Two undefeated chess grandmasters meet at a chess tournament. No ties are accepted: this is a mental fight where only one can win. Each believes that they will win the match, and in fact has good reasons to believe that they will win: they each have defeated all previous games. For one of them their belief is true, for the other their belief is false, yet the winner cannot be said to know. True belief (mere opinion, doxa) does not make knowledge (episteme). We want a way to sort out true from false beliefs, and not just accidentally stumble upon truths like one of the grandmasters. To cut a long story short, we need some reliable way of sorting out true from false beliefs.
Posts Tagged ‘belief’
I find Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism (it should probably be called the ‘evolutionary argument against correct belief formation’, but I’ll get to that in a second) to be perfectly permissible (with certain revisions). This might come as a shock to some, considering that I am an open agnostic atheist about gods. In fact, I am far more of an apathist in spirit, for positing the existence of gods is a non-explanation for, I think, a non-problem. Plantinga’s argument boils down to little more than an attack against assumptions in epistemology, not against ‘naturalism’: evolution and our traditional theories of knowledge are incompatible.
Jonathan Schaffer’s The Debasing Demon [.pdf] was an immense pleasure to read. Some highlights:
I will draw three lessons from the debasing demon. The first lesson is that all knowledge is imperilled by sceptical doubt, even knowledge of the cogito. This clarifies the range of scepticism. The second and related lesson is that anti-sceptical strategies relying on a residue of knowledge immune from doubt cannot succeed. The debasing demon leaves no residuum. The third lesson is that deception and debasement do not exhaust the forms of sceptical doubt. In that sense, there are more demons in epistemic hell than are dreamt of in epistemology. (Schaffer, 228)
Externalism assumes that internalism misses the very point of the act of justifying statements. Epistemic luck about justifiers should not be a significant factor in cases of true knowledge, not fortuitous ‘true opinion.’ The justifier can be independent of the beliefs of Adam, resting on the fact that the justifier is in fact a proper justifier. In other words, if The Times is an accurate predictor, it does not matter if Adam have awareness of his access to an accurate predictor.
Even if Adam cannot provide a good reason why The Times is a reliable source, as long as The Times is in fact a proper justifier of p, and if Adam forms the belief p after reading The Times, and if the content of The Times is in fact true, then Adam is in possession of knowledge. To generalize, in the externalist program Adam will have a justified true belief iff