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Lecture 2

PHL201H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Thought Experiment, Need Theory, Atheism

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Mark Schranz

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PHL201H1-S 2016-01-13
Lecture 2 – Introduction to Epistemology
What is Epistemology?
Study of questions such as:
oWhat is knowledge?
oWhen do we know something?
The Gettier reading concerns these issues
oWhat should we believe? Why should we believe something?
Pascal reading looks at this issue
Knowledge as Justified True Belief (JTB)
Distinction between knowing how to do something vs. knowing something is true
oKnowledge of statements, facts
Different from something like “I know how to walk”
Not the knowledge we’re talking about
Different than knowing how to open door
Is it to know that pushing the door will open it?
Knowing how to do it is different than doing it
oI don’t know how to sing vs. I know I don’t know how to sing
oIn this case we’re talking about fact-based things not “know-hows”
Knowing (that) x usually requires 3 things:
o(1) X is true
Can’t know something unless it’s true
EX: knowing that the world is flat doesn’t make sense
Can’t know that the world is flat because it isn’t
o(2) You believe that x is true
EX: Let’s say there are 118 elements in periodic table
No one can say they know anything about the 291st element
Theoretically possible for it to exist but it hasn’t been discovered
EX: Let’s say some event is going to happen tomorrow but I personally have no
knowledge and no belief about what it might be, but it’s still going to happen
But if I didn’t believe it was the case it would be odd to say I know that this
event will happen
o(3) You are justified in believing that X is true
Must have good reasons or right reasons
Knowledge should guide actions whereas belief is something we just happen to have
Truth (1)
EX: Truth: Cholesterol:
oRecently proven that cholesterol no longer bad
oSay 5 years ago you believed cholesterol was bad because that was the consensus of the
medical community
So you believe that x is true (2)
And you are justified in believing x is true (3)
Have good/right reasons for believing statement is true
oBut odd to say that you know cholesterol is bad because you don’t know if X is true (1)
EX: Harper/Duffy cheque:
oShould we believe that Harper knew that his assistant gave Duffy the cheque?
oLet’s say you believe that Stephen Harper knew about the cheque because:
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PHL201H1-S 2016-01-13
Given the way Harper has a hands-on approach in politics, he must have known
Even though in public the prime minister says he didn’t know
oSo you have a belief about cheque, and you have a reasoning process (2)
oAlso have a justified belief that may not be true (3)
oBut you don’t know for sure if Harper knew so you don’t have (1)
oWould be odd to say that he knew about the cheque if Harper didn’t actually know
oYou have a justified belief but not knowledge
EX: Cheney/kitten
oImagine you are good friend of Dick Cheney and you know that he likes to eat kittens
oSpecial restaurant that serves him kittens
oHas special bib for kitten-eating
oOne day you see Dick walking towards restaurant wearing bib
oYou form justified belief that Dick is going to be eating a kitten in 20 minutes (time for him
to get to restaurant, order food, and be served)
Believe this because you saw him heading toward the restaurant with bib
So clear that he is going to eat kittens
oBut say something happens between when you saw him and him getting to restaurant
Dick ends up not eating kittens
oSo in this case you have justified belief (3) + (2) but not (1)
EX: God created the world (maybe not an example of belief?)
oLet’s say it’s true that God created the world
oAtheist believes that God doesn’t exist
Say they have good reasons and justifications for their belief:
EX: Thinks that there is too much evil in the world for God to exist
Let’s say this is a good justification
So he has a justified belief (2) + (3)
He is justified according to fair standards but is not true because God exists and
created world
Does not satisfy (1)
But if the Atheist was exposed to right sort of evidence, maybe he would believe the
EX: Animal Cruelty
oLet’s say it’s wrong to eat animals
oSay I know about cruel treatment animals undergo in factory farming so I think it’s wrong to
eat that meat
oLet’s say there are some objective standards of morality saying it is wrong to eat meat
oBut say I really like eating meat so try to ignore the fact
oSo don’t actually form the belief
oSo you have justification for belief (3) and x is true (1) but you don’t believe (no (2))
So weird to say you know
EX: Jenny McCarthy + Autism:
oJenny McCarthy says that vaccines cause autism
oShe’s not a doctor but she has a theory about why one of her children has autism
oLet’s say it’s true that vaccines cause autism
oYou have belief (2)
oThe belief is true (1)
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