Brian Matthew Kessler

24 September 1997

1. Let us begin by noting that we are only rarely explicitly conscious of our propositional knowledge. However, it is this sort of knowledge which epistemologists study. Propositional knowledge is knowledge that something is so; it is called propositional because what is known is a proposition or that a proposition is true. Explain briefly the two other kinds of knowledge Steup mentions and reflect/comment on how they might "involve" or be enhanced my propositional knowlegde.

First, there is "knowing how" to do a certain thing. For example, you may know how to make a telephone call. This type of knowledge is made up of propositional knowledge. On its own, this type of knowledge may be relatively useless. Before enacting this process, you may need to know where you can find prerequisit tools or ingrediates. You must know where this act can be performed. It is often desirable to know the outcome of the process and in what way this outcome may relate to any goals that exist.

Staying with our example, propositions which I must know in order to "know how to use a telephone" include:

In order to make use of this knowledge, one will to need to know such facts as:

The word "know" can also be used to in the sense of "being aquainted with". You may say "I know New York" if you have spent time there. This sense really is only an ambiguous statement that you know some collection of propositional knowledge related to the item(s) you are aquainted with, and without context, this is meaningless and probably useless.

Following our example, you really only mean you have an awareness of some facts about New York. For example, it may be used to imply you know:

You may not in fact know any of these, but rather something else pertinent to New York; and your knowledge will likely be limited only to specific instances of time and space within New York -- you can't and won't know every proposition related to New York.

2. What is the "JTB" account of knowledge? Steup uses a rather lengthy example of a professor who believes that his logic class has full attendance during the second week of class to illustrate a lucky guess which would not qualify as a justified truth belief or as knowledge. Steup suggests a procedure that would enable the professor to believe with justification that he has full attendance. What is that procedure and why would it fail to make the professor completely and fully justified in believing he had full attendance?

The "JTB" account of knowledge is that:

Steup suggests the professor would have to count how many students are actually in his classroom. This fails to completely justify the professor because:

3. What is Gettier's counter example to the JTB account of knowledge and how does it depend on the principle Steup cites near the top of page 5. On what basis do Gettier and Steup argue that Smith lacks knowledge that either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona?

Gettier's counter example is that Smith is justified in believing:

But this in fact is not a true proposition.

At the same time, Smith has NO justification for believing:

But this just happens to be true.

Gettier claims that Smith has a justified true belief in:

If (A) is true, as Smith believed, then Smith is justified in believing {(A) or [anything, in this case (B)]} must be true, because (A) would entail it. As it happened however, (A) was FALSE, but (B) was still true. Thus {(A) or (B)} was still a true statement, still justified by deduction (even if wrongful), and still believed.

However, Gettier and Steup argue that Smith lacks knowledge because Smith's evidence for belief, supporting (A), did not relate properly to the truth, supported by (B).

4. What is the correspondence theory of truth and what difficulty does Steup find with it? Describe why the brain in the vat possibility might be a problem for the verificationist theory of truth and describe why "positive thinking" and it's opposite pose problems for the pragmatic theory of truth.

The Correspondence Theory states:

The belief that p is true if and only if it corresponds with the fact that p.

This theory relies on knowing:

This is complicated further in that fact is usually defined by truth -- something quite difficult to avoid, thus this account of truth seems circular, and is most likely unavoidably so.

The verificationist theory of truth relies on ideal justification. The only tools we have are our senses, our ability to reason, and any devices we may develope to extend the natural capacities of our tools. In the event that my brain is in a vat with senses artificially stimulated, my senses can no longer be relied on to relate the actual world around my brain into the actual entity of my brain. Thus, that which I reason upon my senses may be rationally acceptable to me, but still be false since my subjective reality is built upon the false foundation of trusting my senses to reflect an external objective reality. A verificationist must prove that such deceptions are not possible, without relying on the physical senses which this hypothesis declares to be deceived.

Pragmatists define truth in accord with what is useful. However, positive and negative thinking can boost or hinder someone in their preformance of a task. If I believe I am physically well prepared to climb a mountain, while I may be in poor physical health, my confidence may allow me to push my physical limitations and successfully accomplish the task -- thus a false belief proves useful. If I believe I am physically prepared, and I may be in great physical condition, my overconfidence may cause me to err in my judgement -- thus a true belief proves detrimental.

5. How do the examples about nine to the ninth to the ninth power and about Susan/Sibyl Rook illustrate failures of the following correlation?

P is true if and only if there is someone who is completely justified in believing p.

The truth about 9^9^9 illustrates P being true without anyone being completely justified in the belief. The value of 9^9^9 will not change, regardless to whether anyone is completely justified in believing it. It's value will remain exactly the same, regardless of whether or not anyone is aware of of its value, calculates it value, verifies its value, comprehends its value, believes its real value, or has taken any other steps to be justify even partially a belief about its truth. Most likely nobody currently has such a belief in its regard (unless calculated just to spite this example), but yet it's truth will remain.

