UQx META101x Knowledge and belief

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It’s not enough just to have opinions. It doesn’t matter – people sometimes say, “but I really feel it.” Well, tough. That doesn’t make it knowledge. You’ve got a philosophical
theory here, a longstanding one, which starts to tell us why that isn’t enough. MACINTOSH
Sometimes then, we substitute for that a claim about belief, and we can say, “Well, I used
to believe it.” We don’t say, “I used to know it.” “I used to believe it.”
And this has led some people to think—almost all philosophers actually—that knowing is
a kind of jumped-up kind of belief, right? It’s belief with an extra bit of mojo or
something going with it. GIRLE
Knowledge, on the one side, is very objective. Belief is very subjective. Knowledge is something
that can be shown to be false. If someone says, “I know something,” then you can show
that they didn’t know it. If what they said turns out to be false, they didn’t really
know it. The second thing about knowledge is that when someone says they know something,
they’re giving a kind of promise: “I give you my promise that this is true.” Now with
belief, it’s quite different. NORMORE
I think we probably can attain knowledge. I’m less clear that we can know that we have.
That raises a very interesting question about whether you have to know that you have knowledge
in order to genuinely have it. My own view is, yes, we probably can attain knowledge
but perhaps wouldn’t know it if we saw it because knowledge would be, in some sense,
unshakable true belief and we wouldn’t know in advance whether or not it could be
shaken. You start off with something that you’re relatively
confident of, and someone will raise the question whether or not you’re justified in that confidence.
You seek then some deeper account from which you could explain why you’re justified. You
rest until someone raises a worry about that. That seems like a coherent way to proceed. But if you thought, now look, knowledge itself
is made up of the justification; the justification enters into the account of what it is for
you to know, then you might think that if the justification itself rests on something
that’s not itself known, then you don’t really have knowledge in the first place. If the
regress goes on forever, you might worry whether or not any of that regress is knowledge. I
think that’s what, for example, you find in the “Theaetetus” and what Aristotle’s
worried about in the “Posterior Analytics.” I can’t claim that I know something and claim
that I’m doubting it coherently at the same time. That’s because doubt is a condition
in which I haven’t settled a question. In order to know something, I must settle the
question so that where questions remain to be settled, that’s where you find doubt. Now
philosophers are trying to understand which questions remain to be settled and why they
do, so they’re very much interested in the appropriate conditions for doubt, which of
course are also the negative side, if you like, of the appropriate conditions for knowing. GIRLE
Doubt is absolutely important with knowledge because if you don’t think the person knows,
then you have a target. The target is you just show that what they said they knew is
false and they don’t know. It’s as quick as that. So doubt is very important in knowledge.
The philosophers of science will say that in science doubt has a special place because
any theory is always open to being doubted and tested. There is nothing absolutely fixed
in science. But with belief, it’s quite different. You
can say you doubt a person’s belief. They might just continue believing because they
have this fixed idea. You might then say, “Well, your reasons are no good.” They might
still say, “But I believe it. I still believe it,” so belief is less vulnerable when you
come to doubt. ROWLAND
Doubt is everything. Doubt stops you making claims that are too big. There’s a responsibility to yourself. There’s
a responsibility to the scientific community, and there’s also a responsibility to the
people who are funding you and the people who are going to use the data that you produce.
So doubt, absolutely key. You’re always questioning yourself. One of the big issues with the processes of
science is doubt, as we’ve been discussing. People inherently don’t like doubt. Scientists
are adventurous. They spend a lot of time going, “What if? I wonder what happens if
I do this? What if turn on this switch that I’ve already got an electric shock from?
What if I do it again,” because you want to test it. You want to see if it happens
twice. You actually enjoy that sense of adventure and mystery. You enjoy the sense that there’s
something bigger than you and that—it’s you stepping in to the unknown everyday really, but it’s not a comfortable place for a lot of people.


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