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Outline of epistemology

Because safety is understood only in terms of knowledge, safety so understood cannot serve in an analysis of knowledge. This is of course consistent with claiming that safety is a necessary condition on knowledge in the straightforward sense that the latter entails the former. Significant early proponents of this view include Stine , Goldman , and Dretske To be able to know by sight that a particular phone is the 6S model, it is natural to suppose that one must be able to tell the difference between the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 7; the possibility that the phone in question is a newer model is a relevant alternative.

Notice that in these cases and many of the others that motivate the relevant-alternatives approach to knowledge, there is an intuitive sense in which the relevant alternatives tend to be more similar to actuality than irrelevant ones. As such, the relevant alternatives theory and safety-theoretic approaches are very similar, both in verdict and in spirit. As in the case of a safety theorist, the relevant alternatives theorist faces a challenge in attempting to articulate what determines which possibilities are relevant in a given situation.

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As we have seen, one motivation for including a justification condition in an analysis of knowledge was to prevent lucky guesses from counting as knowledge. However, the Gettier problem shows that including a justification condition does not rule out all epistemically problematic instances of luck. Consequently, some epistemologists have suggested that positing a justification condition on knowledge was a false move; perhaps it is some other condition that ought to be included along with truth and belief as components of knowledge.

This kind of strategy was advanced by a number of authors from the late s to the early s, although there has been relatively little discussion of it since. One candidate property for such a state is reliability.

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Part of what is problematic about lucky guesses is precisely that they are so lucky: such guesses are formed in a way such that it is unlikely that they should turn out true. According to a certain form of knowledge reliabilism, it is unreliability, not lack of justification, which prevents such beliefs from amounting to knowledge. Reliabilist theories of knowledge incorporate this idea into a reliability condition on knowledge. Simple K-Reliabilism replaces the justification clause in the traditional tripartite theory with a reliability clause. As we have seen, reliabilists about justification think that justification for a belief consists in a genesis in a reliable cognitive process.

However, the present proposal is silent on justification. Goldman is the seminal defense of reliabilism about justification; reliabilism is extended to knowledge in Goldman See Goldman for a survey of reliabilism in general. In the following passage, Fred Dretske articulates how an approach like K-reliabilism might be motivated:. Who needs it, and why? If an animal inherits a perfectly reliable belief-generating mechanism, and it also inherits a disposition, everything being equal, to act on the basis of the beliefs so generated, what additional benefits are conferred by a justification that the beliefs are being produced in some reliable way?

If there are no additional benefits, what good is this justification? Why should we insist that no one can have knowledge without it? Dretske According to Dretske, reliable cognitive processes convey information, and thus endow not only humans, but nonhuman animals as well, with knowledge. He writes:. I wanted a characterization that would at least allow for the possibility that animals a frog, rat, ape, or my dog could know things without my having to suppose them capable of the more sophisticated intellectual operations involved in traditional analyses of knowledge.

It does seem odd to think of frogs, rats, or dogs as having justified or unjustified beliefs. So if, with Dretske, we want an account of knowledge that includes animals among the knowing subjects, we might want to abandon the traditional JTB account in favor of something like K-reliabilism. Another move in a similar spirit to K-Reliabilism replaces the justification clause in the JTB theory with a condition requiring a causal connection between the belief and the fact believed; [ 24 ] this is the approach of Goldman , Instead, consider a simplified causal theory of knowledge, which illustrates the main motivation behind causal theories.

Although some proponents have suggested they do—see e. Consider again the case of the barn facades. This belief is formed by perceptual processes, which are by-and-large reliable: only rarely do they lead him into false beliefs.

So it looks like the case meets the conditions of Simple K-Reliabilism just as much as it does those of the JTB theory. It is also a counterexample to the causal theory, since the real barn Henry perceives is causally responsible for his belief. There is reason to doubt, therefore, that shifting from justification to a condition like reliability will escape the Gettier problem. We have seen already how several of these attempts failed.

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When intuitive counterexamples were proposed to each theory, epistemologists often responded by amending their theories, complicating the existing conditions or adding new ones. Much of this dialectic is chronicled thoroughly by Shope , to which the interested reader is directed. After some decades of such iterations, some epistemologists began to doubt that progress was being made. She offered what was in effect a recipe for constructing Gettier cases:. Zagzebski suggests that the resultant case will always represent an intuitive lack of knowledge.

