Monday, June 25, 2012

Knowledge As Opposed to Belief

Knowledge has been called "justified true belief." This seems to be the usage of "knowledge" invoked when someone says, "I don't believe, I know!"

But for knowledge to be "justified" we need some kind of criteria that determines what makes a belief "justified." This criteria can be stated as a list of rules that must be followed to turn beliefs into knowledge.

Therefore, the distinction between knowledge and belief in this case is just a matter of rules that dictate what knowledge is and what knowledge is not. And those rules will be no different than other rules: morals adopted to attain some end.

True beliefs cannot be that end, as we are trying to determine how it is that we will categorize a belief as true. For true beliefs to be our guiding principle, we would need an independent method of determining whether or not a belief is true.

But that's only interesting to people who like squabbling over whether or not something is really known. For anyone who has ever been in a situation where it made sense to distinguish between what they believe and what they know, they know that they were just assuring someone of their confidence in what they said. In such situations, the rules that dictate knowledge as opposed to belief are implicitly understood - we know what "knowledge" looks like: it's only in philosophy that we think we can get to some kind of rule that exists beyond the needs of our present situation.

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