Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge by Robert Audi

 This is a self study section on Epistemology where I'm studying from the book: Epistemology - A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge by Robert Audi. Some may wonder why I'm studying this or even care. It certainly is a bit dry or at the very least, not very applicable to my life. Well, I've developed an interest in philosophy. Ethics and morality really did get me into it, but upon my causal consumption I found myself becoming very interested in epistemology. It seems quite important to me to understand knowledge and whether I had good reasons for my own.

Chapter 1 Perception: Sensing, Believing and Knowing


Naive Realism: Our senses give us a direct awareness of objects as they really are.

Propositional Perception

Yields knowledge of two things, (a) what it is that we perceive, and (b) a property of it. OR perceiving that and to be.

Example: I see a door that is rectangular and red. OR I see that it is a door and it to be rectangular and red.

Make a note that propositional perception can include objectual perception: The content of my perception p includes both the proposition of p and also the objectual perception of the thing in question.

Objectual Perception

Yields knowledge of a property, but maybe not what it is you see. OR perceiving it to be.

Example: It's making a noise, but I'm not sure what it is. OR I hear it to be making a noise, even though I don't know what it is.

An objectual perception doesn't include a proposition perception because it perceives a property of an object.

Chapter 2 Theories of Perception: Sense Experience, Appearances and Reality

Adverbial Theory

"To perceive an object is for that object (in a certain way) to produce in one a sensory experience of it."

Essentially we see things in a qualitative way. Wee see a straight stick and we see a bent with the illusion of partially submerging the stick in water. Normally things appear correct, but they can appear wrong sometimes. What we get is an adverb like experience: The rim of my coffee cup appears elliptically. It's round, but if you look at the right angle you would believe it to be elliptical. The idea is that it appears elliptically in this experience, but maybe the next experience it'll appear round.

The theory differs when dealing with hallucination. Let's say I see a floating hotdog. Since there is no object (I'm hallucinating), something in that area, another object is producing this visual experience. If this same room was dark, an adverbial theorist would say there was no perception - despite the fake that I would still see the floating hotdog.

Sense Datum Theory

The perceptual experience is an intermediator between what our senses pick up and how we perceive in our mind. We don't see the physical object, but merely the sense datum. An easy way of looking at this is that we see an mental object of our perception. We're not actually seeing physically outside of our mind, just an image in our mind.

An example of this is a tomato. We have a visual experience which produces an image in our mind. From that image we see that the tomato is red and round. That's sense data.

This is about the best summation I've seen. I perceive a tomato, which looks to be round and red. These are the properties of the perception I see. The existence of this red and round thing is dependent on my mind.

Sense Datum Theory is indirect realism.


The idea here is similar to sense datum theory. We perceive an object and we get data. The book is rectangular, one inch thick, collar blue, many pages of paper, etc. If we take all these pieces of data away - one by one - there will be nothing left. Essentially an object is a collection of sense data.

Phenomenalism is direct realism.

This means that perceptual objects can be seen as sense data, but deny that there is anything beyond our own perceptions of it. There is no world beyond our possible perceptual experiences.

Chapter 3 Memory: The Preservation and Reconstruction of the Past

Memory & the Past: A Basic Understand

We can't say that memory is a store of knowledge and belief about the past. That's not to say that it doesn't have the capacity. Most of what is in our memory is this sort of knowledge and belief, though we do have the capacity to hold false knowledge and beliefs too.

We can receive knowledge & beliefs in an indirect way through testimony. I can learn history be reading a book, but it doesn't mean I experienced any of the historical events. In this case I would have a past experience of reading the book or hearing someone speak of history.

Memorial was a tough term to understand, but essentially is something you experienced that has made it into your memory storage warehouse. It is contrasted by testimony because I can read a book or be told something, but it may never actually make it into that memory storage warehouse. I think of all the times I'm sitting at a test, and I try to think about what was on the chalk board in class, but it's blank. If I were able to store that information in the warehouse, this would be known as a memory belief.

Three Modes of Memory

  1. Memory - We have memories
  2. Remembering - We remember
  3. Recalling - We sometimes recall, roughly call into our minds, which we have experienced.

Direct Realism of Memory

This is similar to naive realism of perception. The idea here is that when we remember an event, we just do remember it and it is as it seems to be to us. This view is one that is causal. There is a chain links to the remembered event.

If I saw Bob yesterday, then it must be because I am disposed to believe that I did.

The causal chain of remember can be broken. If I did something, but later cannot remember it - the chain is broken. There is no belief. A friend through testimony could tell me about the event creating a new causal chain. In this case I remember the event, but for a different reason. It's not memorial.

Proposition memory about an event, does not entail event memory of it.

The problem with direct realism of memory is the same as naive realism. You can be fooled by illusion and it's all the same as real events.

The Representative Theory of Memory

There's an aspect of this similar to sense data (as we see internal images of perception). The idea have is that there are memory images. Not quite as vivid as perception, but something closer to imagination (residue of perception). We are said to remember an event when one true belief about it is grounded in a memory image, in a chain from our experience of an event. The better the memorial representation, the better the memory.

Memory Images

Like sense datum theory, the representative there of memory is indirect realism. The idea is we have these memory images of the past. Now, we don't garner facts from these images, but they reacquaint us with the past event. Remembering incorrectly don't mean we have a false belief. We have a grounded memory image, but some aspect about it produces a false believe about the detail.

An example would be remembering an event, but mistaken about the city it was in.

With the concept of hallucinations we can determine that there is no causal chain from an actual event to memory image, but some abnormal state.


Remembering doesn't actually require an image as we can rifle off data about an event without visualizing it.

An example is your ability to describe the topic of a conversation with someone without having to hear some audio image of the conversation.

An issue one can have with misremembering is their imagination comes into play. I can bring visual experience into my conscious mind, but details, such as a shirt collar, could be pure imagination. The big problem with the representative theory of memory is that much remembering doesn't necessarily come from a memory image or imagination. This means that the theory for remembering isn't required for all remembering.

Phenomenalist Concept of Memory

The phenomenalist concept suffers from the same problems of the representative theory of memory, since the idea of memory image objects is part of phenomenalism. Remembering is a collection of images about an event the way a person believes about the event.

Adverbial Conception of Memory

Adverbial theory will take remembering to be epistemically direct. It's not on my premise that I believe I have cut the grass. My belief is grounded in memory as a preserver of beliefs and other details - not in other premises that support such a memory belief. The adverbial view of memory, as per remembering events, is expressed as the following:

  1. Occurently (actively) remembering

Realizing this manifestation is linked to an event by an unbroken causal chain.

Example: Observing a cat, it is a perceptual manifestation and describing this manifestation you are realizing a memorial event.

The memorial experience by typical manifestation can be broken down to the following:

(a) Imaging processes about event. (b) Memory beliefs are formed about it. (c) Consider the propositions so believed.

Other realizations exist such as recognizing a picture of the event.

  1. Dispositionally (passively) remembering

Remembering an event without a manifestation. Though I could manifest it, while my mind is occupied on other things.

Example: I know I went to University. I don't need to manifest a perceptual image to know this fact - I remember this.

Another way of thinking about occurrent vs dispositional is thinking of an elastic band. The property of stretching the band is dispositional. It's something we know and don't have a manifestation to know that it has this property. The act of stretching the band is occurrent, as we're having an experience of the property of stretching. You'll also notice that the act of stretching is occurrent plus we see the dispositional property.

Just to solidify the point about dispositional remembering during occurrent remembering could also be illustrated as such: I have a manifestation of a conversation with my friend - which is occurrent. I may never manifest we had this conversation in a car, but remember it none the less.

Propositional remembering is remembering that. Most propositional remembering is dispositional. When these believes are called up actively (active propositional remembering) it becomes an experience that is of a memorial way.

Does occurrent remembering require some sort of imaging? (Not like sense datum image object sort of way)

First, consider a memory - the event of meeting someone - and you do it in an actively remembering event. Second, you ask if you're imaging. when you do this, you image.

Basically, you've called up a memory and inspected the results of this effort. You could be imaging based on the way you invoked remembering, so this procedure of evoking memories of the past is defective as a way of determining whether remembering requires imaging.

Epistemological Centrality of Memory

Memory is a source of believes, like a warehouse and what we store in it. Our memory preserves beliefs and allows us to call things. It also allows us to draw on our beliefs to supply premises in reasoning.

Memory beliefs are of propositions we remember to be true, which constitutes knowledge. So memory when it is a source of what is remember, commonly yields both knowledge that and knowledge of.

If I remember meeting you, I know that I remember you - knowledge that. I may also remember you, meaning I met you at least once before, even though I may not recognize meeting you now - knowledge of.

Chapter 4 Consciousness: The Life of the Mind

Imaging and Beliefs

There are two kinds of mental properties.

  1. Having an image (in a minimal way)
    1. Static and changeless. This is described as mental state.
    2. Imaging is the process of calling up images in succession.
  2. Beliefs

Beliefs differ from images. First beliefs are limited to what we know. Secondly to have a belief we do not require an image or perception of the belief. Due to these differences we can refer to the mental property of belief as dispositional and mental properties like thinking are occurrent.

Occurrent: mental events that happen or go on.

Dispositional: to be disposed to do or undergo something under a certain condition, but not actually doing or experiencing something. Like fear.

Another way of looking at this: if occurrent is this mental experience, dispositional is a property of it. This is similar to how occurrent & dispositional was viewed in memory with the elastic band example.

Example: I can know the band is elastic in nature (dispositional), but stretching it out is occurrent. Simply put, occurrent is the experience of something and a property is merely dispositional.

There is a difference between imaging and just a static image. They can be divided as such:

  1. Experiential process properties - Occurrent mental properties like thinking.
  2. Experiential state properties - Occurrent mental properties like static images.


Introspections is the act of looking in on one's own consciousness. It isn't necessarily a laborious affair. It can be as simple as being conscious of something in your mind.

Using perception as a means of investigating we can only see so much. Dispositional beliefs are not seen. There's nothing shown, necessarily, for a fear of cancer. From this it appears that only occurrent mental processes like imaging can be viewed with introspection. We certainly think, but it is not actually seen.

Theories of Introspective Consciousness

Realism About the Objects of Introspection

If we were to take the sense-datum view of introspection, to see an image of cool blue water, we would see another image - which represents the first one in the way sense data represents a physical object seen by the perceiver. This type of image is known as a second order image, as it is an image of an image.

Adverbial View of Introspective Objects

The adverbial version is a bit different than the sense datum version of realism. Instead of secondary images, they hold there is just one basic kind of imaging process and perceptual images are just more vivid when compared to imaging. Adverbialists imaging blue water is just imaginational rather than perceptually sensing in a way of blue-waterly. The adverbialist view conceives imaging as an experience rather than a relation to an object. There is no image as an object to copy.

The idea here is that there are no second order images to represent first order images. The less vivid imaging are viewed as occurrences of the original imaging process. Adverbialists aren't saying that there can't be any second order image or similar interior objects on inner vision. They show an alternative view that helps explain the less vivid nature of our introspection, rather than a copy of another image object.

