Questions on knowledge

by Neil Rickert

In this post, I pose some questions for those who take knowledge to be justified true belief.  I am treating them as rhetorical questions, so that I don’t actually expect any answers.  I doubt that there are any good answers that are consistent with the JTB characterization of knowledge.  However, I welcome comments on the questions.

  1. If epistemology provides a useful account of knowledge, why is it that many scientists find it useless?
  2. Why do scientists find mathematics to be of great value, while epistemology has difficulty accounting for mathematical knowledge?
  3. Why are television programs such as “Sesame Street” considered by many to be of educational value, when they are entirely fictional and therefore have no true beliefs?

3 Responses to “Questions on knowledge”

  1. Sup Mr. Neil, nice blog.

    1) Epistemology, like philosophy in general, isn’t a useful activity. Even most of contemporary science, especially at theoretical level, lacks a direct utilitarian application immediately in the present. Since even externalist models of knowledge aren’t going to facilitate laboratory research, it is unreasonable to place this demand upon internalist conceptions.

    2) The analysis of knowledge falls within the realm of epistemology. Accounting for knowledge — any knowledge — falls under the realm of metaphysics. A Platonist like a Chisholm will explain mathematical knowledge in a very different way than an empiricist like a Quine — one will use some form of insight or intuition, while the other will want to make use of conventions. The empiricist usually has the larger challenge, given they traditionally don’t want abstract objects in their final inventory of what exists.

    3) Why many *believe* Sesame Street has educational value is a psychological question. Whether Sesame Street in fact has educational value is an empirical question. While I personally don’t *believe* Sesame Street has educational value, we need _evidence_ if we’re going to have an informed opinion either way.



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