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Personal writing Part 1: • First, watch the video/podcast/reading from that week on the schedule document • Video: https://youtu.be/Ll9xlNi2-mI • Locate that week’s topic. • Your post should be a MINIMUM 200 WORDS. Summarize the video/podcast/reading in 5 sentences sentences. Respond to it in 5 sentences. You can say what you liked, disliked, agreed with, disagreed with, add an example, give an objection, raise a question, or discuss how the video interacts with other things we’ve discussed in class. The most important thing is that you add something substantial rather than merely summarizing things. Also consider writing things that your classmates may find interesting, things they may want to reply to, or raise questions for them to think more about. Personal writing part 2: Q1) In 1-2 paragraphs, summarize the reading. Make sure to discuss why some people think Gettier showed defining knowledge is so difficult, and define and explain knowledge-first epistemology. Q2) What did you think of the reading? Critically evaluate it. What did you agree with? What did you disagree with? For example, do you see any potential problems to knowledge-first epistemology? Can you think of any ways to analyze knowledge that can deal with Gettier’s objection? (1-2 paragraphs) Q3) What would you like to talk about out in large group meeting next Monday? What questions do you have about things we’ve discussed in the course thus far (including logic, the JTB theory of knowledge, Gettier, and knowledge first epistemology)? What topics would you like to discuss more? (The meeting with be a mix of Q&A and discussion). No way out? Gettier showed that the classical analysis was missing something. Philosophers hoped at first that this missing ingredient would be easy to find, that we could just add a fourth condition to the classical three, or devise a new way of breaking knowledge down into simpler building blocks. These hopes have been dashed: in the decades after Gettier, dozens of analyses of knowledge have been formulated, but none has secured broad support. Many analyses turned out to be vulnerable to new intuitive counter-examples; others turned out to be disappointingly circular, essentially assuming the concept they were trying to analyse, sometimes under the disguise of newly introduced technical vocabulary. After three decades of increasingly complicated and unsatisfying proposals, some philosophers began to suspect that the problem of analysing knowledge was not solvable. But why not? The answer may lie in the relationship between justification and truth. It’s widely held that we can be justified in believing falsehoods: unlike knowledge, justification doesn’t ensure truth. The person who is taken in by a very realistic holographic projection of a muffin isn’t crazy to think that there’s a muffin in front of her: she is being perfectly reasonable, even if what she believes is false or only coincidentally true. We could say the same for the investigator who ends up believing something false because he encounters tons of (misleading) evidence: given what he has found, he could be entirely reasonable to believe that the butler is guilty, for example. In fact, the possibility of justified false belief was part of what gave the classical analysis its original punch: if we ask which justified beliefs count as knowledge, the truth condition narrows it down to ‘just the true ones’. But once we allow that justification doesn’t always lead to the truth, the Gettier problem can start to look inescapable. There’s now even a standard recipe for cooking up counter-examples to analyses of knowledge, courtesy of the American philosopher Linda Zagzebski. Here’s how it works: describe a situation in which someone has a false but justified belief (or more generally, a false belief that fits all the conditions in the proposed analysis other than truth). Then add a lucky twist to the story so that the proposition believed ends up being true. Zagzebski’s recipe has generated counter-examples to a massive range of proposed theories of knowledge. Can knowing be analysed at all? If efforts to analyse knowledge aren’t going very well, it’s useful to step back and ask why. Some philosophers have argued that the real problem here is that knowledge is not a well-behaved concept: Matt Weiner, for example, thinks that our use of the verb ‘know’ is guided by a set of handy but inconsistent principles. Trying to get a clear definition of knowledge out of the conflicting ways we intuitively speak of it is like trying to identify the make and model of a car composed of assorted scrap parts. Other philosophers have argued that we should shift our attention away from knowledge and refocus on other topics, like the question of what it is reasonable to believe. But it’s not obvious that the difficulties we’ve experienced in analysing knowledge should lead us to turn away from it. Sometimes resistance to analysis is a good sign, a sign we have reached something fundamental. To see the value of resistance to analysis, consider a case where resistance is low: table salt can easily be analysed as sodium chloride (NaCl). The building blocks here (Na+ and Cl–) are simpler than the compound they form together, and these basic building blocks can be combined with other materials to form different compounds. The project of analysing knowledge started with the idea that knowledge was also composed of simpler materials, including truth and belief. It’s clearly right to say that truth and belief can be combined with other materials to make states that differ from knowledge—when beliefs are combined with factors like falsity, they fail to count as knowledge, and so on. But