Friday, August 26, 2016

Counterexamples to JTB Definition of Knowledge

X believes that p if and only (1) X believes that p, (2) p is true, and (3) x is justified in believing that p.

Counterexample to (1): someone who knows that p but doesn't believe it.

  • Blind person who says the sky is blue--it's true and they have justification, but they don't believe it (because they don't fully have the concept of blueness).  Nevertheless they do know it.
  • Someone has evidence of evolution, and evolution is real, but the person doesn't believe in evolution for religious reasons. Nevertheless they know that evolution occurred.
  • Someone's relative was convicted of a crime. It's true they were convicted and the person has justification for believing it, but they don't believe it, because it's too painful.  Nevertheless, they do know it.
Counterexample to (2): someone who knows that p, where p is not true.
  • Child believes that Santa Claus exists and they're justified in believing it, but it isn't true. Nevertheless, they do know that Santa Claus exists.
Counterexample to (3): someone who knows that p, but lacks justification.
  • Person believes someone is from Missouri based on a fake ID.  They are in fact from Missouri. Despite the lack of justification, they know the person is from Missouri.
  • Person believes the earth is flat.  Despite lack of justification, they could know it.

Are any of these successful counterexamples?

What have we learned through the search for counterexamples?

  • It's very hard to think of any good ones.  In each case, it's questionable that the person really does know that p, despite lacking belief, truth, or justification.  
  • But it might be possible to challenge this definition.  We'll come back to this next week.
  • For now, we'll assume knowledge is justified true belief.  
  • Next question: what can we know?

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