[lit-ideas] knowledge and belief briefly

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2013 15:05:50 -0800

(1) If I believe something, I do not know it.

This seems clear enough; for one thing, belief is ‘fallible,’ and knowledge
is not. If one ‘knows’ something and then finds evidence that one really
didn’t, I think it would be correct to say that one really never knew it.
(Here it might be appropriate to say one never really knew it.

(1) One view of belief is that doesn’t make it all the way up to knowledge;
that it is knowledge’s poor stepchild. What one believes is always
corrigible. A belief can be

given up on the appearance of new evidence. The believer may yield
grudgingly, but the believer must give up her belief if e.g. it turns out
that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way about—refusing
to listen is no argument.

(a)  One view of knowledge is that it’s belief, plus an ‘account,’ a *logos*.
First the belief, then the account (‘story’) which moves the account all
the way to knowledge.

Without the help of the *logos* it *remains* belief. (Knowledge isn’t
belief in its old age.)

(b) If one believes something—believes some bit of what’s called
propositional knowledge—then, even though one believes it, one must (or
should) be willing to ‘give up’ one’s belief in the face of new ‘evidence.’

I’ll try to keep this short. Knowledge and belief are different ‘mental
states’ (epistemic states). If one knows something, what one knows is the
case (is true?).

When one believes something , what one believes may or may not be the case,
and the believer, if she admits that she ’merely’ believes, and isn’t sure
that things really are as she believes them to be, should be prepared to
admit her belief was mistaken.

Now, it’s proposed that if one knows, one must also believe; that is, if
one says one knows, it would be logically absurd for to deny that she also
believed it. In other words, the belief is right there with the knowledge.

‘Do you know P?’


‘Then you must also believe that P.’

‘No—when I believe, I’m prepared to give up my belief.’

So an epistemic state in which I’m prepared to give up my belief is part of
(never mind how) the epistemic state in which what

I know is the way things are. And, if my belief in this case carries no
logical commitment to things being as they are, it cannot be ‘part’ of my
knowledge, and so has no place in it.

Robert Paul

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