jackson_review - Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol....

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Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 80, No. 4, pp. 516–521; December 2002 CRITICAL NOTICE OF KNOWLEDGE AND ITS LIMITS BY TIMOTHY WILLIAMSON 1 Frank Jackson What did we learn from the Gettier incident and its fall-out? 2 A few say that we learnt nothing. Knowledge is true justified belief despite Gettier’s and like examples. Some say that we learnt that knowledge is not true justified belief and we must seek a fourth condition to add to truth, belief and justification. Perhaps they have a candidate ready to hand. Some say that we learnt that knowledge is not true justified belief but that Gettier’s examples mislead us. We should not look for a fourth condition but should rather look for a suitable replacement for the justification condition. Some say that we learnt as much from the fall-out as we did from Gettier’s examples. His examples prompted a search for an analysis of knowledge that can only be described as a failure. This tells us that there is no unitary concept of knowledge but rather a series of interlocking and to some extent vague notions, each of interest and value in its own way. Finally, some agree that we learnt as much from the fall-out as from the examples but urge that what we learnt is that our single concept of knowledge is unanalysable. Williamson belongs to the last group. He combines the thesis that knowledge is unana- lysable with four other theses. The first is that knowledge is a key concept in episte- mology. Many have been attracted to the position that true justified belief is good enough for many purposes. If I have true justified belief about where the beer is, how to cure AIDS, or my not being a brain in a vat, who cares whether or not I have knowledge? This is why some view the Gettier industry with bemusement. Williamson argues, however, that knowledge does important theoretical and explanatory jobs that cannot be done by true justified belief or variants thereon. He argues, that is, for an indispensability thesis. Secondly, he argues that we should rethink knowledge’s position in epistemological hierarchies. There is a long tradition of treating knowledge as something we end up with: the theory of knowledge is the theory of how to put more basic ingredients together in the right way to reach knowledge. Broadly speaking, Williamson thinks we should work in the opposite direction. Evidence does not produce knowledge; our evidence is what we know; as he puts it, E = K. The symbolism is a little misleading. Not all knowledge is evidence obviously; but on his view every item of evidence is something we know, sometimes but not always knowledge that things seem thus and so. This is how justified belief can come from knowledge. Moreover, we should understand belief in terms of knowledge. Instead of viewing belief as a state that essentially aims at truth, we should view it as essentially aiming at knowledge (and, incidentally, desire at action rather than at 516 1 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, xi + 340, £25 hb. 2
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This note was uploaded on 08/01/2008 for the course PHIL 290 taught by Professor Fitelson during the Fall '06 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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jackson_review - Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol....

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