Knowledge is a problematic stone-age concept, but are we better off without it?

Philisopher David Papineau argues in a recent Aeon Essay that the idea of knowledge as rigorously justified true belief is “a crude concept we have inherited from our prehistoric ancestors, and it positively handicaps us in our dealings with the modern world.”

Now it is true that the unspecified level of rigorous justification needed to qualify a claim of knowledge makes the concept ambiguous (or at least context-dependent), but the fact that it is an ambiguous refinement of unqualified true belief does not alter the fact that it is indeed a refinement (and so at least less “crude” than it might have been). And not being perfect does not render it useless.

Certainly further refinement might be useful, but the attempt to refine “true” and “belief” in terms of probability founders, at least for now, on the rock that there is no widely shared correct understanding of what it means. The bizarre and unrealistic example proposed by Papineau to motivate his discussion of probability in the law unfortunately just adds to the confusion – both by its confused analysis of probability and by adding a particularly fraught context (namely common law) for the discussion of what it means to “know” something.

I’d be all for refinement if it can be done properly, but until then I still find it useful to know whether or not my opponent really “knows” or just suspects that I have a winning card in my hand.

Source: Knowledge is a stone-age concept, we’re better off without it | Aeon Essays

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