Is knowledge justified true belief?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:31 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:if we think that JTB works in most cases (leaving aside Gettier style problems for now) and that LTB would come to a different conclusion in some of those cases, I'm trying to figure out where the difference comes from by looking at the steps I used to get there from JTB.
Well for one thing, you seem to be jumping between someone's prior observations logically implying P, and someone's prior observations merely being consistent with P.

Which is it, precisely, that you mean by "logically conclude"?
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:44 pm UTC

That's true, I did say logically consistent a couple times because I assumed that if a belief was able to be logically concluded from observations it would be consistent with them as well. Which probably wasn't the best choice of words (feel free to correct me if I say anything that contradicts anything I stated in the original proposed definition).

But for now, I still think it's worthwhile to go through the steps to get from JTB -> LTB, with the first one being rewording the "justified" requirement as:
TrlstanC wrote: S can logically conclude p based on observations
Is that equivalent to "justified" or is there a difference?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:10 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:That's true, I did say logically consistent a couple times because I assumed that if a belief was able to be logically concluded from observations it would be consistent with them as well.
Yes, but your phrasing suggested the converse, that if it's consistent with them then it's knowledge. Which isn't the same thing at all.

TrlstanC wrote: S can logically conclude p based on observations
Is that equivalent to "justified" or is there a difference?
First tell us what you mean by logically conclude. Does it mean P is logically implied by those observations, or something else?
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:16 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:That's true, I did say logically consistent a couple times because I assumed that if a belief was able to be logically concluded from observations it would be consistent with them as well.

Sure, but that doesn't work the other way round. Consistency is not enough for conclusions, not by a long run. Logically concluding facts from observations is an extremely high barrier (arguably impossibly high, for formal deductive logic), while facts being logically consistent with observations can be a very low barrier.
But for now, I still think it's worthwhile to go through the steps to get from JTB -> LTB, with the first one being rewording the "justified" requirement as:
TrlstanC wrote: S can logically conclude p based on observations
Is that equivalent to "justified" or is there a difference?

It's a far stronger, if by "logically conclude" you mean something akin to mathematical deduction. For that level of certainty, you have to rule out every explanation of the observations that does not entail p.

Robot dogs, alien dogs, holograms, people in dog suits, hallucinations, distorted memories, an undiscovered rabbit species that looks like a dog. It's not enough to argue that those are implausible, you would have to prove all of them impossible, plus proving that anything you did not yet think of is also impossible.

If that were requried for either knowledge or justification, there would not be much of either in the world.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:34 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:First tell us what you mean by logically conclude. Does it mean P is logically implied by those observations, or something else?

Yes, I was assuming that logically concluded means that "Q can be proven from the premises P" or that "P implies Q." I assumed that this was the definition that people use when they're talking about justification, and I think it will work (but, I guess we'll see). If this usage is the heart of the problem, then we can change it (my goal isn't to try and define every word all at once :) )

Zamfir wrote:It's a far stronger, if by "logically conclude" you mean something akin to mathematical deduction. For that level of certainty, you have to rule out every explanation of the observations that does not entail p.
I'm not trying to logically conclude the observations are true (that may not be possible), but taking the observation as the premises, can we logically conlcude the belief? For example, the observations could be "this is a ball" and "this is red" and the belief is "this is a red ball." I may not be able to logically conlcude that it's a ball (it could be a ball shaped rock) or that it's red (it could be an orange ball on a yellow background), but if we take the observations as the premises, we should be able to agree that they logically imply the conclusion. I believe this is what people mean when they say a belief is "justified." That if we take the observations as givens, then any conlcusions are justified.

If we make that assumption (which I think is implied by "justified") then can we understand the "justified" requirement of JTB to be equivalent to "S can logically conclude p based on observations?" If not, what's a better definition of justified?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:10 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:I believe this is what people mean when they say a belief is "justified." That if we take the observations as givens, then any conlcusions are justified.

There are two problems here. The first is that, while this is true, there are many justified beliefs that are not (deductively) derived from observations. Our constant observations of the law of gravity don't entail that they will still work tomorrow, but everyone except David Hume agrees that we're justified in believing that gravity will continue working.

The second problem is that you're using "observation" in a way that doesn't match its common usage and, more importantly, doesn't appropriately feed into justification. For we would certainly say, in ordinary language, that if something is entailed by our observations, then it is true. But what we would not say, as you do, is that anything that we believe without conscious reason is an observation. A gut instinct telling me that there are no odd perfect numbers, for example, is not an observation in the ordinary sense of the word. Or, worse, if I were to believe that there is such a number, and to draw conclusions from this belief — which is an observation in your sense — I would not be justified in holding those conclusions, since they would be reasoned from an unjustified premise.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:32 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:I believe this is what people mean when they say a belief is "justified." That if we take the observations as givens, then any conclusions are justified.

