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Week 8 Notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
William Seager

Philosophy Week 8 Notes Sobers example adds depth to one of the principles -one can be justified in believing P, even if P is not certain to be true - sobers example suggests this principle: One is justified in believing P if P is extremely likely to be true The lottery ex. Shows that this principle will not generate knowledge - if this principle is wrong, then how can we know anything, since almost all of our beliefs are not absolutely certain to be true - is the correct principle: one can be justified in believing P only if it is impossible for you to be wrong about P - this leads to the problem of scepticism What is Scepticism? - the philosophical position which asserts that we have no knowledge (various forms are possible) an argument for scepticism 1. we can know only what we can be absolutely certain of 2. we can be certain of (almost) nothing 3. therefore we know (almost) nothing sceptics argue for their premises -illusion argument - dreaming argument - brain-in-vat argument We think we know a lot but what is wrong with simply assigning higher or lower possibilities to our beliefs - instead of saying that I KNOW my name is, I can say I assign an extremely high probability to the proposition my name is - but is my probability assignment justified? - Scepticism might lead to the view that we have no more reason to believe P then to believe not-P for any proposition Descartes and Foundationalism - Descartes used an architectural metaphor for knowledge - To build a great tower needs very firm foundation - Similarly, knowledge depends on foundation of propositions known as absolute certainty Euclids two reasons 1.the axioms are self-evidence - - cannot be false - -are absolutely certain 2. the theorems follow from the axioms - follow by pure logic - inherit certainty Descartes methods of Doubt -use to discover the foundation of knowledge - for any proposition, consider if there is any way (any way at all, no matter how weird) to put it in some (any at all, no matter how small) doubt - ex. Stephen Harper is prime minister - Can we find a way to doubt this?
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