Realism about physical objects of perception is a highly plausible view. Realism is about introspective objects is not. The anti-realism of the adverbial view of imaging - as in not imaging objects - does not imply that imaging isn't real. Imaging is real properties of a man, even though they're not a relationship between man and an object. This isn't to say there isn't an object, but this object is a content.

Introspection Analogy with Perception

Basically introspection has a causal characteristic. Imaging the water is different from an image of a statue. The difference may be in the cause of the image. Introspection may be like perception by these two points:

  1. Introspective viewing may have a causal relation between what is introspected (like an image) and introspective consciousness of that state or process.
  2. Viewing may imply a causal relation between the object of introspective knowledge (imaging blue water) and beliefs constituting this knowledge.

Imaging something is true if you introspectively consider what you're conscious of. I believe I am imaging it and conscious of my imaging it. This is a causal relation. It would be viewing an inner object (sense datum) or just a state/process of imaging (adverbial). Either case, introspective beliefs are plausible to regard beliefs as true. It is like seeing an object, but doesn't posit any inner objects analogy to perceptual objects seen by the introspective eye.

Another point, if you believe you're imaging blue water, but its not caused by imaging - this is not introspective. It is a reference to what is introspect able, but its not grounded in introspection. How can you think you're imaging, when you're really not? Well, you could have a lot on your mind and not try hard enough or mistakenly image a blue surface as blue water. Another example would be deciding to introspect for a few hours. I monitor the process and conclude that I'm thinking of introspection. This monitoring over time confirms my belief that I'm doing it.

It's a propositional belief that I know I'm doing, but it's not an objectual belief regarding my present thinking. It's not actually grounded in my present thinking.

Privileged Access

How does hallucinations and illusions come into play? David Hume thought since the contents of the mind are known by consciousness (at least by introspection) therefore they must appear in every respect what they are and be what they appear.

Hume's view can be broken down to two claims:

  1. If the contents of our mind must be what they appear - then introspective consciousness can give us beliefs that cannot be mistaken.

  2. If the contents must appear to be what they are - then consciousness makes us aware of the contents of the mind that guarantees full knowledge of them.

A is known as thesis of infallibility - One is in an occurrent mental state (such as imaging) or one is undergoing a mental process (like thinking) or one is experiencing something (like pain) cannot be mistaken.

B is known as thesis of omniscience - With regard to our occurrent contents of consciousness (occurrent mental state or mental process or experiencing), one cannot fail to know that one is.

These two theses constitute privilege access. Simply put it is because no one else is in such a good position to know about our mental life and because our access to the external world isn't the best - that we can speak of this privileged access to our internal world.

With regards to hallucination: you can image things without actually believing them to be true. I can certainly image my home burning, but not believe it actually is.

Problems with Privileged Access

Consider the ideas that you're introspecting and believe you are, though you could very well be daydreaming about images and feelings about introspection. A way of looking at this example is like you're observing a person watching a sports match, only to find you're wrapped up in the match and not really observing the person watching the match. From these examples, a proponent of the thesis of infallibility may suggest that it implies to attentive introspection and not a lazier version above. This is known as restrictive infallibility view and it means attentive introspectional beliefs are true.

A counter to restrictive infallibility view is what if you desperately want to believe that you're thinking of introspection. Could a person take daydreaming to be such thinking and allow a person to form an attentive introspective belief? It is a possibility.

From here the thesis of omniscience should be rejected since it is possible to be mistaken and therefore privileged access should be abandoned. If one cannot always tell when one is introspecting versus daydreaming about introspection, then one cannot be omniscience with regards to this consciousness.

Introspective Knowledge & Justification

The self knowledge principle says attentively formed introspective beliefs about what is now occurring in us are normally true and constitute knowledge. "Access" to our dispositional is not as good as our access to what is occurring in us. We need not be conscious of dispositional properties, but when one is imaging it consists in its place in consciousness.

The justification principle applicable to the dispositional mental domain says our beliefs to the effect that we are now in a dispositional mental state (wanting, fearing, intending, etc) are normally justified. This is a prima facie (on its face) justified - in the sense they are justified unless some other defeating factor (abnormal psychological state) occurs.

Beliefs arrive from introspection and the points that have emerged suggest a general epistemic principle concerning self-knowledge which is far reaching: normally introspective beliefs grounded in attentive self-consciousness are true and constitute knowledge. A second epistemic principle - an attentional epistemic principle concerning self-knowledge is not normally, if we attentively focus introspectively on something going on in, we know that it is going on, at least under some description.

Example: I may not know I'm humming Michael Jackson's "Beat It", but I do know I'm humming a pop song.


Chapter 5 Reason I: Understanding, Insight and Intellectual Power

Self Evident Truths

Self evident truths are thought to be evidently true taken by themselves - without the need for supporting evidence.

Example: The spruce is taller than the maple therefore the maple is shorter than the spruce.

Example: Mathematically A>B therefore B<A.

Example: The vixen is female. [Vixen is a female fox]

The self evident proposition can be broken down as follows:

  1. If one understands them, then by virtue of that understanding one is justified in believing them. Justifies Belief
  2. If one believes them on the basis of understanding them, then one thereby knows them. Grounds Belief

With the example of the spruce and maple you don't have to consult experience. The concept of being taller than means something, the maple is shorter than the spruce.

The comparison of heights, our belief is immediate in both. There are two types of immediacy:

  1. Temporal sene of "instant formed" and
  2. Epistemic sense - the sense entailing that we see the truth without inferring them from anything else.

The point is that our belief exhibit its epistemic immediacy: The belief is not based on inference or on further evidential belief. If it is not epistemic immediate, it is epistemic mediate: mediated by the set of premises from which we infer the proposition.

Example: Socrates is mortal. We mediate that Socrates is a human and all humans are mortal.

The Socrates proposition is different than the spruce and maple proposition - it's not self evident. First, Socrates and mortality are not intrinsically connected, as one being taller and second being shorter. Second, Socrates is mortal requires more reflection - a temporarily extended use of reason - on this proposition. One needs additional information not contained in the proposition itself.

Due to these differences, philosophers consider the spruce and maple proposition as a truth of reason - essentially knowable through using reason, as opposed to reliance on sense experience. This kind of knowability has philosophers calling it necessarily true, simply because falsehood is absolutely precluded. There's no circumstance where it is false.

Example: A>B therefore B<A. It simply can't be false.

Contingent is if a proposition is not necessarily true and its negation is not necessarily true. Why? Because whether it is true is contingent on circumstances.

Example: There are more than 2 trees in my yard. It's contingent because my yard has more than 2, but it doesn't have to be.

Analytic & Necessary Propositions

Take the sentence "all vixens are female". I can grasp the truth and believe. No premises or evidence is required. There was a time when I didn't know the term "vixen", but I can easily look it up. Once I comprehend the sentence, I know the truth. It means that encountering a sentence which expresses a truth does not mean one considers that truth unless one understands the sentence.

In this particular example, truth isn't derived from the structure of the sentence. The grounding comes from the concept of a vixen, which can be analyzed as female and being a fox. So we can say that the concept of being female is in the concept of being a vixen - being female is thus an element of being a vixen.

This makes all vixens are female is an analytic proposition. This type of proposition is considered self-evident. Simply put, provided one adequately understands the proposition, one can frame an analysis in which the containment relation is clearly evident.

The proposition all vixens are female cannot be false and is a necessary truth. How? Well can you conceive of a non-female vixen. Since vixen is analyzable as a female fox, one is conceiving a non-female female fox. There's a contradiction in this statement. Hence there cannot be such a thing, on pain of contradiction. It's just absolutely not possible.

Another example is the single bachelor. It's just a necessary truth. You just can't have a married bachelor. Bachelor is analyzed as a single person and married is not single. So we end up with a not single single guy.

On the pain of contradiction, when taking an analytic proposition, the falsity of it contains a contradiction. Falsity entails contradiction and it can only be false if contradiction is true.

Consider non-analytic truth - nothing can be red and green all over at the same time. This is self-evident and a truth of reason. Can one analyze the concept of non-red out of the concept of being green or the other way around? Doubtful.

There is a contingency objection to this example. It is possible that there is a scientific explanation of why nothing is red and green all over at once. If it does exist this proposition would be empirical and not self-evident. The classical view is the science can help understand the facts about red, but it does not indicated what is essential to the concept of a red thing - such as being non-green at the same time as red. It seems the scientific objection fails.

Another objection is that the proposition is analytic. If the concept of being red is equivalent to the concept of having a color other than green, blue, yellow and all other colors. The claim seems to have merit because it seems self evidently true, but the claim is doubtful. Could one really get a list of all possible colors. Another important point is it ever possible that the concept of being red is not simply to be a color other than green, blue, yellow, etc?

It's also possible for one to have a concept of being red (and understand) without having all these other color concepts.

The analysis of a concept must meet two conditions:

  1. It must exhibit a suitable subset of the elements that constitute the concept.
  2. It must do so in such a way that one's seeing that they constitute can yield some significant degree of understanding the concept.

This means that one couldn't understand being red by a near infinite list of non-red colors.

Another way of thinking about analytic is that one needs to understanding: understanding of, not understanding that. The word "that" is the big part. Understanding that citizenship requires being politically informed, is different than understanding of - which has a connection to an explanation. The point is that analysis requires an explanation of.

The concept of a vixen as a female fox has a simple explanation. The concept of being red is equivalent to being non-green, non-blue, etc would not provide an explanation of what it is to be red.

The proposition that nothing is red and green all over at once is non-analytic. Though we are capable of grasping the truth of the proposition. Truths that are roughly knowable through conceptual understanding condition have been called a priori proposition (proposition knowable from the first) - known not on the basis of experience, but simply through reason as direct toward them and toward the concepts occurring in them. Non-analytic propositions are also known as synthetic propositions.

A Priori and A Posteriori

A Priori is a form of knowing something that comes from reason and not through observation or experience. For example, if you know that A=B and B=C, you therefore know that A=C.

Analytic propositions are characterized roughly in terms of how they are true - by virtue of conceptual containment, a priori propositions are characterized in terms of how they are known or can be known (through the operation of reason).

Three Types of A Priori

A Priori in the broad sense

Most clearly those propositions not themselves knowable simply through reason as directed toward them and toward the concepts occurring within them, but self-evidently following from such propositions.

Consider nothing is red and green all over at once or I'm flying to the moon. As discussed before the red and green all over is self-evident, therefore it self-evidently follows that it is self-evident that if nothing is red and green all over at once, then either that is true or I am flying to the moon.

This disjunctive (either-or) proposition is self-evident, but it isn't self-evident based on the proposition itself, but in virtue of its self-evidently following from something that is self-evident.

Ultimately A Priori

A proposition that is neither self-evident nor self-evidently entailed by a self-evident proposition, but is provable by self-evident steps (perhaps many steps) from a self-evident proposition.

It is not a priori in the broad sense because (1) it's not linked to the self-evident by a simple step and - more importantly - (2) it is not necessarily self-evidently linked to it.

Example: A concept entails t and t entails ti. It's self-evident that A entails t, but it is not self-evident that A entails ti. Steps need to be taken.

Analytic, Necessary & Synthetic A Priori

Analytic propositions are characterized roughly in terms of how they are true - by virtue of the conceptual containment. Synthetic propositions are characterized in terms of how they are known or can be known (by reason).