There are two problems here. The first is that, while this is true, there are many justified beliefs that are not (deductively) derived from observations. Our constant observations of the law of gravity don't entail that they will still work tomorrow, but everyone except David Hume agrees that we're justified in believing that gravity will continue working.

So, are we agreeing that "S can logically conclude p based on observations" is a usable replacement for "S is justified in believing p"? If so, do you think that the JTB definition would say that we know gravity will work tomorrow? And do you think that if we reworded it to "logically conclude" that it would still say we know gravity will work tomorrow? I think that both the JTB and reworded definition would say we do since the rewording is just another way to state the same requirement, if we accept one, we should accept the other. If not, we should figure out why not.


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:The second problem is that you're using "observation" in a way that doesn't match its common usage ... what we would not say, as you do, is that anything that we believe without conscious reason is an observation.
First, I think it would be easier to follow the discussion if we went through the steps to get from JTB -> LTB in order instead of jumping around. However, If I gave the impression that I think that anything we believe without conscious reason is an observation I'm sorry (sometimes I get the impression people would rather assume you have contradictory beliefs than point out that you might've misspoke). The point I was trying to make is that we're not sure exactly what's going on in our brains, and that it would seem to be possible to make an observation unconsciously. Not that everything that happens unconsciously is an observation. Again, I'm not attempting to define every word, I'm using the term observation because it's my understanding that that's part of the common understanding of "justification." I'm perfectly willing to use an definition of observation, as long as it doesn't assume that we have perfect knowledge about how the brain works.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:54 am UTC

TrlstanC wrote:So, are we agreeing that "S can logically conclude p based on observations" is a usable replacement for "S is justified in believing p"?

No, because it excludes all non-deductive inferences.

TrlstanC wrote:If so, do you think that the JTB definition would say that we know gravity will work tomorrow?

Yes.

TrlstanC wrote:And do you think that if we reworded it to "logically conclude" that it would still say we know gravity will work tomorrow?

No, because our belief that gravity will work tomorrow is inductive.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:17 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:So, are we agreeing that "S can logically conclude p based on observations" is a usable replacement for "S is justified in believing p"?

No, because it excludes all non-deductive inferences.

Well, assuming that we define "logically" to mean only deductive logic (which I did, but we don't have to). If we make a list of everything that's available to us using logic and observations it should include: deductions, inferences, sensory information and some assumptions. I include some assumptions in the list because without making any assumptions it's impossible to be able to use our sensory data at all, we have to at least assume that the sensory data relates to something at a bare minimum. But I believe that the way we use the term "observation" we mean more than just bare sensory information e.g., we say "I observed a man running down the street" as opposed to "I observed colored patches in my visual field moving across a two dimensional gray background." I don't want to assume more then necessary about how the mind works, but I think it's fair to say that when we use the term "observe" to say we "saw a man" we are consciously or unconsciously making a lot of assumptions and/or inferences (given certain assumptions we wouldn't need to make any inferences), and that the more complicated an observation we make, the more assumptions or inferences we have to make to be able to use the term. People may claim that they're not making any assumptions or inferences when they make an observation, but I think we can logically show that they have to be using at least some of one or the other i.e., the way we use the term and what people may claim the term means are slightly different.

I was therefore assuming that the term "observations" would cover all of the assumptions needed, or the combination or assumptions and inferences, we needed. So that deductive logic and observations would still get us to the set of (deductions, inferences, sensory data, assumptions) necessary to define our knowledge. Spelling it out like that it's obvious that that's not the clearest way to work with the topics (especially since I think that trying to define "observation" might be more difficult than "knowledge.") So, instead, we can split the inferences out from "observations" and include them explicitly. Although I still think it makes sense to include some bare minimum amount of assumptions to be taken for granted as part of the term "observation" since it would be virtually meaningless without them, and certainly wouldn't line up with our everyday usage without a lot of wrangling.

However, the goal should eventually be to keep the inferences on the correct side of the "true" part of the third requirement, since that's the whole point of this. So, at this point we could then define "S can justify a belief p" as "S can logically conclude p based on observations and inferences." This keeps the "logic" as being purely deductions while explicitly recognizing that inferences can be used as well.

Is that a good working definition of "justified?"

Peeking ahead, that would give us a rewritten definition of knowledge like:
Spoiler:
1. S believes p
2. p is true
3. It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences

Where we take the true to apply to both observations and inferences, and a "true inference" to be the opposite of a false inference i.e., an inference which comes to a true conclusion.

