On my first guest blog post someone responded with this comment:
"I like your verve. It is generally understood in epistemology that what is required for having knowledge of x is:
a. You must believe that x is true.
b. You must have reason to believe that x is true.
c. x must be true.
You deny a nor b yet you opine on the possibility of c? Jesse teaches you this?"
Professor Steinberg responded with this:
"Anon- Most philosophers these days don't think that knowledge amounts to (a)-(c). Ed Gettier has a famous paper in which he provides some counterexamples to this analysis of knowledge. I don't follow your last remark. Do you mean to deny that there can be instances of justified false beliefs?"
This is in part a response to the anonymous comment, but I have also extended the post to include an introduction of an idea I have about the importance/role of the religious canon. I chose to make it a blog post rather than a comment on the previous post because I would like feedback to help me develop the idea since I am considering it as a topic for my next paper.
In the case of your requirements, I would say, is it not possible for something to be true although you don’t have knowledge of it in this sense? X could be true (c) even though you don’t believe it is true (a) or reasonably/justifiably believe it is true (b).
I think these accepted requirements for knowledge make more sense if put forth in this order/worded slightly differently, specifically taking out the word must because I believe it has implications that are not intended (at least if this is the knowledge as a justified true belief argument that I believe it is):
(a2) x is true(b2) You believe x is true.(c2) You reasonably and rationally believe x is true/You justifiably believe X is true.
The claim made is that these requirements must be met to have knowledge. I would disagree and say that this is what is necessary to have a justifiably true belief. A part of the argument to which I am responding is that justifiably false beliefs are not knowledge. A justifiably false belief would be one that only meets requirements (a2) and (b2). I don’t think (c2) is a necessary component of knowledge. Ed Gettier, as Professor Steinberg mentioned, puts forth an argument that supports my belief called “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”
Jesse’s mention of justifiably false beliefs prompted me to explore an idea I have regarding the potential importance of the canon as a tool. I don’t believe that all people have correct knowledge or proper ration, and since some things may be viewed as what “you must believe” is true, such as morality, they provide a different pathway towards reaching the truth with their portrayal of revelation. In this way, what you have called (b) and what I have called (c2), do not hold to be true. I do not broach the topic and begin a debate with this comment as to whether or not a given x, identified as anything put forth in the canon, is true. However, I think I can show my argument with a very simple example from the canon (viewed in isolation from the rest of the canon). In the Torah, in the telling of the travels of Abraham, it describes a city called Tel Gezer’s geographical location and population. Its remnants have been the subject of an archeological excavation and study, and any person can visit the site today. I concluded through study and by going there myself, which show that my beliefs about the city are reasonable and justifiable, that what the Torah said about this city is true. However, prior to this study and travel I still believed that what the Torah said about it was true, and in reality, what the Torah said about the Torah was factual. Therefore, prior to study and experience, my beliefs did not meet the (a)-(c) or (a2)-(c2) requirements for knowledge. Since people don’t always have reason or ration, it may be necessary for things like the canon to provide another kind of justification for belief, and what could be more convincing to a person of faith than the word of God? A justifiably false belief may not be based on the reason as required in your (b), what I call (c2), but does that mean that it isn’t knowledge? I don’t think it’s absurd to call it knowledge if your (b), what I call (c2), requirement is not met. I considered that when people talk about having faith, I understand them as saying that only the (a2) and (b2) requirements are met and that faith is what they put in place for the missing (c2) requirement. Accepting justifiably false beliefs as knowledge seems to be a necessary component of faith-based conclusions.
I’m trying to work on the idea of what you’re justified in calling it and what it actually is. I have considered making the concession that (a2)-(c2) might be necessary for a person to call their belief knowledge. The next question should be posed in light of the concession that someone cannot call a belief knowledge if they don’t fulfill (c2), whether this concession is accepted as true or not. It helps to simplify the question: If you believe something and it’s true, then what is, if not knowledge? I’d love to hear some opinions on this question, whether the concession seems is true or false, and you think it’s necessary to make the concession.