The Susan / Sibyl Rook example illustrates someone being completely justified in believing a false P. Because Susan is recognizable, the audience has no reason to suspect deception, they are completely justified in believing they see Susan when who they actually see is an identical replacement: Sibyl.

6. What are the three basic attitudes one can take towards a proposition? Discuss whether it is correct to say, as Steup does, that we cannot escape taking one of the three attitudes towards any proposition we consider. In particular, consider the following proposition:

(I) Alien life forms will not be based on carbon and oxygen.

Suppose, somewhat plausibly, you regard (I) as interesting and while you aren't sure of it, you are somewhat inclined toward (I). Are you an exception to Steup's three-fold categorization of attitudes. Discuss why or why not.

The three basic attitudes are:

Let's consider the above example (I). It seems necessary to me that either you have a belief, a lack of belief, or lack of opinion with regard to the matter. You may question what is meant by "alien" and/or "life" and/or "form" or what it means for this to be "based on carbon and oxygen". You may form multiple beliefs dependant on meaning, or you may withhold judgement until such issues are resolved. In either event, you have taken one of the three attitudes. Your beliefs may be strong or weak, positive or negative, but you have them: to have them is still to have them.

If you consider (I) and are inclined towards it without certainty, you could be described either as carrying a belief without claim of knowledge, or as suspending judgement although not without bias.

For a long time I have maintained that I am both an aethiest and an agnostic. My justification is: I don't believe in god(s), but I don't know that no god(s) exist.... Similiarly, I can say, I don't know if there is a god, but I have strong disbeliefs. I see such situations as an affirmation that a person can simultaneously fit both catagories {(i) and (iii)} or {(ii) and (iii)}; I can not see justification for calling it an escape.

7. Epistemology studies justified beliefs but what exactly are beliefs? It is an extremely odd question, "What do you believe?" and it is only slightly less strange to ask "What do you believe about...?" where the dots are filled in by any standard noun phrase such as "President Clinton." If asked to list our beliefs, most of us would have a lot of trouble coming up with even a short list. We might be able to list a few institutions or beings we "believe in"; but a list of actual beliefs would be beyond most of us. Explain Steup's distinction between newly formed, occurent, and standing beliefs and then comment on the following claim (X)

(X) The reason why it is difficult and unnatural to list one's belief is that 99% of one's beliefs are standing beliefs and standing beliefs cannot be easily or directly introspected and turned into occurent beliefs.

A belief is an opinion (possibly true) describing the status of a proposition. An occurent belief is one that is presently before the mind. A standing belief is an opinion that you would believe is true, but normally not focused upon. For example, I may have the occurent belief that I'm never going to get a passing grade on my Northern Renaissance Art History research paper, this belief occurs most often while working on it. I have the standing belief that my birthday is 31 July 1973, but, in general, this belief only occurs to me either during that time of year or when I need to fill out various application. The belief that my bedroom carpet needs to be vacuumed only occurs when the floor is looks terribly filthy or smells terribly funky; it is by no means a standing belief.

I don't believe (X) is 100% true. I'll agree that the largest percentage of beliefs are standing beliefs -- it may even be fair to say 99.9%. On the other hand, I am not inclined to believe that standing beliefs cannot be easily or directly introspected or turned into occurent beliefs. While we may spend most of our time taking our beliefs for granted, I believe they are readibly accessible given a context where it makes sense to consider them. I may have a standing belief that no pink dragons with purple poka dots fly around the globe (to choose a random example), but how often would I be called upon to formulate and introspect upon that belief? Walk up to a random person on the street and ask them out of the blue to list there beliefs, without context they may be shocked into speechlessness. Without deliminations, they may be dumbfounded by your meaning. In either context they may be embarassed against uttering inanities about pink dragons. But given understanding o f the question, and adequate time and paper to compose the list, the list should only be limited in size by the imagination and determination of the particular person attempting to answer the quesiton.

8. How does Steup define a lucky guess? A lucky truth? Steup's account of a lucky guess involves believing without evidence; however, such believing goes against everything "nature" has taught us. Ancestors who comfortably and routinely ignored evidence were wiped out, often in their youth, and we have inherited a disposition to go with the evidence. Think about the feeling or attitude you have when you are forced to choose without evidence (guess) among improbable longshots. (For example, you are forced to play one ticket in the Pick 3 lottery game.) Is your attitude happily described as one of positive belief? Does this pose a problem for Steup and his account of guessing? Explain why or why not?

A Lucky Guess:

S's belief that p is a lucky guess if and only if (i) p is true; (ii) S believes that p; (iii) S has no evidence for believing that p is true.

A Lucky Truth:

S's belief that p is a lucky truth if and only if (i) p is true; (ii) S believes that p; (iii) S has no relevant facts for believing that p is true.