I've also left 3 as "possible to logically conclude" instead of "has logically concluded" since I still think that's the way I use the term "knowledge" and I think that 1. there's a lot of cases where we could agree that's correct (although possibly not all) and in common usage the two are indistinguishable.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:47 am UTC

By "inference," do you mean "inductive inference"?
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:11 pm UTC

@Tristan, is your "logic" part still doing much useful work there? For pretty much any case involving the real world, you've just shifted the problematic parts into the "observation", with the logic as a possibly trivial step at the end.

If I know there's one dog and know there's another dog, then I can use logic to conclude that there are at least two dogs. But the Gettier problem kicks in at knowing there is one dog, which in your account becomes entirely an issue of observation.

And at the same time, your account doesn't do much about the Fermat's Theorem issue either. It's clearly possible to know some mathematical facts without knowing every deducable conclusion of them. Your account still makes guessing correctly about a mathematical theorem the same as knowing.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:23 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:By "inference," do you mean "inductive inference"?
I don’t have any strong opinions on the definition of logic, or any of its subsets. As long as whatever we want to call “deduction” plus whatever we call “inference” adds up to our definition of “logic” that should be sufficient.

Zamfir wrote:@Tristan, is your "logic" part still doing much useful work there? For pretty much any case involving the real world, you've just shifted the problematic parts into the "observation", with the logic as a possibly trivial step at the end.
Exactly, at this step we’re just rewording “justified” and part of that term is the ability to use logic, so it has to be included for completeness, but that’s all it has to do.

Zamfir wrote:But the Gettier problem kicks in at knowing there is one dog, which in your account becomes entirely an issue of observation.
I definitely agree, I think that the whole point of Gettier problems is to point out that there was a problem with the way we were using “justified” in the JTB definition.* Rewording “justified” this way allows us to stick all the problems in one spot (mostly in “observations” but possibly in “inferences” as well.) But it should still leave the definition to be functionally equivalent to JTB in all cases, we haven’t added or taken anything away, we’ve just shuffled around the terms in “justified.”

The next step is to add “true” to the third requirement, so we end up with:

1. S believes p
2. p is true
3. It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences

I don’t think anyone would call a belief based on false observations or false inferences knowledge, so adding “true” here shouldn’t cause a conflict with our everyday usage, LTB and JTB should still be equivalent in all day to day usages. But it should remove a lot of Gettier style problems, and it may remove all of them. One big benefit either way is that it forces us to be explicit in our describing our hypothetical situations to be able to apply this definition. It’s not possible to just create a somewhat vague situation, point to a problem somewhere in “justified” and be done with it. If we want to use LTB we have to be explicit about what observations and inferences are being used, which would hopefully force us to ask questions about what’s actually going on in our brains. Some of those questions can only be answered empirically i.e., it may be possible to come up with a hypothetical situation which wouldn’t seem to work with LTB, but in those situations we would have to ask “is this a realistic situation, would this actually be possible?” Which seems like an interesting and worthwhile question to ask.

Zamfir wrote:And at the same time, your account doesn't do much about the Fermat's Theorem issue either. It's clearly possible to know some mathematical facts without knowing every deducable conclusion of them. Your account still makes guessing correctly about a mathematical theorem the same as knowing.
I think I might’ve addressed this a few times already, but here goes:
1. I believe that I personally use “knowledge” to include cases where a belief could be consciously logically concluded, but hasn’t definitively.
2. I know that not everyone agrees with this, but I suspect given enough examples that some/many people actually would.
3. If you don’t agree with it under any situation then the definition you’re using should include #3 as “S has been logically concluded based on S's true observations and inferences." I'm assuming that concluding p from an observation p is acceptable here. Or someone could even include both possibilities with an "either" option if that's how they were using "knowledge."
4. I honestly don’t understand the FLT well enough to say if I think a mathematician would “know” FLT in this hypothetical situation. It seems that the same point could be made with arithmetic instead, it’s not a question on difficulty, it’s a question of simple logic. If in one instance I claim that 15 x 20 = 300, but I make a mental error such that I appear to have consciously used incorrect logic to get there, do I know that “15 x 20 = 300” in this instance? I would say yes. If other people would say no, that’s probably an example of us using different internal definitions of “knowledge.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*I could also imagine other styles of examples that would point out problems with the way we use “belief” and “true” even if those don’t seem as popular. In fact, some of them may have been brought up and just lumped in with Gettier problems as “Gettier style problems.” I’m ignoring the possibility for these other kinds of problems since the whole point has been Gettier problems and the issues we run in to with hypothetical situations. I think JTB works great in day to day usage since usually we can’t tell if an example of knowledge is an example of a Gettier problem outside of hypothetical situations

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:39 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:1. I believe that I personally use “knowledge” to include cases where a belief could be consciously logically concluded, but hasn’t definitively.
So everything that could ever be deduced from currently accepted axioms of mathematics is already known by everyone who knows the axioms?