Analytic truths, as well as synthetic truths, are a priori because analytic truths are knowable through reason. But it seems that analytic truths are knowable through a different use of reason when compared to synthetic a priori truths.

When looking at the example of nothing is red and green all over at once, there is no containment relation between being red (or green) and anything else. This obviously differs from the analytic example of all vixens being female, as vixen contains the concept of female.

When thinking of a priori, it isn't necessarily to acquire the concepts in question - such as the concept of color or the concept of a fox. Once one has the concepts, its the grasp of the relations - not experience - which is the basis of ones knowledge of analytic and other a priori truths.

In the classical view necessary propositions are a priori. Why? Necessity is grounded in relations of concepts and these are the same in all possible situations.

Summing up the classical view, all necessary propositions are a priori and vice versa. Analytic propositions are a subclass of a priori one. Since some a priori propositions are synthetic rather than analytic. The view conceives that truth of all priori propositions are grounded in relations of concepts.

A Posteriori (Empirical)

Truth that are not self evident are not a priori. They're known as empirical truths or a posteriori truths. The spruce is taller than the maple can only be known by experience - as opposed to reason. Saying a simple a posteriori proposition leaves open whether it is true. The proposition can be false. The spruce might not be taller than the maple. A classical view sees the a posteriori proposition open to disconfirmation through experience - which a priori propositions are not.

John Stuart Mill held the view that there is ultimately only empirical truths and that our knowledge of them is based on experience (like perception). A name for this view is empiricism about the (apparent) truth of reason. the name is accurate as the view is that a priori truths as empirical, though it does not deny that reason as a capacity distinct from perception has some role in giving justification of knowledge.

Reason may be used in extended knowledge to move geometrical theorems from axioms. We'll explore the view that denies reason grounds justification or knowledge in the non-empirical way (classical theory). Rationalism in epistemology takes reason as far more important in grounding our knowledge than empiricism allows and rationalists assert in addition to knowledge of analytic truths, there is knowledge of synthetic a priori truths.

Empiricism in epistemology takes experience, most notably sensory experience, to be the basis of all our knowledge, except possibly that of analytic propositions - understood as including logical truths (all whales are mammals and no fish are mammals then no whales are fish).

Both rationalists and empiricists - analytic propositions are typically taken to include logical truths. Not all empiricists hold this view of the analytic proposition as a priori. A radical empiricist (like Mill) takes all knowledge as ground in experience. A radical rationalist (not Kant) would take all knowledge to be grounded in reason.

Empiricism and Arithmetic Beliefs

Empiricism truths of reason are most plausible for synthetic a priori ones. Mathematic truths - particularly simple arithmetic, are often regarded as synthetic a priori. Consider the proposition 7 + 5 = 12. It's easy to say that one just knows this, just as one knows nothing is red and green all over at once. But how does now know?

It's possible that it comes from our experience of counting apples or fingers. As we learn this simple combining of objects, we learn arithmetic truths and use reason to formulate general rules. To be sure, one cannot imagine how 7 added to 5 could fail to equal 12.

The classical view has some critical ideas regarding this. One concerns the distinction between two different things: the genesis of one's beliefs (what produces them) and their justification. A second point concerns whether arithmetical propositions can be tested observationally. Third, focused on the possibility of taking account of what looks like evidence against arithmetical truths, so even if one's final epistemological standard for judging a proposition is its serving the demands of the best overall account of experience, these truths can be preserved in any adequate account.

  1. The genesis of a belief - what products it - is often different from what justifies it. Once someone learns arithmetic, 7 + 5 = 12, experience doesn't appear to be what justifies.
  2. It is doubtful that the proposition 7 + 5 = 12 can be empirically testable. By combining objects would be 'exemplifiable in that way. Let's say we did combine 5 objects with 7 objects and had a total of 11 objects, we look to point 3.
  3. How does one deal with systematic counter evidence? It is possible that the world could alter and work differently. A classical view would just say the world no long works for this arithmetic. It is hard to see how a simple arithmetical principle could be wrong. We could add 5 apples to 7 apples to see 12, but that's not the same as numbers. Another point about gathering counter evidence is that one would have to rely on simple arithmetic to count up a significant sample size of this evidence. The concepts of arithmetic would need to be used to invalidate arithmetic. How would you even count it?

Chapter 6 Reason II: Sources of Justification, Knowledge and Truth


There is a linguistic theory to the a priori which is based off the definitions of the words used. On this view, analytic truths may be better described as definitional.

Virtue of definition: If you take "All vixens are female", one takes the definition of vixen as 'female fox', so by grasping the definition of the word and it being female, one sees the proposition as true. Basically instead of viewing vixen as a concept and reasoning from a concept, one is reasoning purely on the basis of the definition.

Virtue of meaning: The same is not true of the "red and green all over at once" example. One can speak of the virtue of meaning or at least convention - which is basically the conventional meaning of the terms red and green.

Conventionalism ground truths of reason, especially definitional conventions, regarding meaning. It also conceives our knowledge of them based on knowing these conventions, since knowledge of such convictions should be taken as empirical knowledge, based on observations of linguistic behavior. Conventionalism is a kind of empiricism regarding the truths of reason. *The claim is not that these truths are about words, but knowledge of them is based on empirical knowledge of linguistic usage.

A classical view might say that definitions are our way of understanding the concepts. There's also the point that one can grasp the truth analytically by grasping the relevant conceptual relations without understanding the definitions.

Example: The spruce is taller than the maple, therefore the maple is shorter than the spruce. One can know this truth without a definition of spruce or maple. You don't even need to know they're trees.

Analytic truths would be essential in one's route to the definitional knowledge, not the other way around.

Difficulties & Strengths of the Classical View


Consider being 'red'. What does it mean to 'be red' and how would that differ from a shade off of red (like orange)? Well even though the concept of red could be vague, the concept of red is not. The more vague the terms, the harder it becomes to discern what the proposition is expressing.

Meaning Change & Falsification

There is a problem that can emerge with what the term means and the concept being expressed. There is also a definition creep that can occur to a word over time. In the proposition "all vixens are female", the term vixen may not simply represent the concept being expressed. Also scientists could find the vixens contain enough to make qualities to no longer be female (meaning change). There's also the possibility that scientists discover that vixens are actually totally different than was thought - completely changing the way the term is used (falsification).

Classical view takes the falsification as something possible. They see the difference between meaning change and falsification as clear enough to conclude that what seems like a falsification of an analytic proposition is really only a change of meaning that leads us to substitute (for an analytic truth), what looks like a proposition inconsistent with it, yet is actually compatible with it.

The Possibility of Empirical Necessary Truth

The classical view holds every a priori truth as necessary. It is less plausible that every necessary truth is a priori. Take "sugar is solvable in water". This is a law of nature and something that is necessary. The difference is that it is not self-evident. It appears to be a truth that is empirically discovered.

Proponents of the classical view hold that this particular necessity is not from logical, but from nomic (Greek nomos, for law) in roughly the sense of characterizing laws of the natural world - as opposed to every possible world or situation. We can clearly conceive of sugar not dissolving in water, but one cannot clearly conceive something both round and square.

Essential and Necessary Truths

The necessary truths discussed so far concern the general and non-existential - such as not being both round and square. Consider that human beings have parents. The empirical proposition "I'm the son of C and C" is necessary. The parent example is existential, implying the existence of the particular thing it concerns (me).

The classical view says that the proposition that I have parents is an essential truth. One attributing to a thing a property absolutely essential to it. It would not exist without it, but a necessary truth. Necessary truth holds in any possible world or situations. Essential truth holds in those possible worlds or situations in which what it is about exists.

With that said, even if water doesn't exist in a specific world, we can still speak of water as H2O. The classical view must distinguish between necessary truth - those applicable to entities that must exist (she as numbers) and those applicable entities that don't exist.

Another objection to apriority of all necessary truth. If you looked at a theorem, it follows from true propositions and is therefore a necessary truth - since what follows from a necessary truth is itself necessarily true. But this is not a priori since it is not self-evident. We cannot simply assume every theorem must proceed by self-evident steps from a self-evident proposition.

Not all provable propositions need to be self-evident - a self-evident proposition may be provable. Self-evident propositions are knowable without proof, on the basis of understanding them. Unlike theorems, they are not premise dependent.

So it appears that there are necessary truths knowable only through empirical investigation or laborious mathematical proof.

A Priori Beliefs

A priori is not normally applied to beliefs, but the apriority of a belief tends to indicate some degree of justification. The principle of justification for a priori belief is normally, if a rational person believes a proposition solely on the basis of (adequately) understanding it - believes it in a strict a priori way - this belief is prima facie justified.

There is a counter part plausible epistemic principle called a principle of knowledge for correct a priori beliefs. If a rational person believes a true proposition in the a priori way described above, this belief constitutes knowledge.

Loose & Strinct Senses of A Priori Justification and Knowledge

When knowledge or justification that arises from believing in an a priori way is not strictly speaking it is regarded as the loose sense.

Outline of Four Dimensional Conception of the A Priori


A priori in the narrow sense: Self-evident with understanding sufficient to ground for justification, belief based on such understanding constitutes knowledge.

A priori in the broad sense: Not directly self-evident (a) indirectly self-evident - self-evidently entailed. (b) ultimate a priori - not self-evident, but provable by self-evident steps.


A priori in the strict sense: (a) based on understanding of a directly self-evident proposition or (b) indirectly based on such an understanding via a self-evident entailment of the proposition by a self-evident proposition.

A priori in the loose sense: Not a priori in the strict sense, but based on an understanding of the proposition (proposition itself need not be true or a priori).


A priori in the strict sense: Knowledge (a) of an a priori proposition that is directly or indirectly self-evident, and (b) constituted by a belief that is a priori justified in the strict sense.

A priori in the loose sense: Knowledge (a) of a proposition that is not directly or indirectly self-evident, but is provable by self-evident steps from some self-evident proposition and (b) constitute by believe based on understanding such a proof.


A priori in the narrow sense: (a) held in an a priori way; roughly based on an understanding of the proposition, and (b) of a proposition that is a priori (in the narrow or broad sense).

A priori in the broad sense: (a) held in an a priori way but (b) of an empirical proposition.

Chapter 7 Testimony: The Social Foundation of Knowledge

Testimony is our primary source of social knowledge and justification. This is a primary concern of social epistemology. If perception, memory consciousness and reason were our only sources of knowledge, we wouldn't know a whole lot. Especially children who hear a ton from the testimony of their parents. There are many types of testimony, but I'll discuss two: formal and informal.

Formal testimony is more like the word testimony means socially today. It's like a court room where someone recounts their first hand witnessing or an expression about the belief of something they did not witness. Informal testimony is less formal where the word testimony sounds too heavy. I went out last night isn't exactly testimony in the formal sense, it's simply informal.

Attesting can be a better word for the conveyance of information. It fits both formal and informal quite well.

The Inferentialist & Non-Inferentialist View of Testimony

If we think about perception it produces a non-inferential belief about what it is we perceived. Testimony produces only inferential beliefs, which means beliefs based on testimony arise by inference from one or more premises. In the case of a trial, I put the testimony into context of the trail and my own knowledge. I will only accept testimony if it seems to be true. A premise (for example) is whether the witness seems credible. If they do, I may come to believe the testimony.

