What is the Meaning of Knowledge?

What is the meaning of knowledge? How can we define knowledge? First of all knowledge is a belief. You believe something therefore you think you know it. Christians will tell you that god is real and that they know that for a fact, but in reality they don’t know that, they just believe it to be true.We all know that believing in something doesn’t make it true, right? If I were to tell you that the world is the center of the universe and that I know that to be a fact just because I believe it to be doesn’t make the earth t center of the universe. So, besides a belief what else is knowledge?Well, knowledge is a true belief. If something is true and you believe it then you know it.However, how can you know if something is real or not? you need to have evidence to justify your belief in order for you to have knowledge; which leads us then to define knowledge as a justified true belief. But something can be justified and still not be true.

Take for instance  Gettier’s Job Seekers thought experiment: “Suppose that Smith and Jones have a applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition:

(d) Jone is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket.

Smith’s evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that jones would in the end be selected, and the he, Smith, ha counted the coins in Jones’s pocket ten minutes ago. Proposition (d) entails:(e) the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.

Let us supppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence. In this case, Smith is clearly justified in believing that (e) is true.

But imagine, further, that unkown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also , unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is then true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e) is false. In our  example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true,(ii) Smith believes that (e) is true,and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (e) is true.But it is equally clear that Smith does not know that (e) is true; for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in in Smith’s pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are Smith’s pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jone’s pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.”

Now, what does all of that mean?Well, It means that Smith knows that the person who will get the job is the person who has 10 coins in his pocket, he also knows that Jone’s has 10 coins in his pocket, which leads him to belive that Jones is the one who will get the job. However, he didnt check his pockets, and he has 10 coins, and on top of that HE is the one who gets the job. So, in other words he had a justified belief, but he didnt know because he didnt check his pockets.

So, if knowledge is not a justified true belief then what is it?  is it undefeated justified true belief as the defeasibility theory proposes? No, thre is another thought experiment  by Lehrer and Paxon that trumps that theory. I will not state the whole thought experiment but I will summarize it: Imagine that you go to the library and you see Tom (whom you happen to know very well) and Tom steals a book, so you report that you know that Tom has stolen a book, however, Mrs Garbit (who’s Tom’s mother) claims that that day Tom was not in the library , in fact, Tom was miles away but that his identical twin John was in the library that day.Now, imagine that you dont know that she has made those claims. Now, her claims would defeat any justification you might have for believing that Tom stole the book. Thus it cannot be said that you know that Tom stole the book. However, at the end we find out that Mrs. Garbit is a compulsive liar and that John never existed. So at the end you did know what you knew but, one simple piece of evidence defeated your original observation, the moment you doubt something then you dont know it, which is why this theory cannot define knowledge. There are two other theories of knowledge, but these other two arent what knowledge is either; they are defeated by two other thought experiments that I will not write because I’m not writting a text book I’m writting a blog. However I will define the theories and give you the names of the thought experiment so that you can see it and read them. The casual theory that states that knowledge is suitably caused true belief, and it’s defeated by  Goldman’s Fake Barn thought experiment, and the reliability theory that states that knowledge is reliable produced true belief, and it’s defeated by Lehrer’s Human Thermometer.

So, after all of that boring and long list of theories and defenitions what is knowledge? Well, we have one more theory that explains so far what knowledge is. That theory is the Explanationist theory, which states that knowledge is justified true belief that provides the best explanation for the justifying evidence. This theory defeats all other theories and thought experiments. So there you have it. I never thought I would have to write so much to define knowledge, but this blog tries to make you think about the things that you know (or think you know).  do you really know that the earth is round? have you seen it? have you seen the evidence? no, and yet you believe it and take it as knowledge. (yes, the earth is round and I know that you know that I know it….or do you?).


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