Yes, I'd say that's a radically different internal definition of knowledge. Which no one else uses.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:33 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:1. I believe that I personally use “knowledge” to include cases where a belief could be consciously logically concluded, but hasn’t definitively.
So everything that could ever be deduced from currently accepted axioms of mathematics is already known by everyone who knows the axioms?

Yes, I'd say that's a radically different internal definition of knowledge. Which no one else uses.

Well, it certainly could be. Although, for me it really comes down to when we can say we "know" the axiom. I might have enough experiences with a certain rule of a particular branch of mathematics (made enough observations) to apply it in many cases, but not all. There are lots of times during my life when I've been working on a proof, and if you asked me if I knew the rules I was applying I'd say yes. But then I'd get to a new problem, and realize that I didn't have enough experience with the techniques involved to solve the problem, I wasn't able to apply the axioms in all the cases where they're relevant. At this point it's obvious that I don't "know" something, but the question is what? It's either that I don't "know" the axiom, or that I don't "know" the solution.

If we make the assumption that being able to describe the axiom is the same as knowing it, then we need to use one kind of definition of knowledge. If we assume that it's possible to describe an axiom and still not "know" it, then we have to use another kind. I believe I'm in the later group. For example, if you asked me if I could describe how to build a car, bake a souffle or what a perfect circle is, I'd say yes. If you asked me if I knew those things, I wouldn't be as sure. I would probably only think that I could give a definitive answer after I'd proved that I did (and that may not be possible in all cases).

I may be making some unusual assumptions about how the brain works, but since we don't have a really good idea of how it does, some assumptions are going to be necessary, and I don't think that the most common ones are always going to turn out to be right. I don't think we should try to avoid including unnecessary assumptions in a definition of knowledge, and if that means we end up with two (or more) definitions based on different assumptions (some more popular than others), than I'm fine with that. We can still use them to ask interesting questions. Fortunately I believe that in day to day usage they're all equivalent, so at least they're not wildly different in most circumstances.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:48 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:1. S believes p
2. p is true
3. It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences

What if one of those true inferences was a lucky guess?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:16 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:1. S believes p
2. p is true
3. It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences

What if one of those true inferences was a lucky guess?


Well, in some sense aren't all inferences lucky guesses? Some are more probable than others, so we could try to draw a line and say "likely inferences" are ok but "unlikely inferences" aren't. Of course at some point I think we'd also agree that it's not an inference anymore, it's just "random guessing." I don't think we can call it an inference once we get to the point where it conflict with apparently true (but actually false) observations. I'm not sure where to draw that line, but I'd be willing to be very lenient about calling lucky guesses true inferences.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:47 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:Well, it certainly could be. Although, for me it really comes down to when we can say we "know" the axiom.
Well, yes, in the sense that this entire thread is about knowledge.

But what you seem to be implying is that, really, no one knows any math, because no one knows all the things that could ever be proven mathematically. Which, again, is vastly different from what anyone else says when they use the word "know".
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:11 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:But what you seem to be implying is that, really, no one knows any math, because no one knows all the things that could ever be proven mathematically.

I don't think so. The idea I'm trying to get across is that while describing mathematical concept may be a binary concept i.e., you can either describe the axiom or you can't, understanding (or knowing) a mathematical concept or axiom isn't. It would seem possible from my observations and experiences I could use calculus to make some calculations, while other calculations that I don't have experience with I wouldn't be able to do. This is either because I'm lacking the ability to apply known concepts logically, or it's because I don't actually understand (or "know") the concept completely. If we assume that describe = understand (or know) then it has to be the former. If we don't assume that then it could be the later as well.

Also, if we're assuming that all mathematical concepts are built on simpler concepts, with some "first principals" underlying everything, I don't think that implies that someone has to know all the first principals to know any math. For example, it could be possible to learn some of the functions which are conclusions of first principals and use those without knowing how they're derived. Again, I'm not a mathematician, or am making any claim about how humans actually do math beyond "it seems possible." Another example of a similar idea would be gravity, we can say that Newton knew that gravity would cause objects to fall to the Earth (and how fast) without assuming that Newton knew general relativity (or anything about gravitons, ect.) Of course, if someone did know general relativity they could derive the classical equations for gravity. It's possible to start at the bottom and work your way up, but it's also possible to start in the middle and work in both directions.


