Archive for April 25th, 2011

April 25, 2011

Knowledge and belief

by Neil Rickert

It should have been clear, from the time I started this blog, that I have some disagreements with analytic philosophy.  The name I have given the blog already reflects that.  Epistemology, a subfield of philosophy, is one of the places where I disagree.

Commonly, epistemologists define “knowledge” as justified true belief.  And there, I disagree.  To be sure, what most philosophers mean by “belief” is different from what theist’s mean by belief.  Moreover, I agree that there can be value in attempting to analyze what is required to be justified in having particular beliefs.  But it seems to me that it goes too far to identify that with knowledge.

As I see it, knowledge and belief are complementary to one another.  We sometimes use belief as a temporary aid until we acquire the knowledge.  John Searle has a good discussion of this with respect to learning to ski, at around page 150 of his book “Intentionality.”

The “justified true belief” characterization of knowledge attempts to account for all knowledge in terms of linguistic expression.  To me, that seems too narrow.  It would, in theory, be valid to just discuss linguistic expression, in isolation from everything else.  But in practice, linguistic expression cannot be easily isolated from intuition, common sense and other apparenly non-linguistic forms of knowledge.  So I see the “justified true belief” characterization as distorting our view of knowledge.