Accidental truth and would-be knowledge

Abstract

Nowadays the traditional quest for certainty seems not only futile but pointless. Resisting skepticism no longer seems to require meeting the Cartesian demand for an unshakable foundation for knowledge. True beliefs can be less than maximally justified and still be justified enough to qualify as knowledge, even though some beliefs that are justified to the same extent are false. Yet a few philosophers suggest that there is a special sort of justification that only true beliefs can have. Call it 'full justification' or simply 'warrant.' One such philosopher is Trenton Merricks. He takes warrant to be "that, whatever precisely it is, which together with truth makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief," and argues that only true beliefs can have it.1 In his view, then, warrant makes the difference between knowledge and mere belief. Interestingly, Merricks does not concern himself with the nature of this remarkable property. He prefers a "formal characterization" of warrant as the "gap filler" between knowledge and mere true belief. Whatever warrant is exactly, a warranted belief cannot be true accidentally, for then the belief would not qualify as knowledge.

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Kent Bach
San Francisco State University

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