Edit: Also for any proposed counter examples that may show a difference between JTB and LTB it would be interesting to hear where you think the error happened. Since the first step was a rewording, and the second just added "true." Neither of these would seem to rule out or allow lots of new cases of knowledge. If you think they do, why is it?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:14 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:But what you seem to be implying is that, really, no one knows any math, because no one knows all the things that could ever be proven mathematically.
I don't think so.
But you said, "I personally use “knowledge” to include cases where a belief could be consciously logically concluded, but hasn’t definitively". And in the case of mathematics, all that has or ever will be proven could be consciously logically concluded from the axioms.

So what you said before means anyone who knows the axioms knows all of mathematics.

Which either requires you to say that no one actually knows the axioms, or that at least one person knows all of mathematics. And *both* of those are patently absurd statements, according to any commonly-held understanding of the word "know".
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:27 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:So what you said before means anyone who knows the axioms knows all of mathematics.


It does seem like a contradiction, doesn't it? Since I don't claim that anyone knows all of mathematics. I guess I could try and explain all of the assumptions I'm using about how we process information to show that at least my internal view is consistent? But what's the point of that, to "prove" that the assumptions I think I'm making are actually the assumptions I'm using? Is that even possible?

A more interesting question is probably, if we got to LTB from JTB in two relatively simple steps, then where did the knowledge of all mathematics sneak in? I would assume it was the first step when we reworded "justified" as ''It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences." As I've said before, if that isn't a good working definition of justified for this, we can use a different one. How about "S has logically concluded p from true observations and inferences" (which has probably been mentioned a few times already)? That would give us a LTB definition that should still be functionally equivalent in all everyday cases, but it conclusively rules out the whole "all of math/FLT" problem.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:07 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:if we got to LTB from JTB in two relatively simple steps, then where did the knowledge of all mathematics sneak in? I would assume it was the first step when we reworded "justified" as ''It's possible to logically conclude p based on S's true observations and inferences."
Yes, this is exactly where it came in. The reason it explodes to all of math is that all of math can be logically concluded from the basic axioms.

But it's not actually *justified* to believe something in mathematics until someone actually does the logic needed to conclude it.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:17 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:How about "S has logically concluded p from true observations and inferences?

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:23 pm UTC

Okay, now we're back to figuring out what you mean by "observation".
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:41 pm UTC

Further, it still chokes on Barn County: Smith infers that there is a barn from her true observation* of a barn, but she doesn't know that there's a barn (as you yourself said previously).

*And she does observe a barn, according to your own argument:
TrlstanC wrote:We say "I observed a man running down the street" as opposed to "I observed colored patches in my visual field moving across a two dimensional gray background."
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Okay, now we're back to figuring out what you mean by "observation".


I'm fine with any definition that leaves "S has logically concluded p from observations and inferences" as functionally equivalent to "S is justified in believing p" and would also line up with at least one common understanding of the term "observation." I haven't attempted to write up such a definition, just assumed that it exists. Actually, I've assumed that several such definitions exists, and that at least one of them is equivalent to the way I use the term in normal conversation (which doesn't make too many unnecessary assumptions about how our brains work).

If anyone is interested in attempting to define "observation" or to try and prove that there aren't that meet the above requirements, please feel free. It would at least be an interesting contribution to this discussion.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:50 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Smith infers that there is a barn from her true observation of a barn.


Well, I wouldn't say she infers it, if we accept that an observation "that is a barn" is a true observation, I would say she logically concludes it (Q exists, therefor Q). But I think the questions that this leads us naturally to ask (or at least it should) is: is looking at a barn the same as observing that "that is a barn?"

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:01 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Okay, now we're back to figuring out what you mean by "observation".


I'm fine with any definition that leaves "S has logically concluded p from observations and inferences" as functionally equivalent to "S is justified in believing p" and would also line up with at least one common understanding of the term "observation."
So you want LTB to be functionally equivalent to JTB? Then what are you actually gaining by preferring LTB?
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby infernovia » Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:32 am UTC

TristanC wrote:I definitely agree with everyone who's saying that the whole issue hangs on the definition of "justified." I think we all have a basic understanding of what it means for something to be justified, that goes something like:

I am confused, this doesn't really seem to be that hard of a problem. The problem isn't that something is "justified," the problem is that it is being used as a binary concept with not so binary observations. Look:

Farmer Franco is concerned about his prize cow, Daisy. In fact, he is so concerned that when his dairyman tells him that Daisy is in the field, happily grazing, he says he needs to know for certain. He doesn't want merely to have a 99 percent probability that Daisy is safe, he wants to be able to say that he knows Daisy is safe.
Farmer Franco goes out to the field and standing by the gate sees in the distance, behind some trees, a white and black shape that he recognizes as his favorite cow. He goes back to the dairy and tells his friend that he knows Daisy is in the field.
Yet, at this point, does Farmer Franco really know it?
The dairyman says he will check too, and goes to the field. There he finds Daisy, having a nap in a hollow, behind a bush, well out of sight of the gate. He also spots a large piece of black and white paper that has got caught in a tree.
Daisy is in the field, as Farmer Franco thought.
But was he right to say that he knew she was?

