forum 6: week of 13 Feb - K & practical interests
I assume you've all got my message changing the reading from Stanley to Russell & Doris.
Does the bank example work for you?
~ If it does, what feature of the example makes you think that knowledge depends on the practical situation of the knower?
~ If it doesn't, what do you think is fishy about it?
The bank example doesn’t work for me. In the paper Knowlege by Indifference, authors Russell and Doris begin with the question: Is it harder to acquire knowledge about things that really matter to us than it is to acquire knowledge about things we don’t much care about? They also claim Stanley’s thesis conflicts with several traditional, and quite plausible, epistemic principles. Under heading 2. Indifference Cases, subheading, Richboy, they include the propositions: Money may buy the instruments of knowledge. Money buying knowledge may not offend as much as money buying love. I think they lack examples of knowledge, or epistemic circumstances, that relate to what’s feasible in love making, and entrepreneurship.
I don't really know if I agree with Stanley,I'm still digesting.(I feel like a boa constrictor that's just been fed a very large and indigestible goat.Takes a while.) If anything seems fishy to me it's the argument against him. Maybe I'm missing a beat here, but in the banking story it is not, as far as I can see, the money that is knowledge-making but rather what the subject concerned knows about his or her relationship to the money. Money buys power, and one can know this. The argument starts with the premise that access to money is either necessary or not.(high or low stakes) That is to say, whether one needs access to money, in this case via the bank, or through some other fallback (Richie's other source or the couple's winning ticket) or through denial of necessity.(Ded's getting out of Dodge.) It seems to me that two things are being confused in the banking story. One is the epistemic consideration regarding privilege or indifference, and the other is an ethical consideration of them. It looks to me like the authors are conflating these two philosophic approaches into one. Richie's decision to use his knowledge that his privilege may be called upon to save him may be morally reprehensible if acted upon, but it is outside the epistemic test. It is an ethical question. If I have insider knowledge that buying certain stocks on the market will enrich me, that is knowledge. Whether it is an unfair practice to act upon that knowledge is an ethical question. Surely this is outside the categorical box within which the epistemic equation is held. In the case of Ded, the slacker, his indifference does not necessarily demonstrate a lack of knowledge or judgement except perhaps in an (rather snotty I might add) judgement on the part of the narrator. On the contrary,his indifference might be seen as a willingness to pay a known price in terms of his status and identity by means of a quite conscious defiant refusal of the claim that money makes to direct his life. Just as apartheid may serve as an advantage to an affluent Afrikaaner in a racist society, the Stanley argument doesn't ethically justify Richie (money) or Ded (indifference) by saying that their advantage exists, it simply says they know that they have it according by degree to the stake that they hold, that their advantage exists. Whether they should exercise their advantage involves an ethical decision on their part. As for the lottery win variation, I hate to have to bring it up but doesn't this bring in tracking in some way, as in the change over time from high to low stakes as they go from no dough to winning ticket? (I have, admittedly, very limited grasp of the theory.)
When you ask if the bank example works, it really falls down to "work for whose theory?" I think Stanley's example of high and low stakes works wonderfully to exemplify IRI as an aid to theories of knowledge rather than as a complete theory in and of itself. The other examples in this week's paper I find less compelling...because they're being used as a complete theory, maybe...because I can refute them in a simply sentence "urgency can diminish knowledge, indifference cannot increase it," definitely.
My favorite article so far, quirky examples, clear, and an entertaining tone. As was written, IRI is not a theory of knowledge. In every case the characters were all equally justified in their belief because they all based their belief on the same evidence. As was further written, IRI is a constraint on knowledge. The probability that the knowledge is true, multiplied by an inverse amount of care toward the potential outcome produced by acting on the assumption that the knowledge is as true as knowledge can be, equals the psychological comfort the agent feels in trusting their knowledge claim to function for them in a desired way. This article isn't about knowledge, it's about how we feel.
I ma-a-a-ay have accidentally read both papers assigned for this week, so this might explain my stance on the bank example better. The following seems counter-intuitive: if in the example of Richboy or Hannah's lottery case, having money improves one's epistemic condition and not having it, consequently, worsens it, then by the same logic, Ded would still be in a worse epistemic position than all the obscenely wealthy people. But he is just as well-off, according to the IRI, as a result of his lack of care about the issue. Therefore, a high enough level of indifference should then be equivalent to Hannah's winning the lottery; maybe if she took some Valium instead of braving the line on Friday, it would improve her epistemic position! This seems wrong, because the reason why the lottery improves the couple's epistemic position is that it offers a solution to their financial pickle. In that case, however, why does it make sense for a deadbeat Ded to have more knowledge with little vested interest, seeing how his financial situation is no better than Sarah & Hannah's in the High Stakes example?
I liked the bank example as a way to approach the issue of indifference in knowledge. But, I think that the exact knowledge that caring/indifference caused was misleading in this paper. In the example of Trust Fund Richie not caring about whether the bank is open on Saturday, he chooses not to go to the bank on Friday because he knows that even if the bank is closed on Saturday, he won't face severe consequences. So when he decides not to go to the bank on Friday he doesn't have any knowledge that the bank will be open on Saturday, he simply has knowledge that the consequences won't effect him. This indifference does not reduce or increase his knowledge of whether the bank will be open. However, in the high stakes example with Hannah and Sarah -when Hannah decides that she does not know whether the bank will be open on Saturday, and she chooses to go to the bank- the consequences of not having the cheque deposited in time does weaken her knowlege. The high stakes in this case prevent her from being able to know with complete certaintly that the bank will be open on Saturday, and cause her to go the bank on Friday instead. For these reasons, I think that high stakes can reduce one's knowledge, but I do not think it entails that low stakes increase one's knowledge.
