Tuesday, July 9, 2013

[PHI 3000] What the #$*! Do We Know!?

Fred Dretske argues that the lesson we should learn from the Gettier Problem is that knowledge requires conclusive reasons. More precisely, according to Dretske, S knows that p if and only if
  • p is true
  • S believes that p
  • S has conclusive justification for believing that p
Conclusive justification is the sort of justification S can have only for true propositions, not false propositions. In other words, if S is justified in believing that p, then S cannot be wrong about p.

What do you think about Dretske's proposal? Does it set the bar for knowledge too high? What beliefs, if any, are conclusively justified? If it does set the bar too high, is that a problem?


  1. I think that Dretske's proposal is reasonable. It does not set the bar too high for knowledge. In my opinion, beliefs that are conclusively justified are the ones in which the beliefs have been tested in anyway possible and then using common sense, judging whether the belief is justified or not from the results. Because if we were to not justify believes, then there is a possibility that one might hold a wrong belief or worse yet believe that they possess that p when they do not.

  2. I do think that that Dretske's proposal does set the bar a bit too high for knowledge. He does make valid points considering that since s believes that p is true and p in fact is true, then s has conclusive justification for believing that p is true. CJ allows each condition for knowledge to be met without failing to satisfy the instance of knowledge. CJ reinstates an already true proposition based on p being true. However, CJ does set a problem in order in order for S to justify that p is true due to the fact that CJ can rarely can be theoretically be proven. For the most part, there are rarely any guarantees for a situation meaning that if p is conclusively justified, then p will always have to be exact, none changing, solid, and forever the same. This is usually a hard thing to prove since everything is always changing. This will have s in trouble since s needs to prove p (if CJ) with reasoning and even solid evidence. The only beliefs that I can think of that are conclusively justified are beliefs where the end result will be the same regardless. Hypothetically, if any human ever tries to go into the sun, then that human will in fact die. P is true since the human body (based on what we know) cannot take the amount heat, radiation, gases, etc... coming out of the sun. I believe that P is true and my conclusive reasoning for P being true is that the sun does harm our bodies even from afar, and will harm our bodies, killing us eventually if we go too close to it. This is conclusive justification due to P being always true and never changing.

  3. Dreske's proposal sounds simple and straightforward; however, when it comes to applying this in real life situations it isn't quite easy. For example, I believe in God. I have only fulfilled one of Dreske's conditions, "S believes that p". However, God's existence cannot be proved and I don't have conclusive justification for believing in God. Therefore, I don't have knowledge that God is real. I also cannot "track the truth" because I have no evidence of God's existence. Gettier requires evidence and reasons in order for any beliefs to be classified as knowledge. I believe this shows that the bar for knowledge has been set too high for any beliefs to pass the test.
    I think it's a problem that the bar for knowledge is set too high because it leaves very little room for anything to be counted as knowledge.

  4. I don’t see how Dretske’s proposal is solving the Gettier Problem. Dretske’s approach is to eliminate faulty conditions that rely on coincidence, however, it doesn’t tackle the true problem. Propositions regardless of justification are always originated from the interpreter, therefore they will always fall to the Gettier Problem. What we know only depends on our senses and experiences. One should not consider this accumulation of experiences in the same realm as definite knowledge.

    I find this problem to closely relate to a couple of other philosophy topics: Theory of Forms, Hermetic Law of Polarity, and The Republics verse “The philosopher king knows he knows nothing.”

    To view my analyzation of the Gettier Problem: http://autobatista1001.blogspot.com/2014/10/gettier-problem.html

    1. Hi Jairo,

      Thanks for linking to your blog. I am interested in learning more about the connection you see between the Gettier problem and Socratic ignorance.

  5. I think that Dretske’s proposal is actually quite reasonable. It requires that the only way knowledge can be attainable is through conclusive justification, meaning that conclusions are derived directly from true premises. In no way can we have knowledge if we surmise something to be true by basing this statement off of something that is false or unknown to be true. I do not think the bar is set too high for knowledge from conclusive justification as it is narrowing arguments away from induction, or the conclusion of facts from premises that are based on probability, and focusing efforts on deduction, or arguments based on the idea of cold, hard truths. One can only agree in the belief that when you argue definite statements against probable ones, the definite statements are the ones that win over the agreement of any logical person. An example of a belief that is conclusively justified is the state of one’s self existence or being. It is true that I am. I believe that I am. Therefore, I have conclusive justification for believing that I am. From this argument, one must agree that conclusive justification is not setting the bar to high.

  6. I think that Dretske’s proposal is reasonable, but not practical. In saying this while the three stipulations he lists for knowledge are reasonable, they cannot be easily applied to real life and are therefore not practical. For example, religious beliefs such as the belief in God or a supreme being would not be classified as knowledge according to Dretske’s. Although belief in God can be true to someone (relative truth), and the person believes in that God (S believes in P), there is no “conclusive” evidence that supports this belief in God. But does that mean this person’s knowing of their particular religion is not actually knowledge? No, for they obviously know about their religion, hence the reason they are practicing it. For this reason, I do not believe any beliefs are conclusively justified, because there is always another end to the argument. Dretske definitely sets the bar too high for knowledge but that is not necessarily a bad thing; it just isn’t practical.


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