The philosopher, Martin Cohen, who described this scenario originally,[3] says that in this case the farmer:
believed the cow was safe;
had evidence that this was so (his belief was justified);
and it was true that his cow was safe.

He had evidence that something that looked like his cow was safe. What he had was a bare minimum of evidence to assume there could be something like a cow there. The fact that he has or doesn't have evidence doesn't portray HOW MUCH evidence he has. Now, given his prior understanding of "Daisy" aka how she smells, how much milk she produces, her body shape, its behavior, he could still be mistaken about a cow that is trained and bred to be like Daisy while still being rigorous as possible. But the question is, would it matter at that point since the concept of "Daisy" only accounted so much information in the first place?

In fact, the previous example could be enough for most people if
a) its isolated enough.
b) you were carefully managing what goes in and out.

Knowledge is the thing that allows us to predict future outcomes. Since we are subjective beings that is within the universe and we do not exist outside of it, it will never be "true." But there are still beliefs that will work for a lot of cases, like 99% of the time. The fact that there can be a demon subverting everything or that we exist in a virtual reality of an alien world is kind of pointless to imagine when we do not have the understanding or the technology to ever sustain it, in fact, we never will.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:38 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:The problem isn't that something is "justified," the problem is that it is being used as a binary concept with not so binary observations


That’s definitely one of the conclusions I came to as well. JTB is a very useful definition of knowledge because it lines up well with our natural usage of the term in almost all situations. This should be expected because the requirements of JTB are built from ideas that are normally associated with the useful features of knowledge. Ultimately though, it’s an attempt to replicate the “I recognize it when I see it” internal definition that people use without thinking about it. This means that it may not be possible (probably not) to perfectly define knowledge this way if there’s any disagreement between people’s judgment of what’s knowledge and what isn’t.*

However, looking at the Gettier problems can still lead to interesting insights in to the way we process information. For example, as you pointed out, in a hypothetical situation any detail which isn’t explicitly spelled out is open to interpretation and assumptions. If we all make the same, or at least similar, assumptions there shouldn’t be any problems, but if people make different valid assumptions the hypothetical situation loses a lot of its usefulness.

If we look at the history of trying to fix or explain the Gettier (and later Gettier style problems) we see that attempts usually fall in to one of three categories:
  • Add another requirement, usually one that modified or strengthens “justified” in some way
  • Claim that Gettier problems are examples which aren’t really knowledge (that the hypothetical situations are making at least one unrealistic assumption).
  • Claim that JTB wouldn’t call Gettier problems knowledge (that there are assumptions consistent with the hypothetical situation that would affect the JTB judgment).
I proposed a 2 step process to get from JTB to LTB which would hopefully let us make better judgments about which of these was the most useful, or perhaps shed light on another possible solution. The goal is to make as few changes to JTB as possible, so that LTB should still be equivalent to it in all day to day usages, but would make it easier to judge Gettier problems (are they knowledge, are they not, do we need another requirement?) The steps are:
  1. Reword “justified.” i.e., replace it with a working definition. It doesn’t need to be a perfect definition that would work in all situations (there are different definitions of justified that don’t apply here), just one that would work in all situations where we’re judging knowledge. The best option seems to be “S has logically concluded p from observations and inferences.” At this step, call it LTB1 for clarity, the goal is for it to be equivalent to JTB. We’re just rewording it to make it easier to work with.
  2. Add “true.” We’re already using the “true” requirement in JTB, it should be possible to include it here without causing any impact on our day to day usage. We end up with “S has logically concluded p from true observations and inferences.” Call this LTB.

The question then is, with the LTB definition are some or all of the Gettier problems resolved? If so, how are they resolved? And, do we have any other new problems to deal with? I believe that the real benefit we gain by making these changes is that it forces us to be very explicit in the details of our hypothetical situations. We can’t just make a binary statement like “S isn’t justified.” Instead we have to spell out the observations, inferences and logic that would be used to meet or fail “logical” requirement.