the other key assumption in the analysis-of-knowledge project is more controversial. Are the building blocks of belief and truth really simpler than knowledge itself, and is knowledge really a compound built out of those factors (perhaps with some other factors thrown in)? Maybe not. In particular, it’s not obvious that believing is simpler and more basic than knowing. What if knowing is the fundamental idea, and believing is a spin-off from it? This idea is championed by the ‘knowledge-first’ movement in epistemology. Leading this movement, Timothy Williamson argues that one reason why philosophers have not been able to come up with a satisfactory analysis of knowledge in terms of belief plus further factors is that the concept of knowledge is more fundamental or basic than the concept of belief. There’s something initially counter-intuitive about the knowledge-first approach. It can seem that believing just has to be a more basic building block for the simple reason that states of belief are more plentiful than states of knowledge. Every time someone knows something, they can also be described as believing it, but not vice versa: beliefs that are false or irrational, for example, aren’t knowledge. To go back to our original analogy, basic building blocks are in many cases more common than the compounds they form: sodium, for example, is more common than table salt because sodium is present not only in sodium chloride but also in sodium nitrate and many other compounds (whenever you have table salt you have sodium, but not vice versa). However, it’s not always true that the more common thing is more basic. Consider the concept of a perfect circle: very simple, and perhaps quite rarely found in nature. Now, if by the word ‘rounded’ we mean ‘at least roughly circular’, then there will be many more rounded things than circular things, but the concept of the circle would still be more basic. The circle is our fundamental starting point, something we used in defining ‘rounded’, and for good reason: the clean geometrical nature of circularity is simpler than the messy geometrical nature of approximations of circularity. Box 4 Ancient Gettier cases In Western philosophy, 1963 is taken as the date of the discovery of cases illustrating the gap between justified true belief and knowledge. But in a text that dates to around the year 770 CE, the Indian philosopher Dharmottara offers the following cases: A fire has just been lit to roast some meat. The fire hasn’t started sending up any smoke, but the smell of the meat has attracted a cloud of insects. From a distance, an observer sees the dark swarm above the horizon and mistakes it for smoke. ‘There’s a fire burning at that spot,’ the distant observer says. Does the observer know that there is a fire burning in the distance? A desert traveller is searching for water. He sees, in the valley ahead, a shimmering blue expanse. Unfortunately, it’s a mirage. But fortunately, when he reaches the spot where there appeared to be water, there actually is water, hidden under a rock. Did the traveller know, as he stood on the hilltop hallucinating, that there was water ahead? These cases involve a belief that is true and based on what could seem to be good evidence, and just like Gettier, Dharmottara uses these cases as counter-examples to rival theories of knowledge. Many cases like these were actively debated by Indo-Tibetan epistemologists following Dharmottara. Some of the proposals that emerged in Western philosophy since 1963 to handle these cases appeared in the Indo-Tibetan tradition centuries earlier. For example, a detailed causal theory of knowledge was advanced by Gan.geśa in the 14th century. The relationship between knowing and believing is in many ways similar to the relationship between the circle and the at least roughly circular: knowing is the ideal, and believing is some kind of approximation to that ideal. According to the knowledge-first programme in epistemology, it is a bad idea to try to analyse knowledge in terms of belief plus further factors, just as it would be a bad idea to try to analyse the concept of a circle in terms of roundedness plus further factors. According to Williamson, rather than trying to explain knowledge as a compound state formed by adding various factors to belief, we should explain believing in terms of knowing: ‘Believing p is, roughly, treating p as if one knew p.’ In his view, knowing is a state of mind that essentially involves being right; believing is a state of mind that ideally aims at being right, while perhaps falling short of that target. Because so much recent epistemology has been devoted to the task of analysing knowledge in terms of true belief plus further factors, it’s somewhat revolutionary to declare knowledge to be more basic than belief. If analysing knowledge were the only thing that an epistemologist could do, then declaring knowledge to be basic (or resistant to analysis) would be a way of stopping epistemology in its tracks. However, even if knowledge is not a compound of belief and other factors, there are many things to be learned about it: for example, we can study how it relates to justification, how it is generated and transmitted through processes like perception and testimony, and how it appears when viewed from different perspectives. These issues continue to matter for both knowledge-first and belief-first approaches in epistemology. One of the questions that is agreed to be very important to both sides (and even to the debate between them) concerns the difference made by shifting from a first-person to a third-person perspective. The next chapter investigates the significance of this shift.

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