David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In A. Haddock, A. Millar & D. H. Pritchard (eds.), Epistemic Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 19--41 (2009)
It is a widely accepted doctrine in epistemology that knowledge has greater value than mere true belief. But although epistemologists regularly pay homage to this doctrine, evidence for it is shaky. Is it based on evidence that ordinary people on the street make evaluative comparisons of knowledge and true belief, and consistently rate the former ahead of the latter? Do they reveal such a preference by some sort of persistent choice behavior? Neither of these scenarios is observed. Rather, epistemologists come to this conclusion because they have some sort of conception or theory of what knowledge is, and they find reasons why people should rate knowledge, so understood, ahead of mere true belief. But what if these epistemological theories are wrong? Then the assumption that knowledge is more valuable than true belief might be in trouble. We don’t wish to take a firm position against the thesis that knowledge is more valuable than true belief. But we begin this paper by arguing that there is one sense of ‘know’ under which the thesis cannot be right. In particular, there seems to be a sense of ‘know’ in which it means, simply, ‘believe truly.’ If this is correct, then knowledge—in this weak sense of the term—cannot be more valuable than true belief. What evidence is there for a weak sense of ‘knowledge’ in which it is equivalent to ‘true belief’? Knowledge seems to contrast with ignorance. Not only do knowledge and ignorance contrast with one another but they seem to exhaust the alternatives, at least for a specified person and fact. Given a true proposition p, Diane either knows p or is ignorant of it. The same point can be expressed using rough synonyms of ‘know.’ Diane is either aware of (the fact that) p or is ignorant of it. She is either cognizant of p or ignorant of it. She either possesses the information that p or she is uninformed (ignorant) of it. To illustrate these suggestions, consider a case discussed by John Hawthorne (2002). If I ask you how many people in the room know that Vienna is the capital of Austria, you will tally up the number of people in the room who possess the information that Vienna is the capital of Austria..
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