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Reliabilism and virtue epistemology Michael Lacewing

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1 Reliabilism and virtue epistemology Michael Lacewing

2 Reliabilism You know that p if –p is true; –You believe that p; and –Your belief is caused by a reliable cognitive process. A reliable cognitive process is just one that produces a high percentage of true beliefs –E.g. perception, memory and testimony –(A false belief caused by a reliable process is not knowledge.)

3 An advantage Young children and animals have knowledge. Young children and animals don’t have a sophisticated rational psychology that provides justifications for their beliefs. So knowledge is not justified true belief. Young children and animals do have reliable cognitive processes, though. Knowledge is reliable true belief.

4 Objection A belief can be true and reliable but not be knowledge –Henry in Barn County: Henry believes ‘there’s a barn’ when looking at the only real barn in a countryside full of barn facades, but he also believes ‘there’s a barn’ when looking at the barn facades. The problem is Henry can’t tell the difference between real barns and barn facades.

5 Improved reliabilism You know that p if –p is true; –You believe that p; –Your belief that p is caused by a reliable cognitive process; and –You are able to discriminate between ‘relevant possibilities’ in the actual situation.

6 Tracking the truth A different definition of ‘reliable cognitive process’ is one that ‘tracks’ the truth. Nozick: you know that p if –p is true; –You believe that p; –In the situation you are in, or a similar situation, if p were not true, then you would not believe that p; and –In the situation you are in, or a similar situation, if p were true, then you would believe that p.

7 Tracking the truth In normal cases, Henry knows whether or not he is looking at a barn –If it wasn’t a barn, he wouldn’t believe that it is. In Barn County, Henry doesn’t know –Because he would believe something is a barn when it isn’t. Reliability doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be mistaken in any situation, just in ones likely to come up.

8 Brains in vats I know I have two hands. But imagine: –I am a brain in a vat, and all my perceptual experiences are being fed to me by a supercomputer (The Matrix) or a demon (Descartes). Do I know (now) that I am not a brain in a vat? –No, because if I were, I would believe that I am not.

9 The principle of closure The principle: if I know the premises, I know the conclusion of a valid deduction. A valid deduction: –I have two hands –If I have two hands, then I am not a brain in a vat –Therefore, I am not a brain in a vat. Reliabilism says that I know the premises, but I don’t know the conclusion! But if you accept the principle, and you accept that you don’t know you are a brain in a vat, you must accept scepticism – you don’t know the premises either.

10 Virtue epistemology Intellectual virtue: an intellectual skill or ability or trait that contributes to getting to the truth. You know that p if –p is true; –You believe that p; and –Your true belief is a result of you exercising your intellectual virtues. The fact that you have a true belief is a ‘cognitive achievement’ for which you deserve ‘credit’.

11 The three As Sosa: suppose an archer shoots an arrow at a target –Accuracy: did the arrow hit the target? –Adroitness: was the arrow shot well? Was the shot competent? –Aptness: did the arrow hit the target because it was shot well? A shot can be adroit without being accurate; it can even be accurate and adroit without being apt, e.g. luck (the wind blows the arrow off target and then on again).

12 Apt belief Knowledge is apt belief: –Accuracy: is the belief true? –Adroitness: is the way that the person formed the belief an exercise of their intellectual virtues? –Aptness: is the belief true because the person used their intellectual virtues in forming it? Henry: normally, Henry knows ‘there’s a barn’ because he sees and recognises it. In Barn County, his belief isn’t apt –Either because Henry can’t recognise barns – he doesn’t have the right intellectual virtues (abilities) –Or when his belief is right, it isn’t because he has exercised his virtues, but because of luck.


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