Belief and Knowledge

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Accommodation and meal costs are fully covered. The solitude of the Etschtal and the exceptional architecture of the Buchnerhof will surely foster an atmosphere of intellectual exchange and discussion.

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So far as their state of mind goes, there need be no difference whatever between the man who knows something and the man who believes something without knowing it. The man who knows something is absolutely sure about it; and the man who merely believes something without knowing it may also be absolutely sure about it. He too may have the highest degree of belief—complete conviction.

As to the contention that knowledge is infallible or incorrigible, this it would be said is no more than a matter of definition—a tautology if you like. It is as if someone argued that the man who, without a handicap, wins the race cannot fail to run faster than the others. The truth is, that if he had not run faster than the others, we should not call him the winner.

On this view, the difference between the man who knows and the man who only believes is like the difference between the winner of the race and the other competitors who ran but do not win. Let us consider this view further. But of course this would not give us all we want. Even correct belief, we usually think, need not be knowledge. On Saturday I may have believed that Sunday would be a fine day. And perhaps it is a fine day. But if I believed this on Saturday merely because Old Moore's Almanac said so, or merely because I wanted Sunday to be fine, we would hardly say that this belief of mine amounted to knowledge.

Epistemology | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

If we wish to say that knowledge is to be defined, somehow, in terms of correct belief, we shall certainly have to add something about the grounds of the belief. It is not enough that the proposition believed is in fact true; it is also necessary that there should be good reasons for the belief. Moreover, even though someone's belief is correct, and he does have good reasons for holding it, we should not necessarily be willing to say that we knew. I go down to the station to catch a train. The man in the ticket office tells me that this particular train is always five minutes late.

I take his word for it and go off to the refreshment room for a cup of coffee. And sure enough, the train is five minutes late. Here I have a fairly good reason for my belief, and what I believe is in fact true. But we should hardly say I knew that the train would be five minutes late. Again, I believe that within the next minutes at least one human being will walk past the front door of the Examination Schools. Actually, we will suppose, two people do walk past during that minute, so my belief was correct.

Moreover, I had a good reason for holding it, namely my past observations of the degree of crowdedness of this part of the High Street at this hour of the morning on weekdays. But we should hardly be willing to say I knew that at least one human being would walk past during that minute, though certainly I had some evidence quite good evidence for believing so, and my belief was in fact correct.

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My reason for believing was a good reason, but not a conclusive one. It need not of course be conclusive in the deductive way. So far, we have been trying to work out the conception of knowledge one is committed to, if one starts from the assumption that there need be no difference between the state of mind of the man who knows, and the state of mind of the man who merely believes without knowing. But now suppose that any of these three conditions fails to be satisfied.

It will be noticed that, according to this definition, the distinction between knowledge and belief which falls short of knowledge is partly one of degree: 1 in the degree of conviction, since if a man believes with something less than complete sureness we refuse to say that he knows; 2 in respect of the strength of the evidence or of the reasons for believing.

On the other hand, it is also required, of course, that the proposition believed should be true. And this is not a matter of degree. Moreover, the distinction between conclusive reasons and reasons which are good but non-conclusive is not wholly a difference of degree, but only partly. Conclusive evidence is not merely stronger than evidence which is good but not conclusive though it is of course stronger. There is also the difference that conclusive evidence settles the question, while evidence which is less than conclusive does not. And this is not just a difference of degree. Here again, it is more like the difference between success and failure; between winning the prize and failing to win it; between hitting the bull's eye and getting on to some other part of the target.

Belief v Knowledge

What shall we say about this account of the difference between knowledge and belief? Strictly speaking, of course, it is a way of distinguishing between belief which amounts to knowledge and belief which falls short of knowledge: or if you like, it is a way of distinguishing not so much between knowledge and belief, but rather between knowledge and mere belief.

We must admit that this way of drawing the distinction does fit many of the cases very well. For example, a very great deal of our knowledge, what we all agree to call knowledge, comes from testimony 5 —including written testimony—documents, etc. Most of our geographical knowledge, and the whole of our historical knowledge, is of this kind, e. The same applies to the knowledge we get from testimony about quite recent events which are beyond the range of our immediate observation. If you like, this latter is a kind of short-range historical knowledge. Again, it could be argued that our inductive knowledge is of the kind this theory requires: that we find out—come to know—what the laws of nature are by a process of accumulating evidence, until the stage comes when the evidence is sufficient to establish such and such a generalisation or make it certain.

Nevertheless there is one feature of this definition of knowledge which gets us into difficulty. According to the definition, he must have reasons and moreover, sufficient or conclusive reasons for accepting the proposition p , if we are to say he knows that p. He need not necessarily be able to put those reasons into words.

