Knowledge is Belief that Works

If knowledge is not justified true belief, is it justified true belief that meets also some further condition?

Justified true belief is a claim about what knowledge is. The idea is that knowledge is an intersection of three things: a person with a belief, a belief that is true, and a justifiable reason for the belief. For instance, I can say that my cat Jack is in the living room. I believe that Jack is in the living room, he is actually in the living room, and I believe that because I just saw him there a moment ago.

There are various problems with this definition. A person could have a belief, that belief could be true, and they could have a reason for believing it, and yet the reason may be false, even if it may appear to justify it. Do they then not have knowledge? Many people would say that they do not. Others claim that they do.

There are two common approaches to trying to solve this problem. One is to add a fourth thing to the three parts that knowledge has been reduced down to. Something like justified true belief plus true-justification. Another option is to simply increase how much justification is necessary. This can work to a certain extent, but I think they continue along an erroneous path.

There are different levels of resolution from which we can view problems. From this level I think it's useful to compare this train of thought with the process of science. In science a hypothesis is proposed. It's a conjecture, a guess. A test is made. The test can potentially show that the hypothesis is wrong. If the test doesn't show the hypothesis to be wrong, it's verified; it's true.

And yet, this idea of verificationism will lead to greater errors in the future. The hypothesis must be accepted not as verified, but as verified for now, and still open to question and doubt in the future when another test with potentially more sensitivity is devised. Thus, rather than being verified as true, the hypothesis has been not-falsified, and may be treated as true for now.

What we know has a context, and part of that context is what is trying to be achieved. More or less accuracy, more or less justification is necessary in different circumstances. The level of knowledge that we need about a thing is different when we are trying to act it out, or if we are representing it in images, or if we are representing it in words.

Propositional knowledge in itself is stagnant, but it exists because it is used for something. And if it works, then it was true enough for the given situation. If it does not, then it was inadequate for the situation.

Knowledge could then be considered belief that works, or belief that is useable in a given context, or belief that is justified enough to be acted upon as true.

For more information along the lines that I've discussed here see Endel Tulving and Jerome Bruner on levels of knowledge, Karl Popper on falsificationism, James Gibson on affordances, and Charles Sanders Peirce on pragmatism and pragmaticism.



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