-----------------------------------------------------------
*If the goal was a "perfect" definition, we could take a different approach, and just define knowledge in a completely different way, without attempting to match everyone’s judgment of what’s knowledge and what isn’t in all situations. This probably wouldn't look anything like JTB, and Gettier problems probably wouldn't apply, although if they did, that would be very interesting. This would probably also lead to the conclusion that some of our usages of the term knowledge are incorrect i.e., that we can’t trust our instincts to make the judgment all the time. That may be an interesting topic for another thread, especially if we were explicitly not limiting knowledge to just the way we experience it as humans. e.g., including the possibility of machine knowledge.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby infernovia » Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:43 am UTC

Does LTB stand for "logically true belief"? Wouldn't it make more sense to say "objective truth" or w/e? I don't understand what logic has to do with a cow being itself or it's clone. In fact, I have a problem with the phrase "justified true belief" because it seems to be pretty unnecessary.

If we look at the history of trying to fix or explain the Gettier (and later Gettier style problems) we see that attempts usually fall in to one of three categories:


I didn't really understand this while reading the wiki page, and especially not the solutions (how can I understand a solution if I can't see the problem, or can't see how it is a problem?). The only thing I can think of that would be remotely troubling is that there are a lot of things we ignore or assume for our models to work. But this should be known by everyone after serious inquiry in their chosen field as using unvalidated axiom or assuming a bunch of things is necessary for both mathematics and science. Also, it is pretty clear to me that the assumptions and simplification of the problem is one of the more important parts for any research, at least the ones I have worked with. Its not stated all the time but having a conversation while stating all your hypothesis or being as exact as possible is hilarious to think about.

The second interesting concept of this example is the concept of the simulacrum, that is something which appears to the observer other than what it is. That is in the terms of being and appearance. Of the actor and the hero. This is one of the more interesting concepts in philosophy and I am re-wrapping my head around it. But Nietzsche has some great analysis on this.

The third interesting concept, which goes along with the second one is the importance of mechanical reproduction and our current society: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subje ... njamin.htm

As for knowledge, the easiest way to understand the concept of knowledge is in terms of models and simulations, and its power validated by its prediction and depth. Thus we can say that Einstein is much more knowledgeable than Newton because his model can predict much more things than Newton's can. The fact that there isn't a being all-knowledgeable, a being that would clearly know holistically the problem of "being and appearance" (which is in my mind, the essence of this thought experiment) is not at all a problem.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:21 pm UTC

TrlstanC wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Smith infers that there is a barn from her true observation of a barn.


Well, I wouldn't say she infers it, if we accept that an observation "that is a barn" is a true observation, I would say she logically concludes it (Q exists, therefor Q).

Logical deduction is a type of inference.

TrlstanC wrote:But I think the questions that this leads us naturally to ask (or at least it should) is: is looking at a barn the same as observing that "that is a barn?"

It was when it helped your argument half a page ago.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TrlstanC » Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:07 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
TrlstanC wrote:But I think the questions that this leads us naturally to ask (or at least it should) is: is looking at a barn the same as observing that "that is a barn?"

It was when it helped your argument half a page ago.

I'm honestly a little confused here, I can't tell what point you're trying to make (or if you're even attempting to make a constructive addition to the discussion at this point). After thinking about it for a bit, I believe you're claiming that these two statements are equivalent (or you think I do? I'm honestly not sure, I'm not even sure why I'm trying to extrapolate what you meant from one vague statement.)

1. When we say "I observed a man running down the street," we are making assumptions and inferences beyond just sensory data.

2. We can say "I observed a barn," with only the sensory data of looking at a barn.

For the record, and it should be obvious, I don't think those two are equivalent. Either way though, I think "what counts as an observation" is a natural question. Somehow from the set of (deduction, inference, assumption, sense data) we get to knowledge, and on the way we talk about making "observations," so they have to be composed of some combination from the same set. I believe that we can get to "observation" from a combination of "sense data" plus a limited number of important assumptions. However, if this is an acceptable usage of the term "observation" or not is an open question.

Whatever the answer, it feels like this discussion has run out of steam, as it seems that most people are more interested in "a perfect definition of knowledge" as opposed to "what causes JTB to be incorrect on Gettier problems?" Discussing an entirely new definition of knowledge would be interesting, but it would seem confusing to start it here.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby infernovia » Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

I haven't been able to read the ensuing discussion at all because it seems to be extremely pedantic or tedious, and I did TRY to read the topic even though it seemed to be without a point. Anyway, I would like to say that the thought experiment and the problem looks pretty simple as it is dealing with "being and appearance" and the application of our models to reality and finding something different, something wrong. Which is a fact so ingrained in science and my theory of knowledge, I don't see why it is a problem in the first place.

Why can we be mistaken? Because we don't have a absolutely perfect model, and in fact, never will.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:15 am UTC

TrlstanC wrote:After thinking about it for a bit, I believe you're claiming that these two statements are equivalent (or you think I do? I'm honestly not sure, I'm not even sure why I'm trying to extrapolate what you meant from one vague statement.)

1. When we say "I observed a man running down the street," we are making assumptions and inferences beyond just sensory data.