Inside knowledge: What separates fact from belief

But he must have them. He must have evidence sufficient to establish or certify the proposition p. Consider what may be called propositions describing present experiences: e. How do I know that there is something brown in my present visual field? I do know this. The same applies to some statements describing past experiences. I know that I have often had a headache in the past.

The Knowledge Of Knowledge And Knowledge Essay

How do I know this? I just remember it. For when we know that p , we always have to have reasons for accepting p , according to this definition, and moreover, they have to be sufficient or conclusive reasons. But it seems perfectly plain that there is in fact some knowledge which is not inferential at all. Moreover, it could be argued that there must be some non-inferential immediate knowledge, if inferential knowledge itself is to be possible.

There is another question which we should consider. If I do have reasons for accepting a proposition p either conclusive ones, or merely reasons which are good but not conclusive what do these reasons consist of? Sometimes they are other propositions which I likewise accept because I have good reasons for accepting them.

How do I know that lunch is at Well, I just remember having certain visual and auditory experiences. I knew I was having them at the time, and for this knowledge no reason could be given, and none could be demanded. And I know now that I did have them; and I know this, not because of any reasons, but just by remembering it or recalling it. We get into a rather similar difficulty if we turn to another point in the definition of knowing which I am examining.

But if we wish to maintain that this definition covers all the sorts of knowledge that there are—that all knowledge consists in being sure for conclusive reasons, of a proposition which is in fact true—we are confronted with a rather awkward difficulty: How do we ever settle the question whether John really does know something which he claims to know? Supposing he does know it, how can we ever find out that he does? He claims to know that it is raining. We wish to decide whether this claim of his is justified. But in order to settle this question, we must ourselves have means of knowing whether it is raining or not.

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Unless this proposition is true, his claim to knowledge is unjustified. And how do we ourselves know whether it is raining or not? Not because of any reasons, but just by looking and seeing, or just by feeling the raindrops—just by having certain experiences. Indeed, how do we know that John makes any claim to knowledge at all? Unless we do know this, there is no question to settle.

We know this by hearing what he says, or seeing what he writes. In other words, if it is really possible to test people's claims to knowledge—to settle the question whether they really do know something or merely believe it without knowing—it must also be possible, sometimes, for a proposition to be empirically verified or empirically falsified—verified or falsified directly by experience.

This direct empirical verification is a kind of knowledge which cannot be defined in terms of belief. Consider what the situation would be if there were not this possibility of direct empirical verification or falsification. It would follow that there might in fact be many instances of knowledge in the world, many people might be sure of propositions which were as a matter of fact true, and might be sure of them for sufficient reasons; and yet neither we nor they could ever discover that there are all these instances of knowledge.

For to discover this, it must be possible for us to find out, for ourselves, what propositions are in fact true. And unless some propositions are directly verifiable or falsifiable nothing can ever be found out at all. There is a similar difficulty about finding out what reasons John has for believing p , or whether he has any. He may in fact have very good ones; but unless we can find out what they are and how good they are, we shall not be able to settle the question whether he does really know what he claims to know.

And if we ourselves are sure of something for sufficient reasons and it is in fact true, how do we ourselves know that we are sure of it, that our reasons for believing it are such and such, and that what we are sure of is as a matter of fact true? We cannot know these things about other people, or about ourselves either, unless at some stage or other there is a possibility of direct empirical verification or falsification. And as I have said already, this direct empirical verification or falsification is a kind of knowledge a way of finding something out for which this definition does not provide.

As long as they are around, our knowledge will continue to stack and pile. A belief is the subjective requirement for knowledge. In other words, a belief can be considered knowledge as long as it is a justified truth. There are three types of belief — vague belief, well-supported belief, and belief beyond a reasonable doubt.

Truth also plays an important role in the justification of belief. As long as a particular belief is justified, it is considered to be knowledge. Cite Celine.


  1. Words and Their Stories (Handbook of Oriental Studies: Section 4 China).
  2. Praise of Folly [with Biographical Introduction]?
  3. Bala-Gokulam, Teacher Handbook.

June 8, Belief in the religious sense generally means Blind belief without supporting certified facts. It appears that most people cannot or will not get past this point, either through successful indoctrination or fear. Plus there is the comfort factor which backscup the belief. Freud called this Wish fulfillment! Those fortunate to apply critical thinking plus logic, get past this point and embrace life with a new energy and enjoyment.

To throw off the shackles of indoctrination is empowerment indeed! Name required. Email required. Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment.



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