So any non-redundant addition to the JTB theory will leave the Gettier problem unsolved. Zagzebski invites us to imagine that Mary has very good eyesight—good enough for her cognitive faculties typically to yield knowledge that her husband is sitting in the living room. Such faculties, even when working properly in suitable environments, however, are not infallible—if they were, the condition would not be independent from truth—so we can imagine a case in which they go wrong.

This belief, since false, is certainly not knowledge. Since the recipe is a general one, it appears to be applicable to any condition one might add to the JTB theory, so long as it does not itself entail truth. Although it would represent a significant departure from much analytic epistemology of the late twentieth century, it is not clear that this is ultimately a particularly radical suggestion.

Few concepts of interest have proved susceptible to traditional analysis Fodor If it does, then it will of course be impossible to start with a case that has justified false belief. This kind of approach is not at all mainstream, but it does have its defenders—see e. Sutton and Littlejohn defend factive approaches to justification on other grounds.

Indeed, we have already seen some such attempts, albeit unsuccessful ones. For instance, the causal theory of knowledge includes a clause requiring that the belief that p be caused by the fact that p. One family of strategies along these lines would build into an analysis of knowledge a prohibition on epistemic luck directly; let us consider this sort of move in more detail.


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Zagzebski herself outlines this option in her p. Unger gives an early analysis of this kind. For example:. Rather than composing knowledge from various independent components, this analysis demands instead that the epistemic states are related to one another in substantive ways. The anti-luck condition, like the safety condition of the previous section, is vague as stated. For one thing, whether a belief is true by luck comes in degrees—just how much luck does it take to be inconsistent with knowledge?

Furthermore, it seems, independently of questions about degrees of luck, we must distinguish between different kinds of luck. Not all epistemic luck is incompatible with having knowledge. Suppose someone enters a raffle and wins an encyclopedia, then reads various of its entries, correcting many of their previous misapprehensions. There is a straightforward sense in which the resultant beliefs are true only by luck—for our subject was very lucky to have won that raffle—but this is not the sort of luck, intuitively, that interferes with the possession of knowledge.

But unless we are to capitulate to radical skepticism, it seems that this sort of luck, too, ought to be considered compatible with knowledge. Like the safety condition, then, a luck condition ends up being difficult to apply in some cases. We might try to clarify the luck condition as involving a distinctive notion of epistemic luck—but unless we were able to explicate that notion—in effect, to distinguish between the two kinds of luck mentioned above—without recourse to knowledge, it is not clear that the ensuing analysis of knowledge could be both informative and noncircular.

As our discussion so far makes clear, one standard way of evaluating attempted analyses of knowledge has given a central role to testing it against intuitions against cases. Some of the more recent attempts to analyse knowledge have been motivated in part by broader considerations about the role of knowledge, or of discourse about knowledge. One important view of this sort is that defended by Edward Craig In particular, Craig suggested that the point of using the category of knowledge was for people to flag reliable informants—to help people know whom to trust in matters epistemic.

Craig defends an account of knowledge that is designed to fill this role, even though it is susceptible to intuitive counterexamples. The plausibility of such accounts, with a less intuitive extension but with a different kind of theoretical justification, is a matter of controversy. Another view worth mentioning in this context is that of Hilary Kornblith , which has it that knowledge is a natural kind, to be analysed the same way other scientific kinds are.

Intuition has a role to play in identifying paradigms, but generalizing from there is an empirical, scientific matter, and intuitive counterexamples are to be expected. The virtue-theoretic approach to knowledge is in some respects similar to the safety and anti-luck approaches. Indeed, Ernest Sosa, one of the most prominent authors of the virtue-theoretic approach, developed it from his previous work on safety.

The virtue approach treats knowledge as a particularly successful or valuable form of belief, and explicates what it is to be knowledge in such terms. Sosa has often e. The kind of success at issue in 1 , Sosa calls accuracy. The kind of skill discussed in 2 , Sosa calls adroitness. A shot is adroit if it is produced skillfully.

In addition to accuracy and adroitness, Sosa suggests that there is another respect in which a shot may be evaluated, relating the two. This, Sosa calls aptness. A shot is apt if it is accurate because adroit. Aptness entails, but requires more than, the conjunction of accuracy and adroitness, for a shot might be both successful and skillful without being apt.