When Is True Belief Knowledge?

When Is True Belief Knowledge?

When Is True Belief Knowledge?

When Is True Belief Knowledge?

Synopsis


A woman glances at a broken clock and comes to believe it is a quarter past seven. Yet, despite the broken clock, it really does happen to be a quarter past seven. Her belief is true, but it isn't knowledge. This is a classic illustration of a central problem in epistemology: determining what knowledge requires in addition to true belief.


In this provocative book, Richard Foley finds a new solution to the problem in the observation that whenever someone has a true belief but not knowledge, there is some significant aspect of the situation about which she lacks true beliefs--something important that she doesn't quite "get." This may seem a modest point but, as Foley shows, it has the potential to reorient the theory of knowledge. Whether a true belief counts as knowledge depends on the importance of the information one does or doesn't have. This means that questions of knowledge cannot be separated from questions about human concerns and values. It also means that, contrary to what is often thought, there is no privileged way of coming to know. Knowledge is a mutt. Proper pedigree is not required. What matters is that one doesn't lack important nearby information.


Challenging some of the central assumptions of contemporary epistemology, this is an original and important account of knowledge.

Excerpt

Someone glances at a clock that is not working and comes to believe it is quarter past seven. It in fact is quarter past seven. Her belief is true, but it isn’t knowledge. Out of this classic example comes a classic philosophical question: what must be added to a true belief in order to make it into a plausible candidate for knowledge?

The answer is to be found in the observation that whenever someone has a true belief but does not know, there is important information she lacks. Seemingly a modest point, but it has the capacity to reorient the theory of knowledge.

For this observation to be philosophically useful, information needs to be understood independently of knowledge. the everyday notions of knowledge and information are intertwined, but every philosophical account has to start somewhere, helping itself to assumptions that can be revisited if they lead to difficulties. I begin by assuming that having information is a matter of having true beliefs.

Substituting true belief for information, the core observation becomes that when someone has a true belief . . .

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