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Friday, January 09, 2009


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I tend to think that the concept of knowledge is an absolute concept, similar in this respect to the concept of flat. It's only "in thought" that we encounter such things; in the world of experience, things only approximate, more or less, to the "ideal". I haven't yet read Butchvarov's book, so I'm not sure if he considers this view, and perhaps even rejects it.

Hi Bill,

I hope you're new year's off to a good start.

I like the idea that knowledge that p, in the strict sense, entails infallibility with respect to p. And I agree with you that we often use the term "knowledge" in a loose or non-strict sense. I'm not sure about your concluding paragraph, however.

You say: "If this is right, then there is only one legitimate epistemic sense of 'know,' the stringent sense as impossibility of mistake, and no weak epistemic sense." (my emphasis)

I don't think that follows. The thesis that knowledge in the sense entails infallibility does not automatically delegitimize non-strict senses of knowledge, such as mere JTB. While the latter does not qualify as knowledge without qualification, it is nevertheless an epistemically significant concept, one that bears genuine affinity with knowledge in the strict sense.

Knowledge, I'm inclined to think, is an analogical concept. Paradigm or idealized cases correspond to knowledge in the strict sense. But there are less-than-ideal cases that depart by degrees from the paradigm along various dimensions. These cases aren't instances of knowledge without qualification, but they are relevantly knowledge-like, such that looser uses of the term "knowledge" may be contextually appropriate.


When we speak of exaggeration we usually have in mind some quality, be it beauty, intelligence, etc, which has a natural scale along which comparisons of less than and greater than can be made. To exaggerate is to assert a greater beauty, say, than one believes. You and Butchvarov speak as if knowledge were some maximal point at the end of such a scale. My question is: If a loose knowledge claim is an exaggeration, what is it an exaggeration of?

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