I think the bank example does - to a large degree - successfully illustrates the point of the epistemic priorities and and helps to highlight our meta-epistemological concerns of whether something can be properly called knowledge depends on its importance to us.
First, I just want to go back to that picture we had in class today. There were two parallel lines, with the endpoint of each being knowledge and desire respectively. I think in order for knowledge to really be prioritized, it needs to be subsumed under desire. So the picture would be: desire/sentiments -> goals -> steps needed to satisfy that goal (e.g. evidence, facts, other observations) -> beliefs of how to achieve said desires -> finally, actions.
Save for those initial set of conditions - i.e. what we termed desires/sentiments - it seems natural to suppose that every step in that long chain is ration. If rationality were constantly and consistently applied, however, we find that it will in cases conflict with our epistemological goals and ideals, and this is where the notion of prioritization comes from.
Prioritization is the rational provision of knowledge. Often times, it is good and preferable to know. Knowledge enabled us to make actions in order to effect those outcomes we desire. If one desires to make steam, it is for example, necessary to first possess the knowledge that water makes steam when heated, and water could be heated by building a fire underneath it. Without such pieces of knowledge, we would not be able to effectuate our initial desire to make steam.
Since knowledge and desire often coincide, it is difficult to know which causes which. And while it is true that they often occur in mutually beneficial and sustaining cycles, there is still a master and a slave in the relationship.
Just as Hume supposes the reason and rationality are slaves to our moral sentiments, the same can be said of knowledge. When knowledge is indeed assumed to be subsumed under the aegis of desires, its subservience to it becomes clear.
And so it is clear that when there should be divergences between the two, we should favor desire over knowledge since desire is its master. For example, we desire to save time, and so seek the shorter of two paths. We have the background knowledge that they are roughly the same length, but one is approximately takes 5 minutes less than the other to complete. But determining which path is the shorter actually requires 20 minutes of calculations and measurements, and thus, in order to actually satisfy our initial desire to save time, it is necessary to remain ignorant of some values in our temporal calculus.
In order to answer your question of whether the bank example works or not, I would need a less ambiguous explication of "serious epistemic possibility" - what Russell and Dorris give is not sufficient! I mean, whether something is a "serious epistemic possibility" or not makes all the difference for deciding what counts as knowledge. At least that is what I seem to get from Russell and Dorris. Hence, without an alternative explication of "serious epistemic possibility", I cannot say whether the bank example works for me or not.
As things currently stand, I have much trouble grasping the following two statements (from Russell and Dorris, page 14): "As the various stakes cases seem to show, interest destroys knowledge and indifference creates it." "conscientiousness impedes the attainment of knowledge and dogmatism supports it."
The reason why these two statements are so troubling for me is because I would say with a fairly high level of confidence that the opposite is true in scientific practice (especially statistics!): interest creates knowledge but indifference destroys it; conscientiousness does not impede the attainment of knowledge yet dogmatism has the capability to hinder it.
The bank example seems inherently unsatisfying and contradictory. It may be framed under a consistent logic, although it appears implausible. Stanley appears to be attaching importance to knowledge, where it seems an improper use of relating the two together as an argument. Also, in the fact that the bank example violates the "stability condition" Russel and Doris's argument that knowledge should be resistant to fluctuation is salient against Stanley. Introducing the lottery situation heightens this violation of the stability condition, further weakening Stanley's argument.
The bank example brings to light a social phenomenon but not really anything about knowledge itself. I would elaborate but I have to go to this class in 5 minutes so we can talk there.
I agree with Russell and Doris that the bank example gives way to too many problems to be convincing. It seems counter intuitive to me to think that when knowledge is less important to a subject from a practical standpoint that one is more likely to have knowledge. Maybe if I read Stanley's arguments rather than just a summary of his position I would understand his reasoning better. That said, I am more inclined to accept Doris and Russell's cases of Ded and Richie as problems for Stanley since according to his conditions things like having money would affect one's having knowledge. It seems especially problematic that the conditions for having knowledge would depend on luck, which seems to follow from Stanley's bank example.
I also agree with Russell and Doris' consideration of the problem of a dogmatic scientist being more likely to have knowledge than a properly conscientious scientist.
I prefer the contextualist approach of framing epistemic conditions in terms of relevant alternatives rather than interest relativity.
I think the bank example works. Although it sounds kind of strange to say that we know more about things we don't care as much and know less about things which we care a lot about. I think Stanley clears that up by the bank example. It makes sense that when we have more at stake we would be less controllable to say we know 100 percent something. But when there really isn't that much at stake we can say with maybe less evidence that we know it. Situational factors play a major role in what we know or think we know. I feel like this is a repetitive theme in the way that i think. It is really quite difficult to define knowledge as a concrete never changing thing. I think knowledge depends largely on time and place and situation. And Stanley high and low stakes explain exactly what we do ourselves in everyday life. If you have a quiz that is not for marks you are far more likely to just go with your gut but when you have a final exam worth a lot you spend a lot more time to make sure you know the answer you think you know. You doubt yourself a lot more on the final afterward You think was i correct? But it is very unlikely you will think that much about the quiz not for marks. Stanley tries to explain knowledge by looking at how people actually act in differing situations and makes sense of why we think we know somethings in some situations and doubt it in other (high stakes) situations.