2. We can say "I observed a barn," with only the sensory data of looking at a barn.

I'm saying that if I can take a certain pattern of sense-data, think "That is a man running down the street," and correctly say that I've made an observation, then I can take a another pattern of sense-data, think "That is a barn," and correctly say that I've made an observation. So, when Smith sees the barn, she has a true belief that is entailed by her observation, and hence a "logical true belief." The point is that, whatever exactly "observation" means, it at least means (by your own standard) that Smith has made one.

TrlstanC wrote:Whatever the answer, it feels like this discussion has run out of steam, as it seems that most people are more interested in "a perfect definition of knowledge" as opposed to "what causes JTB to be incorrect on Gettier problems?" Discussing an entirely new definition of knowledge would be interesting, but it would seem confusing to start it here.

You've been trying to make a "strong form" of the definition of knowledge from post 1. What makes you think that this is a new project?
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Feddlefew » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:17 pm UTC

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:
Katrex wrote:Knowledge is the belief that accurately explains all the evidence.
Truth requires no evidence. It is true that 2+2 is 4.


It seems to require assumptions though. Namely about the nature of that opperator, "+", those quantities and the meaning of that is (do you mean equals?). Mathematics is tautologous, systems relying on axioms - indeed I can derive different truths dependent on my assumptions. There are multiple, conflicting systems of geometry out there you know. This doesn't seem very much like "Truth" to me; not the one you speak of anyway.


Counter example for "2+2 is 4 " is always true argument:
2 stones placed in a box, which already has 2 stones in it, could make 10 stones total in the box. Or, if you place two stones in a box with five stone already in it, there could be 13 stones total in the box.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:44 pm UTC

Sure, but if you pull that shit you're likely to get your hand cut off.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Feddlefew » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:50 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Sure, but if you pull that shit you're likely to get your hand cut off.


I would very much deserve it.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby Koyaanisqatsi » Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:53 am UTC

ANNOUNCEMENT: THIS POSTER'S PARTICIPATION IN THIS THREAD IS OVER.

Read this first: http://faculty.unlv.edu/beisecker/Cours ... uction.htm

So, no, there is no justified true belief. Except for cogito ergo sum.



... and with such an epically incorrect pronouncement, you're done here.

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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Sep 28, 2011 5:22 am UTC

Koyaanisqatsi wrote:ANNOUNCEMENT: THIS THREAD IS OVER.

Read this first: http://faculty.unlv.edu/beisecker/Cours ... uction.htm

So, no, there is no justified true belief. Except for cogito ergo sum.


I take it you've never actually read Descartes 'Discourse on the Method' then (the work from which 'cogito ergo sum' actually originates)?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. For example, using a little knowledge gleaned (out of context) from a small excerpt of an intro to philosophy course to support your assertion that the debate on the nature of truth an knowledge is meaningless and the thread containing it is over carries an extremely high danger of making you seem like a highly pretentious moron.

Neither Descartes nor Hume have the final say on any philosophical debate (otherwise, 'philosophy 101 would consist solely of studying Descartes and/or Hume and there wouldn't be any other philosophy courses) And anyway, Descartes started from the proposition 'I think' (cogito), and used it to reason all sorts of fascinating and true things (Also, lots of fascinating and false things, and some fascinating and ambiguous things), 'therefor I am/I exist' or 'ergo sum' was only the first thing he reasoned from 'cogito' The discourse actually goes on to deduce the existence of objective reality and the ability to gain true knowledge from observing it. And even Hume didn't really think that inductive reasoning was all that bad, just that it was a bit difficult to explain why it should work as well as it does.


Anyway, to borrow from Thomas Reid (A contemporary of Hume), If the cognitive faculty of reason is deficient or faulty, then any argument you can make, including that the cognitive faculty of reason is deficient or faulty, is bound to be deficient or faulty itself. Therefor, any such nonsense is just that, nonsense and can safely be ignored.
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Re: Is knowledge justified true belief?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:04 am UTC

Koyaanisqatsi wrote:ANNOUNCEMENT: THIS THREAD IS OVER.

Read this first: http://faculty.unlv.edu/beisecker/Cours ... uction.htm

So, no, there is no justified true belief. Except for cogito ergo sum.

For counterarguments, see Edwards, "Bertrand Russell's Doubts about Induction" and Strawson, "The 'Justification' of Induction." For a counterargument to those see Stroud, "Causality and the Inference from the Observed to the Unobserved." For a complication to the conclusion reached by the first two, see Goodman, "The New Riddle of Induction."

Then quit laying down two-page arguments and acting like you've solved philosophy forever. It's annoying enough when the math major in my epistemology class did it.
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