Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[PHI 3000] No knowledge for the lazy?

Today we discussed the "sheep in the meadow" case. Some of my students judged that S does not know that there's a sheep in the meadow. Their reasoning went something like this:
S sees a rock that, to S, looks like a sheep from a distance. S is not justified in believing that there's a sheep in the meadow because S hasn't done enough to be justified in so believing. After all, S sees the rock that looks like a sheep from a distance. So there is a lot more that S can do in order to be justified in believing that there's a sheep in the meadow. For instance, S can get closer to the rock that looks like a sheep. S can ask other onlookers: "Does that look like a sheep to you?" As long as S relies solely on what S sees from a distance and does not do more to corroborate the belief that there's a sheep in the meadow, S is not justified in believing that there's a sheep in the meadow.
If this is correct, and so S's belief that there's a sheep in the meadow is not justified, then the "sheep in the meadow" case is not a successful counterexample against the Justified True Belief (JTB) analysis of knowledge. That is:
  1. The "sheep in the meadow" case refutes the JTB analysis of knowledge only if S is justified in believing that there's a sheep in the meadow.
  2. S is not justified in believing that there's a sheep in the meadow.
  3. Therefore, it is not the case that the "sheep in the meadow" case refutes the JTB analysis of knowledge.
What do you make of this argument? Is it sound? 

3 comments:

  1. Since the first premise relies on the truth on the 2nd premise to determine the conclusion, this makes the argument valid deductive. The “sheep in the meadow” introduces whether a sheep is seen in a distance instead of a rock. You do not have full evidence that it does have a sheep behind the rock and cannot believe it could be true if you do not know. The argument is sound due to the fact that if you confused a rock with a sheep, it does not guarantee knowledge. It is merely an assumption.

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  2. Paul Gallagher PHI 3000CMarch 12, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    Since S is not able to determine fully or even believe that there is a sheep in the meadow S cannot possibly be justified in his or her reasoning. The "sheep in the meadow" case has to be broken down further to make sense. If S uses only his or her intuition to determine if there is a sheep in the meadow they cannot possibly be justified. Even if they ask someone else to look for the sheep, how can they be sure that the other person was telling the truth? I believe that it is not the case that the "sheep in the meadow" is able to refute the idea of JTB. We cannot gain knowledge on the idea of the sheep in the meadow, but can only try to formulate a belief based on what we can observe.

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  3. Applying JTB to this case, the sheep is in the meadow because S believes it to be and that S has a justification for it to be there i.e by sight.

    The sheep example was used as a counterexample to prove that JTB does not work for this case because no matter how hard S believes that he saw a sheep, the sheep simply isn't there. So how can p be true even if the 2 conditions (S believes it and he is justified) are met?

    The argument that is made is that the JTB is not true only if S is justified, which is the real issue here. How can one determine how something is or is not justified?
    I feel that it is difficult to determine if something is justified or not because evidence to know if it is a sheep or not varies from person to person. A blind man using his touch might think that the sheep is a goat because he's only touching the leg.

    Therefore if it is the way that it was discussed in class, that justification comes from getting more evidence, in the form of going closer to the sheep and touching it to see if it is actually what it is, then yes the argument is sound because S was not fully justified in saying that it was a sheep. In this manner of arguing, the argument is sound in saying the sheep case refutes JTB.

    However if we define justification as just one man seeing what he thinks he is seeing then no the argument is unsound. But I think for the most part the argument is sound because one would know that the sheep was just a rock from a closer look.

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