If the inferentialist is correct one acquires more knowledge from perception than testimony mainly because there needs to be one or more premises that support the proposition attested (or the attester's credibility). Also if this is true then testimony is not a direct source of knowledge or justification because one can only know or be justified only if one's premise(s) are believed. You can't know simply on testimony alone - only premises about it.

A different view is that is psychological. Beliefs about the credibility and beliefs associated with the attested proposition may play a filtering role. The idea here is that we don't believe what is attested unless it "passes" the filter. Often we here things that are attested, we are fine with it, then we hear something that is like a "flag" and we don't believe. So normally we allow content through, but once something is flagged - it's blocked.

This idea that we let this content through at first is a kind of trust. There's probably an evolutionary reason for this as children need to learn to reach adulthood. A child wouldn't really be equipped to filter. Lack of filtering beliefs yields credulity. The presence of excessively rigorous one is known as skepticism.

Intellectual virtue and epistemic responsibility are attained when one can find a balance between excessive credulity and unwarranted skepticism.

Each of these accounts, inferential and non-inferential, applies to our beliefs of what we are told. At least for informal testimony beliefs, are not inferential. When speaking with a friend, one doesn't need a premise in order to believe their content to a casual conversation.

Inferential Grounds versus Constraints on Belief Formation

If you take the formal view as static for how we get belief, it would be over simplifying. Let's say you meet someone on a plane and they tell you a story about a speaker that losing their temper at a conference. At first you suspend judgment about whether this is true or not. This isn't a common thing to happen and you don't even know this person. As this person starts to describe more of the conference and details start falling into place, by the end of this conversation, you do believe the speaker lost their temper.

At the start, suspending judgment, may be a non-inferential response to the constraints set by my independent beliefs or sense of plausibility. The testimony is blocked by my initial beliefs/impressions. That means they prevent me from believe what is being attested, but do not lead to disbelieving it.

What is happening is as the conversation progresses, the constraints set by my independent beliefs relax and (as each new statement made) I form beliefs non-inferentially - even spontaneously. The statements no longer require the labor of my critical mind nor are they filtered out by automatic checking.

The hard part is explaining why one has a belief at the end. A good explanation is apart from forming belief about their credibility, eventually their person becomes in my eyes - credible. And now I'm disposed to believe them. This disposition grows as they speak with evident credibility and by the end this overcomes the initial resistance.

Direct Source View of Testimony

Perhaps people have a credibility scale which attesters acquire (w/o conscious attention) a place that can change (w/o conscious attention). The crucial here is seeing how beliefs grounded in testimony can be constrained by other beliefs without being inferentially based on them and how beliefs based on testimony can be formed later than the attestation that is their ultimate source.

This is similar to perception where a belief can be produced after it begins or indirectly with memory. Is this analogy good enough to conclude that testimony is a basic source of belief (ie: that it can produce belief without cooperation of another source of belief)? The problem is that you can't form a testimony-based belief unless you hear the testimony.

A basic source does not derive its generative power from another source, but it need not operate in complete independence of another source or their outputs. It can yield belief without help of other sources, but it can also cooperate.

Testimony as a Basic Source of Belief

Perception is a requirement for the formation of belief based testimony, even if perceptual belief is not a requirement. An odd statement, but easier to understand with an example. I can be disposed to believe a speaker lost his temper to acquire a testimony based belief of the statement, but that seems to be only because I have comprehendingly perceived this being said - it does not entail I formed the belief that it was said, just belief of what it says.

Testimony can be a source of basic beliefs in the sense of beliefs not based on one or more other beliefs. This kind of non-inferential belief that testimony typically produces can also be basic knowledge if it meets the conditions for non-inferential (non-premise based) knowledge.

Epistemology of Testimony

How does testimony yield knowledge and justification, and how does it ever yield basic knowledge or basic justification in the way perception and reflection do? Knowledge is the easier of the two to explain. Testimony gives knowledge to the hearer under certain conditions. Take the example of the conference and the speaker losing his temper, if I (the attester) don't know anything about this conference, me attesting to it wouldn't be knowledge. I could also be mistaken about the speaker losing their temper or I could simply be guessing and turn out to be right - by fluke - it still wouldn't be knowledge.

Justification is different. Even if I (the attester) is not justified in believing the speaker lost his temper, I can be credible to you, in such a way that you're justified in believing this. Consider the two facets of testimonial credibility: the sincerity dimension concerning the attester's honesty and second competence dimension, concerning the attester's having experience or knowledge sufficient to make it at least likely the attester holds a belief of the proposition in question or a closely related one.

Consider this: I cannot give you testimony-based knowledge that something is so without having knowledge that it is so, yet I can give you justification for believing this without having such justification. This illustrates non-transmissional grounding of justification, where testimony-based knowledge is transmissionally grounded.

A principle of testimony-based justification: normally, a belief based on testimony is thereby justified (justified on the basis of testimony) provided the believer has adequate (situational) justification for taking the tester as credible regarding the proposition in question.

Example: You ask someone for the time and they say 9am. Unless you doubt their credibility, you're justified in believing.

Something similar can be formulated for knowledge. Undefeated testimony is when testimony occurs absent of the following:

  1. Internal inconsistency - when the attester gives conflicting information.
  2. Confused formulation - Produces confusion or doubt in the recipient.
  3. Appearance of insincerity - The attester appears to be lying.
  4. Conflict with apparent facts evident to the situation - If it's very cold why were you in shorts.
  5. Conflict with what the recipient knowns, justifiably believes or is justified in believing - Chicago isn't in New York.

Principle of testimony-based knowledge: a belief on undefeated testimony normally constitutes knowledge, provided the attester knows the proposition in question and the believer has no reason to doubt either the proposition or the attester's credibility regarding it.

The Indispensability of Testimonial Grounds

The dependence of testimony on other sources of belief is best demonstrated on young children. They must be told by others before they are properly justified/unjustified in believing.

Conceptual versus Propositional Learning

There are two ways to learn from testimony: one can learn the content attested to, and one can learn something shown, but not stated, by the testimony. The first is learning that something is so. The second is learning about something.

A small child learning basic colors is not learning that the sofa is red, but becoming aware of the redness as the color of the sofa. This is learning colors and may be learning at least something about them. The proposition "the sofa is red" is propositional testimony resulting in propositional knowledge and resulting in propositional learning. When a parent is introducing vocabulary by attestation it is demonstrative testimony resulting in conceptual learning.

Chapter 8 Inference and the Extension of Knowledge

Take the following example to start:

I hear knocking. I wonder if someone is at the door. I then hear extended and very rapid knocking. It now occurs to me that this is a pecking sound, and I conclude there is a woodpecker nearby.

We can see that the way of coming to believe something differs from the way I came to believe there was knocking in the first place. The belief was perceptual - coming from hearing knocking. The belief there there is a woodpecker nearby is not perceptual. It arises, not perceptually (as in seeing the bird), but from further belief: that the rapid knocking sound - it's character - and came to believe that it sounds like a woodpecker.

Some beliefs arise from other beliefs and are based on them rather than directly on other sources (like perceptual, memorial, introspective, rational and testimony). This is inference.

An inference (which is like a kind of reasoning) proceed by way of something general (or specific) to something specific (or general).

The Process, Content and Structure

Basically with the woodpecker example, one is saying on the basis of my belief, the knocking sound like that of a woodpecker's pecking, I conclude that there is a woodpecker nearby. One is inferring that there is one nearby from what is believed about the knocking.

What is concluded, in some sense derive from something else I believe. The concluding and the beliefs are mental, but neither what I conclude, nor what I believe from which I conclude it, is mental: these things are contents of my beliefs, as they might be of yours. They are not properties of anyone's mind, as in some sense beliefs themselves are. Such contents of beliefs are commonly thought to be propositions (or statements, hypothesis, etc). This can be considered objects of beliefs.

There are two senses of inference:

Inferential process: is concluding it on the basis of one or more of my beliefs or assumptions. It is a mental episode of reasoning.

Example: I conclude Albert was bitten by a deer tick on the basis of my belief (just acquired) that he has Lyme disease and my back ground belief that this is caused by deer tick bites.

Inferential Content: is abstract and not a process. Drawing a conclusion is the set of two or more propositions, which are my conclusions and my ground for it.

Inferential content indicates what is inferred from what - a conclusion from one or more premises. Inferential process is getting to the conclusion from one or more premises.

Reasoned Belief and Belief for a Reason

So inferring is a type of reasoning, but it is not necessarily self conscious. Sometimes we have to reason (infer) to a conclusion, but in other ways, we just conclude that a woodpecker is nearby without a process.

A reasoned belief is one reasoned and based on that reasoning.

Example: I wonder what I hear. It sounds like pecking. I infer a woodpecker is nearby.

A belief for a reason is more of an automatic or non-inferential belief. It's held for a reason, but at the time of the belief it's not reasoned.

Example: Taking the woodpecker example. Let's suppose that overtime you've experienced this knocking. Eventually you're eating supper, hear the knocking, and without any distraction form eating, you believe a woodpecker is nearby. This view is automatic, and it's not reasoned, but the belief is held for a reason as being quite familiar with the woodpecker sound.

The idea here is that you can have a reasoned belief retained by memory. After time you may forget the premises of the reasoning are forgotten. Even if the premises of the reasoning is forgotten. Even if the premises are not forgotten, one no longer reasons upon learning the pecking sound, they just have the non-inferential belief (belief for a reason).

Two Ways Beliefs may be Inferential

Episodically Inferential: Take the example of the reasoned belief that there is a woodpecker nearby (considered at the time I formed it). At the time it arises from a process or episode of inferring - explicitly drawing a conclusion from something one believes.

Structurally Inferential: The example where one knows it is a woodpecker by an automatic belief. A belief for a reason. It's not episodically inferential, it is nonetheless based on another belief in the way one belief is based on a sound.

Thank of the first as I do something and the second just happens in me. An episodically inferential belief at the time it is formed will become structurally inferential when it is retained.

Direct and Indirect Belief

You can see how a belief can be inferentially based without being episodically inferential, in such a case where are believes something first perceptually. Suppose you think you saw Aaron at the mall. You didn't get the best look, but nonetheless believe you see him. Suppose you later get testimony from a friend that they met Aaron's wife at the mall. Now you believe you saw Aaron on the basis of this testimony and what you saw. This is like a structural inference because the testimony isn't reasoned, but merely evidence or structural holding up the belief.

The two kinds of inferential belief are indirect. We believe on thing on the basis of believing another. Direct belief wouldn't be a belief based off another belief. Different people could hold the same belief; one through indirect and the other direct.

The Development of Belief, Justification and Knowledge

Confirmatory vs Generative Inferences

Inference is typically a source of new beliefs, but it need not be. Confirmatory inference is as it sounds. It adds to the belief system by confirmation of what is already believed. Generative inference is one that creates a new belief.

Inference as a Dependent Source of Justification & Knowledge

My inference justifies me in believing my conclusion only if I'm justified in believing the premise(s). Since one could be justified in believing a premise, that could be false, inference isn't a basic source of knowledge.

