Just as a fun exercise, tonight, it seemed necessary to articulate the classical conception of knowledge as it’s generally formulated within analytic philosophy. Because my most live philosophical option im Moment is, to borrow Brandom’s phrase, “rationally reconstruct” the work of Hegel, more specifically both the Wissenschaft der Logik and the temporally subsequent Realphilosophie, I’ve recently taken to engaging in improvisational epistemological-related scribbling in order to reactivate my repressed analytic sentiments. Frege, Carnap, Wittgenstein, and Lewis were once my hereos. I later abandoned them after “going Continental”; however, now, after coming to believe that the continental-analytic distinction, like Frege’s submission to Russell and American Deconstruction, is just another Anglo-American marketing invention that’s duped an unfortunate number of academics, i can proceed philosophically without much worry. I simply don’t care anymore about this fictitious distinction. Thankfully, it seems that such nonsense has largely been ignored in Germany. My philosophical sentiment remains that if one attends a logic seminar and is approached by Field or Pryor and they ask, “So, what’s that Hegel guy up to in the SL”? And, one responded: “Well, that’s easy. You see the Idea, namely, in positing itself as absolute unity of the pure Notion and its reality and thus contracting itself into the immediacy of being, is the totality of this form…” I believe their either person, or both, has the right to walk away. However, after studying the SL for the past four or five months, I’m convinced that, with the apprioriate translation manual, Hegel can read in a way that makes this complex, but relevant thinker available to contemporary philosophical problems.
We ask the question: What is it for someone to believe something?
Is belief a particular kind of mental state? Or: Is belief an inferential posit made in virtue of behavioral mechanisms. That is, we posit that S must believe X,Y,Z because we can infer these propositions based on the behavioral comportment of S?
Three aspects essential to belief
1. Propositional content
Consider S’s belief that the cat is on the mat. “That the cat is on the mat” is the propositional content of S’s propositional attitude, in this case, belief-attitude. The subject betrays an epistemic relationship to the proposition, that the cat is on the mat, and this relationship can be defined as one of belief, where belief is understood to be S’s taking the world to be such that, in this world, the cat is on the mat.
“Truth condition” here will be defined as the following: how the world would have to be in order for S’s belief to be true or false.
So, S’s belief that the cat is on the mat is true iff it is a fact that the cat is on the mat. More generally, in biconditional terms, S’s belief that p is true iff P. The right side of the biconditional states what would have to be the case in order for the left side of the bicond. to be true.
Propositional content is constructed out of concepts. For example: that the cat is on the mat. “Cat”, “mat”, “is”, “on”, etc.
So, a simple exposition of the truth of the proposition would run something like this: If it’s the case that the cat is in fact on the mat, that is, if it’s the case that the referant of the concept mentioned in the subject position does in fact manifest the property mentioned of it in the predicate position, being on the mat, then we can say that the proposition, the cat is on the mat, is in fact true.
Suppose that Mary believes the cat is on the mat. We can ask what evidence or reasons she has for believing this proposition to be true. Sensory evidence? Testimony? Conceptual evidence? Does she have reasons or evidence which makes it rational for her to believe P? Epistemic reasons. This is important determination. Many believe that people can have non-epistemic reasons for certain beliefs, take belief in the existence of God as an example. There are pragmatic reasons and epistemic reasons. The former do not speak to the truth of a proposition only to the pragmatic benefits of taking a proposition as true. Pascal’s famous argument can be construed as an example of the former. If the argument is convincing it doesn’t prove anything with regard to the truth of the propositions in question. Instead, it gives us a pragmatic reason for believing in God. The argument does nothing by way of improving the likelihood that the proposition, that God exists, is true.
I can anticipate an objection here. Suppose we encounter a situation in which a scientist employed for the Discovery Institute claims that Global Warming isn’t
caused by human actions. He cites a number of relevant journal articles, statistical data, conceptual arguments, empirical measures, etc. What are the necessary conditions for epistemic reasons? How can one detect whether and to what extent the reasons one takes to increase the likelihood of a propositions truth is based on epistemic reasons or pragmatic reasons? That is, one could selectively cite a number of articles favorable to one’s position; one’s Institute could be funded by major corporations whose financial success depends on NOT taking global warming and climate change seriously. These distinctions depend on the presupposition that an inquirer can achieve a beautiful-soul-status by virtue of which it’s possible to emerge out of ideological commitments, etc. in order to employ as evidence for a propositions truth only those reasons which are properly epistemic. But, why can’t epistemic reasons also be pragmatic? That is, isn’t it pragmatic to hold true beliefs instead of false ones?
We could say that those persons who believed that the earth was the center of the universe held a belief that was reasonable or rational; however, the proposition is false. It was believed to be true for the available reasons on offer at the time. However, the progress of knowledge and the equipment for knoweldge detection eroded the strength of the propositions truth. A person, then, could have reasons on offer in support of a certain proposition and the proposition be false. Suppose I believe the Sun is the center of the solar system. X believes the earth is the center of the solar system. The available evidence, we would say, shows the former to be true. But, does true mean “more reasonable by virtue of available and credible evidence”?
What I don’t quite understand about the knowledge-doxa of justified-true belief is the following: If we ennumerate the necessary conditions for knowledge and this ennumeration includes 1. Belief 2. justification 3. truth, how does 3 emerge into the equation? Isn’t the inclusion of 3 question-begging? That is, if we’re trying to determine the truth of a proposition, we examine the available credible evidence which could increase the likelihood of the proposition’s truth. Suppose we do so.
We find, after doing the requisite intellectual labour, that all the evidnce indicates that Jupiter has thirty moons. Is the belief then true?