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Thursday, June 27, 2013


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This is helpful Bill. I give you last word on the first two points below if you have anything to say. I thought I might try again. But I think ultimately it may be most useful to figure out why my representation in the third point is off.

Three things:

First, maybe I should have spoken of intrinsic characteristics (which may be no less problematic) of water and knowing instead of possible world essentiality. It doesn't seem to me that water is intrinsically drinkable, since drinkability is relative to other beings. Water is intrinsically (presumably) H2O, drinkable or not. Similarly, knowledge is not instrinsically action guiding in the sense that if we look at what kind of state it is it is a state of grasping the truth of an object in an appropriate way and has nothing to do intrinsically with using what is grasped for further aims.

Second, I maintain that in a minimal but real sense all knowledge is action guiding. Judging, saying, writing, signing are all actions. Any knowledge should guide me in not judging, saying, writing, or signing the opposite. Or, any time I know that p I am guided to not represent -p. If I know that nothing is both peeled and not peeled, then I will refrain from acting in such a way that I represent that as so. Is this cheating? Maybe it is ad hoc, but it may invite us to specify exactly what we mean by action-guidance, but there is real constraint on action here. I of course concede that not all knowledge will help me get married, build a house, or make cupcakes, and so I guess I concede your point that not all knowledge is practically useful in this world excepting its restraint on what I might represent to be so.

Third, I can't follow the modal argument completely, but trust that it works.

It looked like it might work out in predicate logic. K=knowing, B=believing, A=action guiding.

1 (x)(Kx→-Ax) (4)
2 (x)(Bx→Ax) (5)
3 Ky→-Ay from 1
4 By→Ay from 2
5 -Ay→-By from 4
6 Ky→-By from 3 and 5
7 (x)(Kx→-Bx) or not one state is both a knowing and a believing.

Again, I think I see your point that something about the modal situation makes this fail. Am I misrepresenting (4) and (5) above? If I get your point what I really need is a characteristic that knowledge has that excludes belief, not a characteristic that belief has that excludes knowledge. Would that be a fair representation of what I need? Or is it just justifying (4) or (5) that is necessary?

Thanks, Daniel. I will try to respond later in the day. But now a hike while it is still somewhat cool.

>>Second, I maintain that in a minimal but real sense all knowledge is action guiding. Judging, saying, writing, signing are all actions. Any knowledge should guide me in not judging, saying, writing, or signing the opposite.<<

If you use 'action' this broadly, then you are clearly right. This is why I spoke of nonlinguistic behavior.

You deny that knowledge entails belief. What is your main reason for this denial?

I think the best course for the defender of the traditional definition of knowledge which includes (1) is to either reject (2) outright because of the counterexamples Bill cites or else revise (2) in two ways: first, the class of actions should include linguistic behavior (contra Bill's restriction); and (2) state that belief is essentially tied to dispositions to act suitably.

Though I hesitate to question its pedigree, I wonder about (1). Knowledge seems to entail belief. But what about cases in which one apparently has knowledge with no corresponding belief or behavior? For example, the sick person who knows he is sick but refuses to believe or act upon it; the compulsive gambler who knows his habit is harmful but does not really believe he is at risk; or the aging athlete who knows he can no longer compete but will not believe or act upon what he knows. Dallas Willard said somewhere that a person has knowledge when he can represent a thing as it really is based on sufficient thought and experience (paraphrase). This account holds knowledge as “justified true representation” rather than “justified true belief”, which seems to enable a conceptual separation of knowledge and belief, thereby helping to make sense of the cases above.

In these examples, the person apparently knows how reality bears on his situation but does not adopt beliefs that conform to reality. With this in mind, belief seems to be the adoption of and will to act upon justified true representation (knowledge), or the subjective adoption of and will to apply objective knowledge content. Or perhaps the person in the above cases doesn’t have genuine knowledge after all. Maybe genuine knowledge includes understanding, wisdom, and some degree of will-enabled belief. But then we would need definitions of understanding and wisdom, and a good grasp of how mind and will cooperate. Not easy tasks!

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