It is rather that it transmits and thereby extends them from one or more premises to the conclusion inferred from them. There are two kinds of inferential enhancement of knowledge and justification.

  1. Inferential Extension: Yields an increase in the content of what we know or are justified in believing.
  2. Inferential Strengthening: Yields an increase in the quantity of our justification regarding the same content - or in the strength of our grounds for knowledge regarding the same content.

Source Conditions & Transmission Conditions for Inferential Knowledge and Justification

If inference is not a basic source of justification and knowledge, but transmits it, it must meet two kinds of conditions. One concerns the premise(s) of the inference - its foundations. The second concerns the relation of the premise(s) to the conclusion - how well the evidential pillars support what is built on them - ie: whether they express strong evidence for believing it.

First there are source conditions, as one needs justification or knowledge in the first place. So if you're of the belief that the knocking sound means a person at the door and you're completely unaware of a pecking sound. One has started with knowledge, but it didn't transmit to the belief of the conclusion.

This means there are transmission conditions as well a source conditions, that an inference must meet in order to yield knowledge of its conclusion. The first 7 chapters dealt with the source conditions - like perception - so that focus will be on transmission conditions.

Deductive and Inductive Inference

Take the following: I reasoned from the premises that (1) the noise represented a backfire and (2) if it did represent that, then there was a vehicle backfire, to the conclusion that (3) there was a vehicle backfire.

This argument (like inferring) is from the premise of the argument to its conclusion is (deductively) valid - since it's impossible for premise (1) and (2) to be true and (3) false. The premises of a deductive (valid) arguments can be false, but it's absolutely impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. The term valid is only applied to deductive arguments.

Take the following: (1) the noise sounds like that of a backfire; (2) the likeliest explanation of the noise is that of a vehicle backfire; probably then (3) a vehicle backfired.

The word "probably" indicates this isn't valid or deductive. Even based on the premises, without the word probably, it wouldn't be deductive. This type of probabilistic reasoning is "inductively valid" meaning (roughly) that relative to it's premise there is a high probability that its conclusion is true. Could also be referred to as inductively good or inductively strong.

Subsumptive and Analogical Inference

Subsumptive Reasoning (or instantial reasoning) is to draw a conclusion about something or someone by subsuming the thing or person under a generalization about similar entities, say people. Since Socrates is a person. All people are mortal. Therefore Socrates is mortal. This is deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning - as reasoning that aims at providing good grounds for its conclusion, but not validity. Secondly is best evaluated in terms of degree of probability of its conclusion relative to its premises.

Analogous is concluding that a plant probably has a property, has roots, because it is much like (analogous to) another plant that has that property.

Abduction would be inferring b as an explanation about a.

Inferential Transmission of Justification & Knowledge

The natural thing to say initially is that justification and knowledge are transmitted in deductive inferences only if the underlying argument is valid and, inductive inference, only if the underlying argument is (inductively) good. These principles are correct, but needs clarification: bad reasoning doesn't lead to transmission.

Take the example that Chris produces the argument (1) all opera lovers appreciate The Magic Flute and (2) Will appreciates it The Magic Flute (3) Will is an opera lover. This is invalid deductive reasoning and even with true premises that premises that Chris is justified in believing - it would not transmit either justification or knowledge from his beliefs of them (premises) to his belief of its conclusion. IE: Bad reasoning.

Inductive Transmission & Probabilistic Inference

Inductive reasoning is more complicated. Good inductive reasoning is a bit vague. If probability is what is more likely to be true, but what does that mean? A probability over 0.5 (above 50-50). But if we're talking about a probability of 0.5+ (the cusp of crossing the 50-50) is literally as likely to be wrong as it is right. One wouldn't want to describe reasoning as good at the 0.5+ point.

There is also the aspect of additional premises and information that can change the probability. Let's say you have "X" cancer and the probability of death is 0.6. This would be a fair conclusion - you will die from cancer. But suppose there are more pieces of information. Being young, athletic and receiving new treatment options the probability of death is 0.08. The point being is that you can reach a conclusion above 0.6, but without considering relevant evidence.

One may assume that good inductive reasoning has reasoning has premises taking account of all relevant evidence. The problem here is that one probably can't get all relevant evidence, but also does one need all relevant evidence to make a conclusion. This is promising for a single chain of premises. What about inferences that lead to premises in other inferences.

Take for example that inference (1) has a probability of 0.75 and the next inference in the chain is 0.6. Simple math shows that the probabilities together are 0.45. So is one justified? It would fail to transmit justification from its premises to the conclusion.

Some Inferential Transmission Principles

To understand transmission of justification and knowledge we must consider two sorts of conditions: necessary conditions for transmission of knowledge and justification, conditions such that transmission occurs only if they are met by an inference; and sufficient conditions, those such that if they are met by an inference, then transmission occurs.

Sufficient conditions are much harder to specify then necessary ones - since sufficient conditions must cover all necessary ones: if it does not imply that each of them holds, it leaves out something necessary, and so is not sufficient.

Consider the inductive transmission principle: if by good inductive reasoning, one infers something from premises which take account of all the relevant evidence, then if one is justified in believing those premises, one is justified in believing the conclusion.

Deductive Transmission of Justification & Knowledge

The simple deductive transmission principle for knowledge: that if (at a given time) you validly infer a proposition from an inferential ground you know (and believe it on the ground), then you know this proposition.

Degrees and Kinds of Deductive Transmission

A qualified deductive transmission principle for justification holds; typically, valid reasoning from justified beliefs transmits justification to its conclusion belief.

A qualified deductive transmission principle for knowledge holds; typically valid reasoning from known premises transmits knowledge to its conclusion (where the conclusion belief is based on the premise belief(s) as would be normal).

Memorial Preservation of Inferential Justification and Knowledge

There are cases where you can remember the premises and conclusion, but not the grounds - as in how to work a theorem or the book information came from. Your memory can retain beliefs as knowledge and as justified beliefs. The difference is that it no longer retains the inferential grounds and as such does not necessarily retain the beliefs as inferential. The point being is that an inferential belief at one time may be non-inferential at another.

Chapter 9 The Architecture of Knowledge

To what extent does this relation in which one belief is based on another represent our belief system as a whole?

Inferential Chains & The Structure of Belief

Suppose you see the trees off in the landscape swaying. I immediately realize there is wind. The belief that there is wind is on the basis of my belief the trees are swaying. In this particular example the inferential belief, justification, and knowledge is indirect, since the belief, justification, and knowledge is on the basis (or through) other beliefs, justifications, and knowledge. By contrast, the believe the trees are swaying is direct (perception).

Infinite Inferential Chains

A question or observation is perhaps all our beliefs could be indirect. This is an important question and the point here is to explore how people's beliefs are structured. Let's start with an example: I'm being cautious, my belief that the trees are swaying could be based on my belief that I have a visual impression of swaying. Could the latter belief be based on another? Might I believe that it seems to me that I have a visual impression of swaying and base my belief that I have an impression on this new belief? Doubtful.

This example illustrates that beliefs are under our direct control of our wills. This is a strong version of doxastic voluntarism (voluntarism about belief) - is a mistake. One simple cannot will a belief. You can't just accept testimony that seems false as a belief.

Circular Inferential Chains

Imagine holding one belief on the basis of a second and a second on the basis of a third, and so on, until coming back to the first. This would indicate that my beliefs are indirect, but on infinite number isn't needed. Suppose for the sake of argument, I do have a circular chain of beliefs - there are some problems.

  1. There is good reason to think that (a) one belief is based on a second only if the second is at least in part causally responsible for (for holding) the first. If I believe that there is a wind, on the basis that the trees are swaying, then I believe that there is wind, at least a part because I believe that the trees are swaying.
  2. There is good reason to think that (b) if one thing is in part causally responsible for the second and the second is in part causally responsible for the third, then the first is causally responsible for the third.

Together these points imply (c) in a circular chain of beliefs, every belief is in part causally responsible for itself. That seems impossible. Instead of thinking of each relation being connected with and use supporting this might make more sense. The problem of this self-support is self-justification of an indirect belief doesn't make much sense. So we conclude there are some direct beliefs.

The Epistemic Regress Problem

We just discussed beliefs previously, but is knowledge the same - some of it is direct or could all knowledge by indirect based on other knowledge we have? It seems possible and that there can be an infinite epistemic regress - an infinite series of knowing each based on the next.

Assume that a belief constituting indirect knowledge is based on knowledge of something else. The further knowledge might be based on knowledge of something still further, and so on. This sequence is called an epistemic chain. It is held that there are four possible kinds of epistemic chains. (1) Infinite-ending unanchored, (2) circular-ending unanchored, (3) ends in a belief that is not knowledge - anchored in sand, and (4) end with a belief that constitutes direct knowledge - anchored solid.

Infinite Epistemic Chains

The biggest difficulty with this case is even if I could have an infinite number of beliefs, how could I ever know anything if knowledge required an infinite chain? Psychologically we just can't handle them as humans. Even with math we can know 2>1 and 3>2 and so on, but there's a limit to how far we can go.

Even if it was possible to have an infinite set of beliefs, infinite epistemic chains do not account for all knowledge. For example, the belief that if some dogs are pets, some pets are dogs. There isn't another belief that this one is based on - it's self evident.

Circular Epistemic Chains

The circular version has been taken more seriously. It may seem that indirect beliefs cannot be from circular causal chain, so the same is true for knowledge. But maybe knowledge can be based on premises in a way that differs from the way belief is based on them. Perhaps my knowledge that there is wind could be somehow based on my belief that the leaves are swaying, even though my belief that there is wind is not based on my further belief. We could have a circle of knowledge, but not a belief. How realistic is this?

Let's try it for knowledge. I know there is wind. I know this on the basis of the swaying of the trees. Now I think I know they are swaying because I see them sway. It could be argued that my seeing is only on the causal basis of my belief that they are swaying. It seems hard to go full circle unless I think up propositions I do not originally believe (do not know).

Even if I could come up with a suitable set of propositions. Suppose the visual impression of swaying. Might I know this on the basis of knowing there is wind?

Epistemic Chains Terminating in Belief not Constituting Knowledge

This particular type is best understand on source conditions and transmission conditions. If one transmits when there is no justification then one ends up with no knowledge. If it were foggy, you couldn't see the trees swaying, but guessing correctly - you would believe there is wind. Knowledge can't be grounded in guess work.

There is the possibility of making an educated guess - considering more evidence - to reach the conclusion. It is still a guess and there for not grounded knowledge, but on the degree of evidence considered could be close.

Epistemic Chains Terminating in Knowledge

This is the favored possibility - epistemic chains end in direct knowledge. Normally I know that there is a swaying just by seeing that there is. The chain grounding my knowledge that there is wind is anchored in my perception.

These experientially or rationally grounded epistemic chains may differ in many ways:

  1. Composition: Differ in composition in the sorts of beliefs constituting them.
  2. Transmissions: Differ in the kind of transmission they exhibit - deductive, inductive, or both.
  3. Anchors: Differ in their ultimate grounds - experiential or rational.
  4. Strength: Differ in justification strength - the degree of justification they gave to the initial belief.

