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Chapter 14

PHLA10H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 14: Reliability Engineering, Empirical Evidence

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William Seager

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Chapter 14 November 24, 2014
Core Questions in Philosophy - Part 3
The Reliability Theory of Knowledge
Descartes claims that knowledge is internally certifiable
If I know proposition "P" - there exists an argument that shows "P" is true,
whose premises are either a priori true, or knowable through introspection
I believe that there is a page in front of me.
My belief that there is a page in front of me, is clear and distinct.
Clear and distinct ideas are true
Therefore, there is a page in front of me
This first two premises are known through introspection
The third premise is justified because we "know" a priori that an idea of a perfect being
must be caused by a perfect being [see chapter 13 notes]
NOTE: The word "know" is not used in this argument
There are three parts to this argument ;
subjective premise
objective conclusion - makes a claim outside of the subject's mind
linking premise - shows how the subjective premise necessitates the
objective conclusion [ the subject must know the linking premise to be
true, separate from sense experience]
According to the reliability theory of knowledge, the linking premise doesn't have to be
true via introspection or a priori reasoning, it just has to "be true"
Thermometer Analogy:
Whether a thermometer is reliable here and now, has nothing to do with whether we can
imagine that the thermometer is reliable
The reliability theory of knowledge says that an individual knows a proposition if the
individual relates to the proposition in the way which a relatable thermometer relates to
its environment
This is the principle of Causality - S knows that there is a page in front of them, if the
only thing that could cause them to believe this is that there actually is a page in front of
In other words, the relationship between S and their environment gives no reason not to
believe that there is a page in front of them (all causes of doubt are hypothetical)
NOTE: The reliability theory of knowledge depends on the concepts of impossibility and
There are three types of impossibility:
I. Logically necessary - Joe can't be a married bachelor ; has to be true by virtue of
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