

What we were justified to say in the first place, in fact, was that "Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11... as far as I know." (We don't actually have to add the "...as far as I know" addendum, but it is implied, so long as we understand the contextual nature of knowledge.) And that is a statement of truth that can never be shown false.

It is also the state of our knowledge today. Whatever beliefs we hold about 9/11 or X other subject ought to be justified as far as our evidence and ability to reason will carry us. They don't safeguard us from having to amend our beliefs in the face of new discoveries tomorrow (or insight, come to it) -- but that isn't the point.

The point is that we can rightfully say that we know that Bin Laden was behind 9/11, and act on our knowledge, so long as we retain the contextual nature of knowledge (which allows us to amend our beliefs when necessary).

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Isn't this what the Gettier problem introduces?

I am only passing familiar with Gettier cases, so I might not have the details right, but I don't believe so.

The "point" to a Gettier case is that one may hold a "justified true belief" which is yet not knowledge. And thus it's meant to demonstrate that "justified true belief" is not sufficient for knowledge.

One way it was explained to me is as follows:

Suppose you sit down to watch the 2017 US Open (and forgive my shallow tennis knowledge; just supply whatever details best make sense to you), and you witness Venus Williams win the championship. You conclude that Venus Williams won the 2017 US Open.

Now.

Suppose it was true that Venus Williams won the 2017 US Open BUT... when you watched television, unbeknownst to you, the television network made a mistake and accidentally rebroadcast the 2016 US Open.

Well. Supposedly this is a problem for "justified true belief" because 1) you would hold a belief (that Venus Williams had won the 2017 US Open); 2) It would be true (she actually did win it); and 3) It would be justified for you to hold that belief (in that you would have had what you considered to be evidence to that effect).

But, given that you never actually saw Venus Williams play at the 2017 US Open at all, and it is just coincidental that what you believe happens to be true, would such a belief count as "knowledge"?

Those who push Gettier say not. And thus "justified true belief" is held to not be enough for knowledge.

Or at least, such is my understanding. But as hopefully you understand, this has nothing to do with my critique of "justified true belief"; I do not hold that standard insufficiently strict (as Gettier does), but impossibly strict (as it demands a person to know what is "true" beyond his own ability to justify his beliefs).

Edited by DonAthos

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4 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's not the same, that's why the former is more precise. The idea is that the phrasing that makes more sense doesn't matter, as none of these phrases are meant to be spot on and unambiguous. What matters is that I would have been in a state of knowing because my beliefs and good reasoning caused me to be in that state of knowing yesterday, and new beliefs caused me to leave that state of knowing today. I'd also know more now, as in more of my beliefs cohere as a web of knowledge than before. Forgetting isn't caused by one's beliefs, so that's not an issue.

So far you are (correctly) pointing out vagueness and holes in my statements - informal discussion does that - but I don't see much of a positive reason to say "aha! Knowledge has to be true to count as knowledge!" The Gettier problem involves a weaker notion of justified than in Objectivism. Justification in Objectivism is pretty "thick" as not only must a belief cohere with other beliefs, it needs a foundation in perception, and the belief must involve things like intellectual honesty and desiring the truth. I mentioned virtue epistemology before because it also uses "thick" notions of justification. Throwing in "the belief is also true" isn't going to help or alter epistemology or anything. No one will get an official answer from the Ministry of Truth. "True as far as I know" captures that fallibility fine.

EDIT: phrasing

 

 

Ok, I will give a positive argument for the truth condition.

Imagine that some scientists are running an experiment. The subjects are told that in the test room there is a screen which always displays a certain picture. The subjects are given a list of possible pictures that the screen always shows. They are, one by one, to enter the room, mark which picture that they believe that the screen always shows, and then leave. The next subject then takes his turn, and so on.

When Jones enters the room, he sees a picture of a dog. Thus, he has a justified belief that the screen always shows a dog. Presumably then, if knowledge is justified belief, then Jones knows that the screen always shows a dog.

However, the experimenters have designed the screen so that it displays a random picture upon a subject's entering the room. A subject can have evidence for the belief that "the screen always shows x". But, there is simply no fact of the matter as to what the screen always shows. If knowledge is supposed to be about facts, then it is impossible for anyone to ever know what it is that the screen always shows even though they can have justified beliefs about what the screen always shows.

The only things that people can actually have knowledge about are matters of fact. Every justified belief about matters of fact is therefore also either a justified false belief or a justified true belief. I think that it would be absurd to define knowledge as any sort of justified false belief. Therefore, knowledge must consist only of justified true beliefs.

 

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