The Epistemic Regress Argument

What has been discussed suggests a version of the epistemic regress argument.

  1. If one has knowledge, it occurs in an epistemic chain. Epistemic chains are understood to include a special case of a single link - such as perception.
  2. The only possible kinds of epistemic chain are the four previously discussed: infinite, circularly terminating in beliefs that are not knowledge, and those terminating in direct knowledge.
  3. Knowledge can only occur in the fourth kind of chain.
  4. If one has any knowledge, one has some direct knowledge.

Basically it is understood as such (1) implies that any given instance of indirect knowledge depends on at least one epistemic chain for status as knowledge. Simply put any indirect knowledge requires an epistemic chain to some direct knowledge held by the person. A similar argument can be made for justification.

Foundationalism & Coherentism

Epistemological foundationalism - the structure of the body of knowledge is foundational, which is taken to imply that any indirect (hence non-foundational) knowledge there is depends on direct knowledge. The structure of the body of justified beliefs is foundational, where this is taken to imply that way indirectly (hence non-foundational) justified beliefs there are depend on directly justified beliefs.

A critique of foundationalism is coherentism. The central idea is that the justification (justifiedness) of a belief depends on its coherence with other beliefs one holds. The units of coherence (range of beliefs that must cohere in order for a belief among them to derive justification from their coherence) may be as large as one's entire set of beliefs.

Holistic Coherentism

Coherentism need not be linear - it can be holistic. An example is the best way to illustrate the holistic approach. John wonders how I know, as I sit reading, that the wind is blowing. I say that the leaves are rustling. He asks how I know that Sally is not just making the noise by walking in high grass. I reply that the high grass is too far away. He wonders if I can distinguish rustling leaves from the sound of a quiet car on a pebbled driveway. I reply that what I hear is too much like a whisper to be the crunchy sounds of a car on pebbles.


In this example, there is only one step taken on the inferential line. The original belief (the wind) are defended in terms of the entire pattern of mutually cohering beliefs I hold. On the coherentist view, beliefs representing knowledge do not have to lie in a grounded chain; they fit a coherent pattern and their justification emerges from their fitting that pattern in an appropriate way.

Coherentist Response to the Regress Argument

The main point that can be said is a denial of there only being four kinds of epistemic chains. The coherentist would contend there is a fifth kind of epistemic chains. A chain terminating with the belief that is psychologically direct, yet epistemically indirect (or in the realm of justification, justification ally indirect.) This point grants foundationalists that they're right about human psychology, while insisting they are wrong about epistemology.

Direct belief is not psychologically based on any other, as when it is inferentially grounded on another, its justification nonetheless is based on other beliefs. Hence, the last link is, as belief, direct, yet, as knowledge, indirect in the broad sense that the belief constitutes knowledge only by virtue of receiving support from other knowledge or belief. This belief is psychological foundational but epistemically dependent.

The Nature of Coherence

It's somewhat difficult to explain what coherence is. It's not the same sort of mutual consistency, but inconsistent is the clearest case of incoherence. Two propositions that are completely unrelated, like 7+5=12 and carrots are nutritious are mutually consistent, but not coherence.

Coherence and Explanation

The idea of coherence is that it is sometimes connected with explanation. So belief in a second propositions explains a belief in the first proposition. The process of explaining something is that makes it understandable. Making understandable is a coherence - generating relation between propositions.

The concept of probability is also relevant to coherence. The probability of a proposition at least counts in favor of my belief of the first cohering with my belief of the second. How does explanation and probability understand with coherence?

I can suppose a genie delivered an unmarked package to me. It does explain the delivery of it. I wouldn't be justified in believing it. It is difficult to say when an explanation is relevant to understanding coherence. It's difficult to specify when an explanatory relation generates enough coherence to create justification.

Similar points hold for probability. Suppose you had a second proposition you didn't believe at all, but was a great way of explaining the first. It would raise the probability of believing the first, though, I'm not thereby entitled to believe it.

Coherence as an Internal Relation Among Cognitions

So far as we understand coherence, what reason is there to think that by itself it generates any justification or counts toward truth?

The isolation problem is the problem of explaining why coherent systems of beliefs are not readily isolated from truth, and thus do not contain knowledge, which implies truth. Also the problem of explaining why there is not a similar isolation from justification, which seems to point toward truth - roughly what justifies a belief indicates truth - and indicates it in proportion to the degree of justification.

Why should coherence by itself imply that any of the cohering beliefs is justified or constitutes knowledge, when both justification and knowledge point toward truth as something external to the belief system?

Let's suppose that I think I'm Napoleon. I could very well have a whole belief system to explain and justify my belief as Napoleon. My therapist may have a totally different coherent beliefs on me. If Napoleon's and the therapist's belief systems are equally coherent, how can we justify our apparently quite reasonable tendency to regard their belief systems as more likely to represent truths?

We might take the therapist's belief that I'm not Napoleon, since it's their field, but why should our own beliefs be privileged over equally coherent conflicting sets?

Coherence, Reason, and Experience

Another problem with coherence is how to explain the role of experience and reason as apparent sources of justification and knowledge.

A coherentist may say that many of our beliefs are causally and non-inferentially based on perception or reason; and given these similarities of origin, it is unsurprising that they often cohere with one another. Basically what we perceive/reason need not infer propositions, they do cohere with many things we believe and this coherence is what justifies them.

Coherence and the A Priori

If we take the proposition: some dogs are pets then some pets are dogs, can be justified for me even if it does not explain or justify anything else I believe. So why is coherence required for my justification.

A coherentist might say that you apply this sort of view to empirical beliefs, rather than a priori propositions. This defended on the assumption that propositions known a priori are necessarily true, and therefore are not appropriately said to be made probable by other propositions.

This isn't the best reasoning or the coherentist point. Imagine that someone mistakenly takes a certain false proposition to be a theorem of logic and cannot see why a closely similar, true proposition is a theorem.

Coherence and the Mutually Explanatory

Mutually explanatory: no proposition is both true and false. It's truth explains why they hold, and their truth explains why it holds; and this is the chief basis of their mutual coherence.

Reflection on other purported examples of mutual explanation also suggests that true propositions cannot explain each other. A man could say something because his wife did, and she said it because he did. Now one of them would have to say it first to cause the other. Suppose we attach a time constraint. He said it because she said it earlier. Let's take it further. He said it because she said it earlier, and she said it because he said it earlier. This is the kind of reciprocal explanation, wherein a kind of thing explains and is explained by another thing of the same kind. But this is not a mutual explanation, wherein the very same thing explains and is explained by the second thing.

If coherentism applies only to empirical beliefs and not to beliefs of a priori propositions, then its not a general theory of justification or knowledge and leaves us in need of a non-coherentist account of a priori justification.

Epistemological versus Conceptual Coherentism

Foundationalism is in fact consistent with one kind of coherentism, a coherence theory of the acquisition, function and nature of concepts. Put short, the coherence theory of concepts - on which concepts are what they are partly in relation to one another, and a person acquires concepts, say of physical objects and shapes, and of music and sounds only in relation to one another and must acquire an entire set of related concepts in order to acquire any concepts. Meaning the concept of music includes the concept of sound. Or a piece of paper includes the concept of rectangle.

If the coherence theory of concepts is sound, a foundationalist must explain how it squares with their epistemology. The control point they may appeal to is a distinction between grounding conditions for belief and possession conditions for it. What grounds a belief in such a way as to justify it or render it an item of knowledge is largely independent of what other beliefs one must have, and what concepts one must have, to be able to hold the first belief.

The point here is simply that we cannot treat conditions for having a belief at all as doing the more specific job of grounding its justification. By and large beliefs can be possessed without being justified , and their is usually a good distance between meeting the conditions for simply having a belief and meeting the standards for justification is holding it.

Positive and Negative Epistemic Dependence

It is essential to distinguish negative epistemic dependence - which is a form of defeasibility - from positive epistemic dependence - the kind beliefs bear to the source from which they derive any justification they have, or if they represent knowledge, derive their status as knowledge.

The defeasibility of a belief's justification by incoherence does not imply that this justification positively depends on coherence. If a well is a source of water, I'm positively dependent on it. It is possible people could drain it, doesn't imply a (positive) dependence on them, such as I have on the rainfall. It is the rainfall that explains both my having water and it's level - it not being drained does not explain it.

Coherence and Second-Order Justification

Often, in defending a belief, one forms new beliefs, such as the belief one acquires in moving one's head that one can vividly see the changes in perceptive that go with seeing a bird on a branch.

The Process versus the Property of Justification

These new backup beliefs are appropriate to the process of justifying one's belief - the result of this process is showing that the original belief is justified, together with one farming a certain second-order belief - because it is a belief about a belief, which is not about another belief.

Beliefs, Dispositions to Believe, and Grounds of Belief

I say that there is a green field before me. I can give my justification: that I see it. First, giving a justification is not equivalent to claiming that one has it. The first cites a justifier and need not employ the concept of justification. Second, before justification I need not even believe that I see a field. Basically, one has a belief of a field, not the perceptual relation to it.

A disposition to believe something does not imply one's already having a dispositional belief of it. So basically my belief about the field is not by appeal of coherence with other beliefs I already hold, but by reference to a basic source - sensory experience.

Justification, Knowledge, and Artificially Created Coherence

If coherentism regards justification as derived from coherence alone, then it accords no justificatory weight to experiential or rational grounding - except insofar as they contribute to coherence.

The problem here is that I could have a superbly coherent system of beliefs I might acquire that run counter to my experience. A coherentist might reply that if we are talking not only about justification, but also about knowledge- then we must give some special role to beliefs grounded in experience and reason.

Moderate Foundationalism

So far we have seen there are for more problems for coherentism and foundationalism. The most serious problems foundationalism faces:

  1. The difficulties of specifying source conditions for justifications and knowledge.
  2. Of accounting, on the basis of those sources and plausible transmission principles, for all that we seem to know.

The first point was addressed in the first part of the book. The second is treated in chapter 8, which indicates how knowledge and justification can be transmitted from beliefs which are justified by virtue of being grounded in the basic sources, to other beliefs. Both problems are difficult, and neither has been completely solved.

The Role of Coherence in Moderate Foundationalism

Another problem for foundationalism is the difficulty of accounting for the place of coherence in justification. Foundationalism can account for some of the insights of coherentism. More positively foundationalism can acknowledge a significant role for coherence in relation to justification and can thereby answer one traditional coherent objection. A kind of moderate foundationalism: a foundationalist view of knowledge or justification which (1) takes the justification of foundational beliefs to be at least typically defeasible; (2) is not deductivist, that is, does not demand the principles governing the inferential transmission of knowledge or justification be deductive (require entailment as opposed to probability as a condition for transmission), not that inferentially justified beliefs derive all their justification from foundational ones, but only that they derive enough of it from that latter to remain justified if any other justification they have were eliminated. Some versions of moderate foundationalism differ, but the most plausible ones give coherence at least two roles.

First role - is negative: incoherence may defeat justification or knowledge, even if directly justified (foundational) belief, as in I may be hallucinating. Second role - an independence principle that the larger the number of independent mutually consistent factors one believe (with some justification) to support (or constitute evidence for) the truth of a proposition, the better one's justification for believing it.

