[lit-ideas] fallibility

  • From: palma@xxxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2007 09:29:57 -0500 (EST)

This being very long and boring, I simply decided to take up the challenge
by M. McEvoy. (see the final paragraph)

Consider the following state of affairs
[BOX]APG PALMA [that is me] knows that there is an infinity of

Note: the issue is not trivial, it does not depend on the definition of
"prime", it does not depend on what distinctions are "drawn" by catholic
theologians or M. McEvoy. There are countless facts (very similar in
nature to this --the position of the zeros in the R[iemann] zeta function,
Goldbach's thrm, etc.-) that I do not know.
Now M. McEvoy, would you tell me what is the fallibility condition of
the embedded clause in the [BOXED] sentence?

avoid, if you please, any doctrinal quotation from Popper and his clique
(Lakatos et alia) since it would make this an exegetical point.
I would be grateful if you give me the fallibility condition, e.g. under
what condition the set of primes would be a finite set.

Thank you

On Sat, 1 Dec 2007, Donal McEvoy wrote:

> More comment on Robert Paul's post.
> --- Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > If this means that people often use the word 'know,' and 'knowledge,' in
> > various ways, ways which do not depend on any very strict conception of
> > what it is to know something, this is certainly true.
> Yet....
> > But the very idea of knowing is that it is opposed to something, namely,
> > believing, hoping, guessing, surmising, wondering, predicting, and so
> > on.
> This is quite a leap. What has been accepted is that "knowing" _may be_
> defined so that 'to know x' entails 'x is true' and, conversely, if 'x' is
> false then no one can 'know x'. _Given this definition_ 'knowing' is
> "opposed" to any epistemic state which does not entail the truth of 'x' e.g.
> 'I guess x' 'I believe x', 'I predict x' etc.
> What this means, however, is not that the "very idea of knowing..is opposed"
> to guessing etc. [an essentialist claim as to the essential character of
> knowledge] but that a _particular_ idea or definition of 'knowing' opposes
> this epistemic state to any state where it is not necessary that 'x is true'.
> This does not amount to an argument in favour of that _particular_
> definition; rather it is merely an assertion of that definition. It is an
> assertion that mistakenly treats this _particular_ definition as if it is the
> only possible one, as if this definition is part of the "very idea of
> knowing" - and makes this assertion despite conceding that ordinary usage
> does not uniformly adhere to such a stipulation.
> >To say that someone knows something is to mark a distinction, a
> > distinction that's been around at least since Plato struggled with it in
> > Meno and Theatetus.
> But equally couldn't we insist that 'believe' must mark a distinction - must
> be opposed to mere 'guessing'; and 'guessing' must mark a distinction - must
> be opposed to 'predicting'. And so on. This is a poor argument because it is
> possible that whatever distinctions might be drawn [here e.g. we might
> 'guess' what happened in the past, but we do not 'predict' it; we might
> 'guess' that perhaps such-and-such happened but not 'believe' it] there is
> overlap. In fact, if all knowledge is guesswork - the view I am defending -it
> is pointless to oppose 'knowing' and 'guessing'.
> We should not tie the issue of whether 'x is true' to the concept of
> 'knowing' but take this issue as falling to be decided according to the
> concept of 'truth'. Conversely, we should accept that we can 'know' what is
> false - 'know' in the sense of believe it.
> >The conception of knowledge that underlies S also
> > underlies Aquinas' struggle with the problem of God's knowledge of
> > future contingents. If God knows everything, then what he knows must be
> > true, and if true, for any statement about some future condition you
> > care to mention, thus fated. If God knew everything right from the
> > start, he also knew that 'Adam will eat that damned apple,' was true.
> > The very fact of his knowing it makes it unavoidable.
> At best this shows there are some philosophers who define 'knowing' so that
> 'to know "x"' entails that "x" is true. It does not show this is the only or
> best definition.
> > I mention Plato and Aquinas as examples of philosophers who want to
> > distinguish knowing from something else and, in Aquinas' case, to get
> > around somehow the standard conception of knowing, which is encapsulated
> > in S. The standard conception is not exhausted by S: S simply sets forth
> > a necessary condition for knowing.
> Ditto.
> > S is independent of whether knowledge is justified true belief; it
> > avoids disputes about Edmund Gettier, Eastern mystics, Bertrand Russell,
> > G. E. Moore?that whole crowd.
> I am not so sure about this, particularly as a matter of the history of
> ideas. But it is a side issue to the issue of whether S is an unavoidable
> condition for any conception of knowledge.
> >Whatever conception of knowledge one has,
> > it must satisfy S.
> Why? This is just asserted.
> >Just as Tarski's notion that 'P' is true, iff P,
> > leaves it to the truth-seeker to use his or her own favorite way of
> > determining whether P, so S leaves it open as to how 'p' is established.
> The reference to Tarski is beside the point. Tarski is not offering an
> epistemic concept of truth - that is, he is not (as Robert Paul says) trying
> to say what we must 'know' in order for "x" to be true; rather Tarski is
> stating the (almost trivial) conditions that must obtain in reality if "x" is
> to be true - it is true if it corresponds to the facts e.g. "snow is white"
> is true iff. it is in fact the case that snow is white.
> This in no way supports S i.e. the view that 'to know p' means 'p is true'.
> In fact, the latter claim may be seen as offering an 'epistemic' theory of
> truth in that it asserts that there is a particular 'epistemic state' - viz.
> 'knowing' - which is inextricably linked to the truth of what is known.
> Tarski suggests nothing of the sort - and indeed treats truth as an 'ontic'
> and not an 'epistemic' concept: i.e. to say '"x" is true' involves no
> necessary claim as to how x is known, or who knows x (these being epistemic
> issues) but it does necessarily involve claiming the existence of facts that
> correspond to "x" - this 'existence-claim' being an 'ontic'/ontolgical one.
> > Let me repeat myself. Any view of knowledge or knowing which is not in
> > accord with S is a different conception of knowledge or knowing
> > entirely.
> This goes without saying - a conception of "knowledge or knowing" without S
> is "a different conception" to a conception of "knowledge or knowing" with S.
> But this observation is not only trite but it does not advance the "with S"
> view over the "without S" view. It is a non-argument - and it is argument,
> not assertion or trite observation, that is needed here.
> >S is not a mere definition.
> Well, it can be and has been defended as a definition. Anyone who insists
> that to use 'knowing' without the S-condition is to show one does not use the
> term 'properly' etc. is effectively proffering a definitional/'conceptual'
> point.
> >It is at the heart of the
> > distinction philosophers draw between knowing and some other epistemic
> > state.
> _Some_ philosophers, not all. Again so what? What kind of argument is this?
> Should we therefore accept 'transubstansiation' because that concept "is at
> the heart of the distinction" Catholic theologians "draw between" the host as
> the body and blood of Christ and the host as "some other" thing, like a mere
> wafer?
> There is more to be addressed, particularly the doubts Robert Paul expresses
> as to whether 'all knowledge is fallible'. This issue is, I think, crucial to
> the one on the table. Because if there is infallible knowledge then I would
> concede that the S-condition might have some real bite in that we would then
> have some claims where we could say not only do we believe them but they are
> indubitably true, and therefore we can say not only do we believe them true
> but we _know_ they are true. Conversely, if all knowledge is fallible (- and,
> further, if we concede (a) there can be knowledge without a knowing subject,
> or (b)false theories can be a much greater contribution to 'knowledge' than
> some true ones -) the S-condition may be seen as beside the point and merely
> the reflection of a historically prevalent but outdated way of looking at
> 'knowledge' and 'knowing' as a special kind of epistemic state.
> Donal
> Laters
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