Were I to play the Pick 3 lottery, until such time as proven otherwise, I'd have a very positive belief that my money was lost. This does in fact cause a problem with Steup's account of lucky guessing. If I win, it would certainly be luck, and it would certainly be a guess, so how could one contradict calling such an incident a "lucky guess"? At the same time, Steup's definition requires that for my guess to be a lucky guess, I must have a belief that my guess is true: that my ticket would win. Perhaps it would be wise to replace Steup's second condition of a lucky guess with "S commits that p". Someone could of course commit to their belief, but this is not necessarily so -- although someone is most likely to commit if they have a belief, and their commitment is likely to be in correspondence with this belief. In the example of the lottery, I would be committing my money and my hope, but not my mind.

9. Steup distinguishes between the activity of justifying a belief and the property a belief can have of being held with justification. He uses the two examples of "I exist" and "I am currently reading a book" to show that one could well have justified beliefs without having ever engaged in the activity of justifying those beliefs. What does Steup have in mind by "the activity of justifying a belief?" Since Steup may be mistaken here, discuss briefly what would be wrong, if anything, with holding that a person who has not and perhaps cannot justify those beliefs (I exist, I am currently reading a book) is NOT justified in holding them.

When Steup refers to "justifying a belief", he refers to the process of collecting evidence (traditionally of perception, introspeection, reason, and memory) and applying it to form a proposition recognized as true.

There can be no wrong if someone(1) believes "I exist" holds that belief, regardless of their ability to justify their belief. Let us assume he believes "I do not exist"; in this event, he contradicts himself by virtue that someone must exist before they can believe. Similiarly, let us assume he decides "I shall withhold judgement on my existence": how shall he enact a withholding without a prior existence? Because on any issue to be considered, a person shall either (I) believe, (II) disbelieve, or (III) withhold judgement, and because we have shown the second and third possibilities to be absurd, this person has no course but to believe in his existence and we should be unjustified in expecting him to hold otherwise. By accepting his ability to believe, disbelieve, or withhold judgement, we have already accepted a belief in this person's existence; we can not be sensible in continuing by saying: "You exist, but you are not justified in believing you exist."

On the other hand, if a person can not justify that they are reading a book, it is slightly more complicated to deduce their justification. We shall assume this person believes he is reading a book. First, he may be mistaken that what he reads is a book. Second, he may be mistaken his activity he engages in is properly considered reading; many times I have sat down to read text books, parsed ten or twenty pages of text, or more - believing myself to be reading the book, and after an hour or more, realized that I was just looking at words and processing nothing, particularly when distracted by other occurences in my mind or in my physical vicinity; if asked I would answer, without thinking about it, I was reading a book on so-and-so. As I sat down with the conscious intent of reading, usually for a purpose, and since I carried on without questioning my success or progress for such periods, and since I proceeded to say this is true, we can surmise: I believed I was reading. We can also see that I made no attempt to justify the belief, and then, only later, discovered this belief was false. Therefore, someone who can not justify the belief they are reading is not justified in holding it, because it is not absurd to think they could be wrong.

10. Steup mentions that some philosophers require a tight connection between being justified in believing p and having evidence that p is true. Note that these two things are not identical. Recall the two examples in problem 9. Are they situations in which the person is justified in believing something but not justified in virtue of having evidence? Discuss why or why not.

Both examples are of situations where the believer has evidence.

In the event someone believes they exist: If someone acts (mentally, physically, etc.), they must exist first. His contemplation and reaction to the question, itself can be construed as their evidence for existence. Believing in one's own existence is evidence for one's own existence. This person has the evidence, regardless of whether he knows it or how to process it. Because the man is capable of belief, he is justified in believing in his own existence. The alternatives are absurd.

Reading a book can and should be justified by realizing:

If any of the above propositions are not true, this person may not be reading a book.

You can not read a book you can not see. You can not read a book without focusing your mental attention on it; it is not sufficient to focus your mind alone -- your eyes must be focused, otherwise you are not reading the book, only contemplating the book in your mind. You can not read a book without taking in and processing its text. If you take it in and do not process it, then you are just looking at it -- looking is not reading. If you are reading the text, you are trying to make sense of it; if you simply process the text by trying to see how the shapes of words remind you of fuzzy animals, that is not reading.

Let's say that Smith is reading and believes he is reading, but Smith justifies his belief not based on the evidence, but rather because when he glances up over his book for a second, at the mirror just beyond, and he sees his reflection apparently reading a book. He knows that his reflection is a representation of himself, so if his reflection is doing something, he must be doing it. He feels he can trust his senses, and therefore this appearance of reading must be true. He decides: well, since my reflection is reading, I am reading. Smith has evidence that he is reading, which happens to be true, but for some strange reason, he believes he is reading for a completely different reason: that his reflection appears to be reading. It seems awkward to me to say he is not justified in believing he is reading when in fact his belief is true and not guessed at.

1. If we assume it is unjustified, for ourselves as third persons, to believe that Mr. X exists, then we should have equal difficulty in justifying giving credit to Mr. X for any action including belief. It is absurd to ask "Is a man who does not exist justified in believing he does exist, even when he can not justify the belief." How is this non-existant man to believe, let alone justify this? Is not existence prerequisit to action? Return

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