Moderate Foundationalism and the Charge of Dogmatism

Moderate foundationalism avoids dogmatism. Epistemological dogmatism - the version to us indefeasible justification, epistemic certainty, where these attributions are unwarranted by our violence.

Chapter 10 The Analysis of Knowledge: Justification, Certainty and Reliability

What exactly is knowledge? A false belief is not knowledge. A belief based on a lucky guess is not knowledge, even if it is true.

Knowledge & Justified True Belief

What is not true is not known. Where you claim to know something that turns out to be false, you might say you believed it, but would never say that you knew it. This point suggests knowledge is at least true belief. It is also understood that as one acquires more evidence for a belief, one is brought closer to justification for holding it. So justified belief is an element of knowledge.

A necessary condition for propositional knowledge seems that knowledge is at least justified true belief - that we know something only if we believe it, it is true, and our belief of it is justified. A problem here is that a justified belief might turn out to be false in the case of seeing a picture of a person, but presented in such a way that it looks like a person before you.

Knowledge Conceived as the Right Kind of Justified True Belief

The photographic example above is said to be defeated. Undermined or overridden is different such as a testimony and later discovering the person is not credible. the photographic example is epistemic defeat: it eliminates the power of the justification to turn a true belief that acquires justification to turn a true belief that acquires justification into knowledge. The witness example is justification defeat. We might consider knowledge as undefeatedly justified true belief.

Dependence on Falsehood as an Epistemic Defeater of Justification

How is epistemic defeat to be characterized? One natural view is that the justification of a belief is defeated provided the belief depends on a falsehood:

  1. Depends on a falsehood that would not be justified except on the basis of one's being situationally justified in believing a falsehood about the subject in question.
  2. Psychological dependence - depend on a falsehood in the causal sense that one has the belief by virtue of holding it on the basis of believing a falsehood.

Knowledge and Certainty

A reason to think knowledge requires conclusive justification is that knowing is often closely associated with certainty. Given the connection between knowledge and certainty, one might hold that knowledge is constituted by conclusively justified true belief, meaning that (1) the believer may justifiably be psychologically certain of the true proposition in question and (2) this proposition is so well grounded as to be itself propositionally certain. Knowledge in this case may be considered epistemic certainty.

Knowing and Knowing for Certain

Sometimes we speak of knowing for certain, which contrasts with simply knowing. It is doubtful that everything known can be known for certain.

Knowing and Making Certain

If we already know something, we can make certain it is so, then there is a reason to think that conclusive justification is not required for knowledge. Getting conclusive justification seems to be the main point of making certain. It might be to think of 'make certain' as 'make it certain' or 'make sure it is certain'.

Naturalistic Accounts of the Concept of Knowledge

A different approach asks whether one needs to appeal to the notion of justification to understand knowledge. Knowledge results from the successful functions of our epistemic equipment - which consists above all of finely tuned perceptual, memorial, introspective, and rational instruments.

The view that knowledge consists in suitably registering true goes well with the idea that we are biological creatures with sense receptors that gather information and with mental capacities that integrate it.

Knowledge as Appropriately Caused True belief

Causal theory - knowledge is true belief caused by something connected with its true in a way that makes it plausible to call the belief knowledge. So believing a green field before me is caused by my perception of seeing the field before me.

A problem with this idea: how to apply the basic idea to a priori. As it's not perceptual, nothing is really causing it.

Knowledge as Reliability Grounded True beliefs

There is another problem with the causal account, in relation to empirical beliefs. The trouble arises when has a justified true belief that is not knowledge. Suppose testimony that isn't credible. Hence not reliable. This may suggest it is plausible to analyze knowledge as reliably grounded true belief.

Reliable Grounding and A Priori Knowledge

In the case of a priori, our understanding of entities entails a direct contact with these entities, a kind such that the entities form an essential part of the very content of that understanding. Then they play the indirect role in sustaining beliefs which justified a priori knowledge. ie: a causal sustaining ground.

Problems for Reliability Theories

the reliability theory holds that the more reliable the testimony, the more justification. But it might be argued that my knowledge has a presuppositional dependence on the proposition that someone is reliable to justify accepting testimony.

The Specification Problem

A different problem faced by the reliability theory is specifying what is reliable in the first place. We could always say in good viewing conditions our perception can be reliable, but this doesn't deal with life size pictures or wax models that look real. Another issue is the quantity of factors that affect reliability. It would be tough to list them all and often terms would be like 'to far away'/

Reliability and Defeat

Let's say we have a reliability process where something seems reliable. What about the case of chance, is that knowledge? I will lose the lottery is a fair assumption as you have a one in a million chance, but there's also a chance that you could win. Your perception might see something, but there's a change it could be off. You see Jan, but there could be a chance you see a life size picture of Jane.

We wouldn't call the lottery example knowledge as the resulting outcome is chance. So how does one describe the right kind of dependence, called a functional dependence (or discriminative dependence). A useful metaphor is tracking. As we track a person in the snow, causally guided by the path, our belief system can be sensitive to the changing evidences that indicate the truth.

Reliability, Relevant Alternatives, and Luck

Suppose I see Jane standing 12 feet away from me. But in this case it is her identical twin, of who I don't know exists. If I had not learned to tell them apart, I would have taken Jane's sister for her. Suppose Jane was walking toward the same destination (and the twin went somewhere else out of view) I would have believed I saw Jan this whole time. Knowledge cannot be arrived at by luck.

Relevant Alternatives and Epistemological Contextualism

In the example above, context seems crucial. If I know Jane's sister is halfway around the world, I know Jane is before me. The idea here is that when there is a 'relevant' alternative to what we believe to be, the so is actually present in the context and we cannot discriminate it from the case we believe to obtain, our belief does not constitute knowledge when if it is both true and justified.

Judged by different standards in different contexts is often called contextualism.

Contrastivism - ordinary unqualified knowledge ascriptions are implicitly contrastive and the relevant set of contrasting cases is determined by contextual features.

For a contrastivist, standards also vary with differences in meaning; for contextualists, who do no posit different meanings in those attributions, it is just the standards for true attribution that change.

Chapter 11 Knowledge, Justification and Truth

Knowledge and Justification

The Apparent Possibility of Clairvoyant Knowledge

Take a possible person: (1) a man that can foretell horse races. He doesn't know why he believes what he beliefs - he just does. Even though he may know who will win the race, he does not have justified true beliefs as to who will win. If he kept a record of how well his forecasts turned out, he would have justification.

Natural Knowledge

Take another case of the idiot savant. They're mentally deficient, but can rapidly answer complex arithmetic. It's not like they do the math in their head, they just spit out the answer.

If this example and the horse race guy's are producing knowledge, they are special cases. We might call them natural knowledge - as they seem rooted in the nature of its possessors and not depend on their training or learning much beyond what is needed to possess the concepts required for holding arithmetic beliefs. This produces a contrast that suggests a difference between knowledge and justification that explains why the former seems possible without the latter.

Internalism and Externalism in Epistemology

Could justification and knowledge be grounded in different ways? Maybe they ground differently in the way each relates to truth. Excluding self-knowledge, knowledge is true belief about the external world. True belief of the external world is external to one, but justification (by some philosophers) rest on a source 'inside' the mind (ie: internal).

Internalism about justification - Justification is grounded internally.

Externalism about knowledge - Grounds of knowledge are external to the mind.

Some Varieties of Internalism and Externalism

Internalism and externalism have different form. Internalism can differ themselves with how readily the justifiers are accessible to consciousness. Externalist views differ themselves in the kind of non-introspective knowledge they take to be possible regarding the grounds of knowledge (ie: one might say common sense observation is enough versus scientific evidence required).

The Overall Contrast Between Internalism and Externalism

The main contrast is as follows: apart from self-knowledge, whose object is in some sense mental and thus in some way internal, what one knows is known on the basis of one's meeting conditions that are not (at least not entirely) internally accessible, as states or possesses in one's consciousness are. By contrast, what we justifiably believe, or are simply justified in believing, is determined by mental states and processes to which we have internal (introspective or reflectional) access: our visual experiences, for instance, or memory impressions, or our reasoning processes, or our beliefs of supporting propositions.

Internalist and Externalist Versions of Virtue Epistemology

Internalist and externalist approaches in epistemology represent a basic division. Consider virtue epistemology: theories committed to the position that knowledge and justified belief are to be understood as expressions of epistemic virtue - such as observational acuity, apt for arriving at truth.

Internalist virtue theory: justified belief would be belief based on internally accessible grounds understood in terms of epistemic virtue. Externalist virtue theory justified belief would be belief based on processes that are appropriately connected with a virtue and reliably lead to truth.

Some Apparent Problems for Virtue Epistemology

The main problem is how to specify the kind of character features without at least already having a rough account of knowledge and justification.

The Internality of Justification and the Externality of Knowledge

If I were to believe I was hallucinating and there was not a field before me - the belief that I'm hallucinating is internal.

If knowledge and justification do contrast, why is justification important to knowledge at all?

  1. The sources of justified belief (experience and reason) are generally sources of knowledge.
  2. Virtually the only knowledge we can conceive of for beings like ourselves is apparently grounded in those sources.

Justification, Knowledge, and Truth

Justification by its nature has some kind of connection with truth. Justified true belief need not be knowledge, and knowledge apparently need not be justified belief. But normally knowledge arises from the same sources of justification: normally, the internal states and processes that justify our beliefs also connect our beliefs with the external facts in virtue of which those beliefs are true.

The Value Problem

Plato raised the value problem. Why is knowledge more valuable then mere true belief?

Why is Knowledge Preferable to Merely True Belief?

Two Kinds of Value

  • Value things may have in themselves - intrinsic value
  • Value things may have as a means to something of intrinsic value - instrumental value

To ask whether knowledge is good in itself is implicitly to ask about the intrinsic value of an appropriate kind of experience of it.

The Value of Knowledge Compared with that of Justified True Belief

One can have justified true beliefs that are not knowledge, just because they were lucky (guessing). but the value on a lucky guess wouldn't be high.

(1) At least where knowledge embodies justified true belief, it is inherently better than mere true belief, and (2) justified true belief that does not constitute knowledge is also inherently better than mere true belief. (3) Both points are supported by the role of justification in yielding understand, which is inherently good. (4) By and large, the same preferability expressed in (1) and (2) holds for instrumental value, and (5) where knowledge does not embody justification, it may be inherently good on some counts and inherently bad on others. But (6) such knowledge is likely to be instrumentally better than mere true belief, though (7) perhaps not instrumentally better than mere true belief does not constitute knowledge.

Theories of Truth

Truth falls more under the category of metaphysics.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

Truth, like knowledge, is external. A green field before me is not a matter of states of my mind.

Minimalist and Redundancy Accounts of Truth

Minimalist: The 'grass is green' is true if grass is green.

Redundancy: The 'grass is green is true' is not just equivalent to 'grass is green', but has essentially the same meaning.

The coherence theory of Truth

The central idea is that a true proposition is one that coheres appropriately with certain other propositions.

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth

True propositions are simply those that 'work', hence successful in practice - pragmatically.

Chapter 12 Scientific, Moral and Religious Knowledge

So how far does knowledge extend from what we've learned so far?

Scientific Knowledge

Perception is a requirement of scientific work, as laboratory work and observations of nature require perceiving it. Essentially one makes observations, inductively generalizes from them, and through inductive transmission of knowledge from one's premises to one's conclusions, comes to know the truth of the generalization.

Moral Knowledge

Relativism - Moral judgments are true relative to our cultures. So like American moral truths and Chinese moral truths.

Noncognitivism - Similar in the fact that it views moral truths as cultural, but is attitudinal. Also known as expressionist. Basically moral judgments are not truths, but attitudes.

Kantian Epistemology - We are to act only on principles that we can (rationally) will to be universal laws of nature obeyed by us all. *not much info exactly on what was meant in the book.

Utilitarian Epistemology - Moral actions are those that lead to the best (pleasure or freedom from pain) for the most amount of people.

Religious Knowledge

I didn't feel like going through the rather long section on religious knowledge to make notes. I did read it, but going through it again was not worth my time. It was pretty much some garbage about how someone might think they know or experience GOD.

Chapter 13 Skepticism I: The Quest for Certainty

Skepticism is basically against the common sense view that I believe many facts about the external world, myself, the past, scientific knowledge and general moral truths.

The Possibility of Pervasive Error

Despite vividly seeing a green field, that cannot help believing I do, but I could be hallucinating. And what I believe really isn’t there.

Perfectly Realistic Hallucination

I do not believe I am hallucinating. I might find that to be an impossibility provided the hallucination is vivid and steady as my present visual experience. When it comes to justification, I’m justified in believing what I perceive, but this is a false comfort if I’m having a vivid hallucination.

At this point, I can be aware that hallucination is a possibility. If I’m aware of this, can I be justified in believing there is a green field before me?

Two Competing Epistemic Ideals: Believing Truth and Avoiding Falsehood Both of these ideals are what one wants to achieve, but they pull against each other. Perceiving inclines us to believe readily, but I may suspend judgment, so I don’t believe a falsehood.

Former: Calling on us to believe truths - believing on grounds that are evidentially too thin or without grounds. Thereby believe too much. Latter: Calling on us to avoid believing falsehoods - believing only on conclusive grounds thereby believing too little.

How does one believe the two? The easiest way is to just suspend judgment. This kind of response is characteristic of Pyrrhonian Skepticism. In broad terms, skepticism is most commonly conceived by philosophers roughly as the view that there is little, if any, knowledge. This is known as knowledge skepticism.

A related kind of skepticism is a feature of temperament, such as believing without conclusive grounds. Skepticism may also target justification. Justification skepticism is the view that we have little, if any, justification for belief.

Some Dimensions & Varieties of Skepticism

Much skepticism is restricted to a given subject, for instance to propositions about the world outside of oneself, or about the past/future, or ethics/religion, science. There is also differences in the status of knowledge and degree of justification.

First order skepticism: it concerns sorts of beliefs or knowledge typical of the kinds grounded in experience or reason, such as beliefs about ordinary perceptual beliefs. Second order skepticism: would say if I know this, I do not know that I know this.

A first order skeptic is committed to second order skepticism. A second order skeptic may believe in first order knowledge, but no one knows this.

Skepticism Generalized

The skeptical challenges brought forward can be directed against all our beliefs about the external world, all our memory beliefs, beliefs of the future, all beliefs about any subject, provided they depend on memory. Memory is at least as liable to error as vision.

Skepticism About Direct Knowledge and Justification

Skeptics hold that since our sense can be deceived by say hallucination, this prevents beliefs generated by senses as being justified - and precludes them from being justified. Another type to consider is memorial hallucination, which could be a memory that is more of a fantasy then a real memory.

Skeptics hold that same view when it comes to the a priori or like math. Why? Because memory is involved. You could misremember propositions or have a memorial hallucination.

Inferential Knowledge and Justification: The Problem of Induction

There are some difficulty that our basic sources can be transmitted inductively. This was mainly brought up by David Hume on how to justify inductive inferences. Basically he said you can’t know true premises inductively reasoned lead to a true conclusion.

Example: The sun has always risen in the east, therefore tomorrow it will rise in the east. Hume would argue that one can’t know that this will definitely happen.

The problem of Other Minds

Since we have no access to the minds of others, how do we know there are other minds? Are we just seeing bodies controlled by a puppet master or machines? Can we even be justified in believe there are other minds? It may be argued that inference to the best explanation is self-evident.

Moderate abductive principle: if our only good explanation for a proposition we are amply justified in believing entails the truth or likely truth of a further proposition, we are prima facie justified in believing the latter proposition. Skeptics deny this because they question whether the adductive principle is self-evident or even true.

The Egocentric Predicament

A position that makes it seem clear that all we can (empirically) know about the world concerns our own present experience. Perhaps I’m a lone conscious ego vividly hallucinating a non-existent physical world. This view of only oneself is called solipsism.


Three Kinds of Infallibility

Is there really any reason to doubt introspectively grounded beliefs constitute knowledge? The skeptical argument is based on the infallibility claim about knowledge. If you know, you cannot be wrong. If adding the premise that you can be wrong in holding a given introspective belief, it would follow this belief does not represent knowledge. This argument from fallibility can be applied to just about every sort of proposition.

We find that the infallibility claim is ambiguous. It could mean three different things.

\1. It must be the case that if you know that is something true, then it is true (ie: you can’t know something that is false). Call (1) the verity principle since knowledge must be truths. Knowledge can never have a falsehood as its object. 2. If you know that something is true, then it must be true - the proposition you know is necessarily true (ie: you can know only necessary truths). Call (2) the necessity principle - knowledge is of necessary truths. Knowledge never has among its objects any proposition that could possibly fail to hold. 3. If you know that something is true, then your belief of it must be true, in the sense that you believing it entails or guarantees its truth (ie: only beliefs that cannot be false constitute knowledge). Call (3) the infallibility principle proper - only infallible beliefs constitute knowledge. It connects with skepticism more closely than (1) or (2). Knowledge is never constituted by fallible beliefs, those that can have falsehoods among their objects.

Knowledge and Fallibility

We can now assess the skeptical reasoning that employs the infallibility claim (in one way or another).

\1. The verity principle - is plainly true. In this sense, knowledge is infallible, but it provides no reason to conclude that I do not know that I’m thinking. The verity principle is itself a verity, but it does not advance the skeptical cause. 2. The necessity principle - seems mistaken. Even if it were true, a skeptic could not reasonably use it - without first defending it by adequate argument against the common sense view or perceptual beliefs. 3. The infallibility principle - seems to give the skeptic an argument against common sense - is the way skepticism can trade on the ambiguity of the formulation.


Uncertainty leaves us with little (or no) knowledge. If I have a vivd hallucination, can I ever be certain that I know I’m seeing what I perceive?

Knowing, Knowing for Certain, and Telling for Certain

In chapter 10, it was argued that knowing doesn’t imply knowing for certain. Skeptics may still maintain that the certainty principle undermines the common sense view that we have perceptual knowledge.

Entitlement as a Requirement for Inferential Justification

The backup principle depends on the assumption that in order to know that something is true, one must have grounds that entails its truth. The common sense view rejects this assumption.

Knowing and Showing

‘Do you know?’ Tends to move discussion to a second order context - grounds for the second order proposition. The show-know principle being able to show something one believes, even being able to prove it, entails knowing it.

Chapter 14 Skepticism II: The Defense of Common Sense in the Face of Fallibility

The previous chapter essentially illustrated a skeptical case against epistemological common sense.

Negative Versus Positive Defenses of Common Sense

In the context of thinking about skepticism, knowing something does not require being able to show that one knows it.

A negative defense - one that seeks to show that skeptical arguments do not justify the skeptic’s conclusion, does not require accomplishing the second-order task of showing that there is knowledge or justified belief.

A positive defense - one that seeks to show that we have the kinds of knowledge and justified beliefs common sense takes us to have.

Deducibility, Evidential Transmission, and Induction

Skeptics seem to have a big issue with induction. There view was that knowledge can be transmitted only deductively. Induction, to them, can not reach it’s conclusion. Why should we accept this?

Epistemic and Logical Possibility

Induction does bring in possibility/probability of the conclusion.

Entailment, Certainty, and Fallibility

The view that we are fallible, so we cannot really know anything - has a really high standard of certainty. Absolute certainty is a high ideal, but not adequate to the concept of knowledge.

The Authority of Knowledge and the Cogency of its Grounds

Another principle to consider: if you know something than you have a certain authority regarding it.

Epistemic Authority and Cogent Grounds

Cogency principle: with the possible exception of beliefs of certain self-evident propositions and certain propositions about one’s current consciousness, one knows that something is so only if one grounds for it on the basis of which one can (in principle) argue cogently for it.

Being unable to present an argument for something you know, doesn’t preclude you from knowing.

Grounds of Knowledge as Referring Epistemic Authority

Skeptics ask ‘how do you know’, they’re asking to have it shown/proved/argued. As explained before, not being able to show doesn’t mean you don’t know. Taking a step further, it doesn’t mean you don’t have authority in testimony.

Exhibiting Knowledge versus Dogmatically Claiming it

With the above, it would seem this is an endorsement of dogmatism. Someone could just declare it. But really, saying it cites a ground for my belief which suggests that I am not being dogmatic in taking myself to know.

Refutation & Rebuttal

Have we refuted skepticism? No. Presented here was a a rebuttal to it.

Prospects for a Positive Defense of Common Sense

How would an argument for a positive defense of common sense go?

A Case for Justified Belief

  1. An attentively held belief to the effect that one is now in an occurrent mental state, such as thinking, is (prima facie) justified.
  2. I have an attentive belief that I am now in such a state, namely thinking.
  3. My belief that I am thinking is (prima facie) justified.

The Regress of Demonstration

The problem becomes that whatever one’s justification or epistemic achievement justifiably saying or even justifiably believing that one has succeeded in it requires justification or knowledge at the next higher level.

Regress of demonstration: if one shows anything at all and can be asked to show that, then there will be either an infinite regress of demonstration, or a circle of them, or there will be some on shown shower.

A Case for Knowledge

The crucial principles of justification are a priori, and believing them is justified by reflection. Suppose the principles are empirical. See next…

A Circularity Problem

There would be a circularity problem if we had to justify our crucial principles inductively. One could determine this through experience.

The Challenge of Rational Disagreement

Skepticism as a whole may be easier to deal with than a small bite in a casual discussion - say about the existence of God.

Intellectual Pluralism

There’s a great diversity of views on many important matters. All this can lead to much disagreement, but this doesn’t mean there is no knowledge.

Epistemic Parity

When dealing with disagreement presupposes a measure of non-skeptical confidence. When facing a challenge one should consider both their experience and intellectual position.

Dogmatism, Fallibilism, and Intellectual Courage

The conclusion of the experience of critically seeking to establish the epistemic parity of a disputant may give a rational person a justificatory advantage in the dispute.

Sometimes our plausible challenged beliefs should, on balance, be retained; sometimes our unchallenged beliefs should be given up. There is no simple formula here in ethics, philosophy, religion or any other domain.

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